Thursday, December 14, 2023

Cheetal (Spotted Deer)

Cheetal UPSC (Spotted Deer UPSC)

The Cheetal, also known as the spotted deer, chital deer and axis deer, is a species of deer native to the Indian subcontinent, including India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and parts of Southeast Asia.

They have been introduced to various other regions around the world, including the United States, Australia, and several Pacific islands.

The conservation status of Chital is generally considered to be of "Least Concern" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. 

The Chital is a beautiful and adaptable species that has been introduced to various parts of the world for hunting and aesthetic purposes. However, in some areas, the introduction of Axis deer has led to ecological concerns due to their impact on local ecosystems.

Table of Contents

  • Cheetal (Spotted Deer) Characteristics
    • Classification
    • Scientific Name
    • Habitat
    • Physical Appearance
    • Diet
    • Behavior
    • Reproduction
    • Lifespan
    • Speed
  • Cheetal (Spotted Deer) in India
  • Spotted Deer (Chital) Population in India
  • Cheetal (Spotted Deer) Protection Status
  • Cheetal (Spotted Deer) Conservation
  • Threats
  • Cheetal (Spotted Deer) UPSC Question

Cheetal (Spotted Deer) Characteristics

What are some interesting facts about spotted deer?

The Chital (Spotted Deer) has several distinctive characteristics:

1. Classification:

The Chital belongs to the following taxonomic classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Artiodactyla
  • Family: Cervidae
  • Subfamily: Cervinae
  • Genus: Axis
  • Species: Axis axis

2. Scientific Name:

The scientific name of the Chital is Axis axis.

3. Habitat:

The Chital (Axis axis) is a highly adaptable deer species that can be found in a variety of habitats. Its habitat preferences include:

(i) Mixed Deciduous Forests:

Chital are often associated with mixed deciduous forests, where there is a combination of broadleaf trees that shed their leaves seasonally. These forests provide a mix of open spaces and cover, allowing for both grazing and hiding.

(ii) Open Woodlands:

They are also commonly found in open woodlands, which may have scattered trees and a more open understory. This habitat type provides a balance between vegetation cover and open spaces.

(iii) Grasslands:

Chital can inhabit open grasslands where they graze on grasses and other vegetation. These areas may provide a more open environment for feeding and social activities.

(iv) Bushland and Scrub:

In addition to forests and grasslands, Chital can adapt to bushy and scrubby environments. These areas may offer cover and forage opportunities.

(v) Human-Altered Landscapes:

Chital are known to adapt to human-altered landscapes, including agricultural areas and suburban environments. They can be found in proximity to human settlements and cultivated fields.

(vi) Riparian Zones:

Chital are often associated with riparian zones, which are areas along rivers and streams. These areas can provide water sources and diverse vegetation for the deer.

The adaptability of the Chital to various habitats has contributed to its widespread distribution across the Indian subcontinent and other regions where it has been introduced. However, while they are adaptable, they do have preferences for areas with a mix of vegetation types that offer both cover and open spaces for feeding and social interactions.

4. Physical Appearance:

What are spotted deer physical features?

The Chital has distinct physical features:

(i) Coat Color:

The coat of the Chital is typically reddish-brown to fawn in color.

  • Dorsal (upper) parts: Golden to rufous, covered in white spots.
  • Abdomen, rump, throat, insides of legs, ears, and tail: White.
  • Conspicuous black stripe along the spine.

(ii) White Spots:

One of the most characteristic features of the Chital is the presence of white spots on its coat. These spots are more prominent in younger individuals and may fade as the deer matures.

(iii) Size:

Chital are medium-sized deer. Adult males (stags) are generally larger than females (hinds). 

  • Males: 90–100 cm (35–39 in) at the shoulder.
  • Females: 65–75 cm (26–30 in) at the shoulder.
  • Head-and-body length: Around 1.7 m (5 ft 7 in).

(iv) Weight:

  • Immature males: 30–75 kg (66–165 lb).
  • Females: 25–45 kg (55–99 lb).
  • Mature stags: Up to 98–110 kg (216–243 lb).

(v) Antlers:

Adult males usually have antlers, which are typically three-pronged and can grow quite long. The antlers are shed and regrown annually.

  • Three-pronged antlers, nearly 1 m (3 ft 3 in) long.
  • Shed annually.
  • Brow tine roughly perpendicular to the beam.
  • Velvet antlers gradually harden into bony structures.

(vi) Hooves:

  • Measure between 4.1 and 6.1 cm (1.6 and 2.4 in) in length.
  • Foreleg hooves longer than hind leg hooves.
  • Toes taper to a point.

(vii) Facial Markings:

Chital often have distinctive facial markings. These can include white patches on the throat and neck, and some individuals may have a dark stripe running down the length of the spine.

(viii) Tail:

The tail of the Chital is relatively long and bushy. It is often marked with a white underside, which becomes more visible when the deer is alarmed and raises its tail.

  • Length: 20 cm (7.9 in).

(ix) Body Shape:

Chital have a slender and graceful body shape, with long legs that are adapted for swift running.

(x) Sexual Dimorphism:

Sexual dimorphism is evident, with males generally being larger and having antlers, while females are smaller and lack antlers.

(xi) Adaptations for Camouflage:

The spotted coat of the Chital serves as effective camouflage in its natural habitat, particularly in dappled sunlight conditions within forests.

5. Diet:

The Chital (Axis axis) is primarily a herbivorous species, and its diet consists mainly of vegetation. Here are key aspects of the Chital's diet:

(i) Grazing and Browsing:

Chital are both grazers and browsers, meaning they feed on grasses as well as browse on leaves, herbs, shrubs, and other vegetation.

(ii) Preference for Grasses:

Grasses make up a significant portion of the Chital's diet throughout the year. They prefer young shoots, but if unavailable, they will nibble off the tips of tall and coarse grasses.

(iii) Seasonal Variation:

During the winter months (October to January), when grasses become less palatable due to being tall or dried up, browse forms a major part of their diet. This includes herbs, shrubs, foliage, fruits, and forbs.

(iv) Leaves and Foliage:

In addition to grasses, Chital feed on leaves and foliage from a variety of plants. They may consume the leaves of shrubs and trees.

(v) Forbs and Herbs:

Chital also eat forbs and herbs, which are non-woody flowering plants. This adds variety to their diet and provides essential nutrients.

(vi) Water Consumption:

While they obtain a significant portion of their water needs from the moisture content of the plants they consume, Chital also drink water when available. Chital visit water holes nearly twice daily with great caution, emphasizing the importance of staying hydrated.

(vii) Mineral Consumption:

In the Kanha National Park, Chital were observed scraping mineral licks rich in calcium and phosphorus pentoxide with their incisors. They also gnaw on bones and fallen antlers for their mineral content.

6. Behavior:

The Chital (Axis axis) exhibits a range of behaviors that contribute to its survival and social dynamics. Here are key aspects of their behavior:

(i) Social Structure:

Chital are social animals and often form groups, known as herds. Chital form matriarchal herds comprising adult females and their offspring. These herds can consist of both males and females, and during non-breeding times, they graze together peacefully. Their herds can contain 6-40 individuals, two or three of them being stags.

(ii) Seasonal Variations in Herd Composition:

Studies show seasonal variations in the sex ratio of herds, attributed to females isolating themselves before parturition. Rutting males leave herds during the mating season.

(iii) Activity Patterns:

Chital are active throughout the day. In the summer, they rest in shade to avoid the sun's glare, and activity peaks around dusk. During cooler days, foraging starts before sunrise, peaks in the early morning, slows down midday, resumes late afternoon, and continues till midnight.

(iv) Antipredator Behavior:

When cautious, Chital stand motionless, listen attentively, and face potential danger. They exhibit antipredator behavior by fleeing in groups, sprinting, and hiding in dense undergrowth. The raised tail during running exposes the white underparts. They can leap and clear fences or prefer to dive under them.

(v) Territorial Behavior:

During the breeding season (rut), adult males may establish territories and compete for mates. This can involve displays of dominance, vocalizations, and physical interactions with rival males.

(vi) Vocalizations:

Chital are vocal animals, giving bellows, alarm barks, and coarse bellows or loud growls. Bellowing coincides with the rutting season. Dominant males guarding females make high-pitched growls.

(vii) Slow Movement while Foraging:

When foraging, Chital tend to move slowly, often in groups. This cautious movement helps them navigate their environment while feeding.

(viii) Standing on Hind Legs:

Males may stand on their hind legs to reach tall branches, showcasing adaptability in obtaining food resources.

(ix) Water Habits:

Chital visit water holes nearly twice daily, displaying a cautious approach. Access to water is crucial for hydration and overall well-being.

(x) Omnivorous Behavior in Specific Environments:

In the Sunderbans, Chital may exhibit omnivorous behavior, as remains of red crabs have been found in their rumen.

7. Reproduction:

The reproductive behavior and life cycle of the Chital (Axis axis) involve several key aspects, including mating, gestation, birth, and maternal care. Here's an overview of their reproductive characteristics:

(i) Breeding Season (Rut):

Breeding in Chital occurs throughout the year, with variations in peak breeding times based on geographic locations. The timing may vary, but in general, it often takes place during the cooler months, typically in the winter.

(ii) Oestrus Cycles and Conception:

Females have regular oestrus cycles lasting three weeks. They can conceive again within two weeks to four months after giving birth.

(iii) Territorial Behavior:

During the rut, adult males (stags) may establish territories and compete for mates. This can involve displays of dominance, vocalizations, and physical interactions with rival males.

(iv) Dominance and Courtship:

Males with hard antlers are dominant over those with velvet-covered antlers or those without antlers, regardless of their size. Courtship involves tending bonds, and rutting males fast during the mating season, following and guarding a female in oestrus. Courtship behaviors include chasing and mutual licking before copulation.

(v) Gestation Period:

After successful mating, the female Chital undergoes a gestation period, which lasts approximately 200 days. This period may vary slightly.

(vi) Birth:

Female Chital give birth to a single fawn, although on rare occasions, twin births may occur. The birth usually takes place in secluded areas, providing some protection for the vulnerable newborn.

(vii) Maternal Care:

Mothers are responsible for the care of their fawns. After birth, the newborn is hidden for about a week, a relatively short period compared to many other deer species. They typically hide the fawn in tall grass or under vegetation to protect it from predators. The fawn has a spotted coat, which aids in camouflage.

(viii) Social Structure and Family Units:

Chital are known for forming matriarchal herds that include adult females and their offspring. Mothers and their fawns form a close bond within these family units.

8. Lifespan:

The lifespan of Chital can vary based on whether they are in captivity or in the wild. Here are some general insights:

(i) In Captivity:

Chital in captivity may have an average lifespan of nearly 22 years. The controlled environment, veterinary care, and consistent food supply in captivity can contribute to a longer life expectancy compared to their wild counterparts.

(ii) In the Wild:

In their natural habitat, the lifespan of Chital is more variable and generally ranges from 5 to 10 years. Various factors influence their survival in the wild, including predation, environmental conditions, competition for resources, and diseases.

9. Speed:

The Chital is known for its agility and speed. Here are some details about the speed of Chital:

(i) Running Speed:

Chital are fast runners and can achieve speeds of up to 64 km/h (40 mph). This speed allows them to escape from predators and navigate their environment effectively.

(ii) Leaping Ability:

Chital are also skilled leapers. They can leap and clear fences that are as high as 1.5 meters (4.9 feet). Additionally, they may prefer to dive under obstacles like fences.

(iii) Alertness and Evasion:

When alarmed or threatened, Chital can exhibit rapid and evasive movements. They may sprint, jump, and use their agility to avoid potential dangers.

Cheetal (Spotted Deer) in India

Where is Cheetal found in India?/Where are spotted deer found in India?

The Chital has a wide distribution and can be found in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Its range spans various regions across the Indian subcontinent.

The Chital is found throughout India. It has a wide distribution across the Indian subcontinent, and its range covers various habitats, including dense deciduous and semi-evergreen forests, open grasslands, and woodland areas.

(i) Western Limits:

In India, the western limit of its range includes eastern Rajasthan and Gujarat.

(ii) Northern Limits:

The Chital is found throughout the Terai and northern West Bengal, extending to Sikkim, western Assam, and forested valleys in Bhutan below an elevation of 1,100 m (3,600 ft).

(iii) Southern Limits:

The southern limits of its distribution include the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Sri Lanka. It sporadically occurs in forested areas throughout the Indian peninsula.

(iv) Sundarbans and Bay of Bengal:

The Chital is present in the Sundarbans and some ecoparks around the Bay of Bengal. However, it is locally extinct in central and north-eastern Bangladesh.

Spotted Deer (Chital) Population in India

Specific numbers regarding the Spotted Deer (Chital) population in India not readily available. Population estimates for wildlife species are subject to change due to various factors, and comprehensive surveys are periodically conducted to assess population sizes.

The Chital is one of the most common and widespread deer species in India, and its population is distributed across various habitats throughout the country. 

Cheetal (Spotted Deer) Protection Status

1. IUCN Status:

The Spotted Deer (Axis axis), commonly known as Cheetal or Chital, has a conservation status of "Least Concern" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The "Least Concern" status indicates that the species is not currently considered at high risk of extinction. It suggests that the population is relatively stable, and the species is widespread.

2. Wildlife protection act, 1972:

In India, the Spotted Deer is protected under wildlife conservation laws. It is included in Schedule III of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. This inclusion in the schedule provides legal protection to the species, and there are regulations in place to manage and conserve populations in the wild.

Cheetal (Spotted Deer) Conservation

The Spotted Deer (Axis axis) is generally considered to be a species of least concern in terms of conservation, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. This status suggests that, overall, the species has a stable population and is not currently facing a high risk of extinction. However, conservation efforts are still important to ensure the well-being of populations, particularly in the context of local or regional threats and habitat changes.

Conservation efforts for Spotted Deer may include:

1. Habitat Protection and Management:

Preserving and managing the natural habitats where Spotted Deer live is crucial. This involves protecting forests, grasslands, and other ecosystems that support their populations.

2. Anti-Poaching Measures:

Implementing and enforcing anti-poaching measures to protect Spotted Deer from illegal hunting and trade. Poaching can pose a significant threat to their populations.

3. Wildlife Corridor Conservation:

Identifying and preserving wildlife corridors to facilitate the movement of Spotted Deer and other wildlife between fragmented habitats. This helps maintain genetic diversity and supports healthy populations.

4. Research and Monitoring:

Conducting research to better understand the ecology, behavior, and population dynamics of Spotted Deer. Monitoring their populations helps assess their status and the effectiveness of conservation measures.

5. Captive Breeding Programs:

In some cases, captive breeding programs may be established to maintain genetic diversity and provide a potential source for reintroduction into the wild if needed.


While the Spotted Deer (Axis axis) is currently classified as "Least Concern" on the IUCN Red List, indicating a stable population and lower risk of extinction, there are still various threats that can impact their well-being. Threats to Spotted Deer populations can vary across different regions, and some of the common threats include:

1. Habitat Loss and Fragmentation:

Destruction and fragmentation of natural habitats due to agricultural expansion, urbanization, and infrastructure development can limit the available space for Spotted Deer. Loss of suitable habitats can disrupt their movement patterns and access to resources.

2. Illegal Hunting and Poaching:

Spotted Deer are often targeted by hunters for their meat, skin, and antlers. Illegal hunting and poaching pose significant threats to the population, especially in areas where enforcement of wildlife protection laws may be challenging.

3. Human-Wildlife Conflict:

As human populations expand and encroach into wildlife habitats, conflicts may arise. Spotted Deer may damage crops, leading to retaliatory killings by farmers. Mitigating human-wildlife conflicts is crucial for coexistence.

4. Climate Change:

Climate change can impact the availability of resources, alter vegetation patterns, and influence the distribution of species. Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns can affect the quality of habitats for Spotted Deer and other wildlife.

5. Invasive Species:

The introduction of invasive plant species or competitors can affect the availability of suitable forage for Spotted Deer. Invasive species can alter ecosystems and negatively impact the abundance of native vegetation.

6. Disease:

The spread of diseases, particularly those transmitted between wildlife and domestic animals, can pose a threat to Spotted Deer populations. Disease outbreaks can result in population declines if not effectively managed.

7. Traffic Accidents:

Spotted Deer may face the risk of collisions with vehicles, especially in areas where roads intersect with their habitats. Traffic accidents can result in injuries or fatalities, impacting local populations.

Cheetal (Spotted Deer) UPSC Question

Q. What is the IUCN status of the spotted deer?

A. The Spotted Deer (Axis axis) is classified as "Least Concern" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The "Least Concern" status indicates that the species is not currently facing a high risk of extinction, and its population is considered stable.

Q. What is the name of the spotted deer in India?/What are other names for spotted deer?

A. In India, the Spotted Deer is commonly known as the "Chital" or "Cheetal." The scientific name for this species is Axis axis. The Chital is a medium-sized deer with a distinctive spotted coat, and it is one of the most common and widespread deer species in the Indian subcontinent. The name "Chital" is often used to refer to this species in India, and it is derived from the Hindi language.

Q. What is the scientific name for spot deer?

A. The scientific name for the Spotted Deer is Axis axis.

Q. Which national park is famous for spotted deer?

A. Several national parks in India are famous for their populations of Spotted Deer (Chital). One such notable national park is:

  • Bandipur National Park
  • Ranthambhore National Park
  • Kanha National Park
  • Jim Corbett National Park
  • Sundarbans National Park

Q. Is spotted deer endangered in India?

A. The Spotted Deer (Chital) is not considered endangered in India. The species is classified as "Least Concern" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The "Least Concern" status indicates that the Spotted Deer has a relatively stable population and is not currently facing a high risk of extinction.

Q. Which state animal is spotted deer?

A. The Spotted Deer is the state animal of the Indian state of Telangana. The Chital was declared the state animal of Telangana to highlight its significance in the state's wildlife and natural heritage.

Q. Why do spotted deer have spots?

A. The spots on the coat of Spotted Deer (Chital or Cheetal) serve as a form of camouflage and are an adaptation to their natural environment. The spotted pattern helps them blend into their surroundings and provides several advantages in their daily lives:

1. Camouflage:

The spots break up the deer's outline, making it more challenging for predators to spot them in the dappled sunlight and shadows of the forest. This camouflage is particularly effective in the dense vegetation of their habitats.

2. Disruption of Body Shape:

The spots disrupt the deer's body shape, making it harder for predators to distinguish individual animals from the background. This helps them evade detection and avoid potential threats.

3. Adaptation to Woodland Environment:

Spotted Deer are primarily found in woodland environments with dappled sunlight filtering through the trees. The spotted coat allows them to blend seamlessly with the light and shadows, providing an effective means of concealment.

4. Protection for Young:

Fawns (young Spotted Deer) have a more distinct spotted pattern, and this provides them with added protection. The spots on the fawns mimic the dappled sunlight and vegetation, making them less visible to predators.

Cheetal (Spotted Deer)

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