Friday, January 19, 2024

Barking Deer

Barking Deer UPSC

The Indian muntjac, also known as the barking deer or red muntjac, is a species of deer native to South and Southeast Asia. It is also called kakar through much of India. They are known for their vocalizations, which can sound like a dog's bark. 

Table of Contents

  • Barking Deer Characteristics
    • Classification
    • Scientific Name
    • Habitat
    • Physical Appearance
    • Diet
    • Behavior
    • Reproduction
    • Lifespan
  • Barking Deer in India
  • Barking Deer Protection Status
  • Barking Deer Conservation
  • Threats
  • Barking Deer UPSC Question

Barking Deer Characteristics

Here are some key characteristics of the Barking Deer or Indian muntjac:

1. Classification:

The Indian muntjac belongs to the following classification:

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

2. Scientific Name:

The scientific name of the Indian muntjac is Muntiacus muntjak.

3. Habitat:

Muntjacs, including the Indian muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak), inhabit a variety of environments in South and Southeast Asia. Their adaptability allows them to thrive in different types of habitats. Here are some common features of muntjac habitats:

(i) Forests:

Muntjacs are often found in different types of forests, including tropical and subtropical rainforests, deciduous forests, and mixed woodlands. They are skilled at navigating through dense vegetation and can utilize the cover provided by the forest canopy.

(ii) Grasslands and Shrublands:

In addition to forests, muntjacs may inhabit grasslands and shrublands, especially in areas where there is a mix of open spaces and vegetation.

(iii) Montane Regions:

Some species of muntjacs are known to inhabit montane regions, including hilly and mountainous areas.

(iv) Lowland Areas:

Muntjacs can be found in both lowland and higher elevation areas, showcasing their ability to adapt to various altitudes.

(v) Islands:

Certain muntjac species are also found on islands like Borneo and Sumatra, showcasing their adaptability to insular environments.

(vi) Human-Altered Landscapes:

Some muntjac species demonstrate a degree of adaptability to human-altered landscapes, including agricultural areas and disturbed habitats.

4. Physical Appearance:

The Indian muntjac, commonly known as the barking deer, exhibits distinctive physical characteristics that set it apart as one of the smaller deer species in India. Here are specific details about its size, coat, antlers, and other notable features:

(i) Size:

Standing just under two feet in height, the Indian muntjac has a relatively small stature compared to other deer species. The body length ranges from three to four feet.

(ii) Body Dimensions:

  • The body length of muntjacs varies from 89–135 cm (35–53 in), with a tail length of 13 to 23 cm (5.1 to 9.1 in).
  • Shoulder height ranges from 40 to 65 cm (16 to 26 in).

(iii) Weight:

The average weight of the Indian muntjac is around 10 to 30 kg, making it a lightweight deer species.

(iv) Coat Color:

  • The rust-brown fur of the barking deer is a distinctive feature.
  • The color of the coat contrasts sharply with the white vent, the region beneath the tail.

(v) Coat Density:

  • The Southern red muntjac has a short but very soft, thick, and dense coat.
  • The coat is more dense in cooler regions.

(vi) Antlers:

  • The male muntjac possesses short antlers that curve backward.
  • The muntjac's antlers consist of a short brow-tine and an unbranched beam.
  • Male antlers are approximately 10 cm (3.9 in) long.
  • Males also have canines that can form "tusks."
  • Females, on the other hand, have bony knobs instead of antlers.

(vii) Canines:

Males have elongated, slightly curved upper canines (2–4 cm or 0.79–1.57 in), which can be used in male-male conflicts and may inflict serious injury.

(viii) Facial Features:

  • Muntjacs often have distinct facial markings, including dark lines running from the eyes to the nose.
  • The face of the Southern red muntjac is darker, and the limbs are dark to reddish-brown.
  • Ears have much less hair but share the same color as the rest of the head.

(ix) Body Structure:

  • Their body is compact, and they have a relatively short neck.
  • The legs are relatively short, contributing to their low stature.

(x) Tail:

  • The tail of the Indian muntjac is relatively short.

(xi) Vocal Glands:

Muntjacs possess specialized vocal glands that contribute to their ability to produce distinctive "barking" sounds, often used as alarm calls.

(xii) Scent Glands:

Muntjacs are unique among deer in having large, obvious facial scent glands (preorbital glands) used for marking territories or attracting females. Males generally have larger scent glands than females.

(xiii) Sexual Dimorphism:

Sexual dimorphism is evident in the presence of antlers in males and their absence in females.

5. Diet:

The Indian muntjac, like other muntjac species, is primarily a herbivorous animal with a diet that includes a variety of plant materials. Here are key aspects of the muntjac's diet:

(i) Herbivorous Diet:

Muntjacs are herbivores, meaning they primarily consume plant matter.

(ii) Vegetation:

Their diet consists of a variety of vegetation, including leaves, shoots, fruits, and grasses.

(iii) Fruits and Berries:

Fruits and berries are important components of the muntjac's diet, especially during seasons when these are available. They may feed on fallen fruits as well as those still attached to trees or bushes.

(iv) Nocturnal Feeding:

Muntjacs are primarily crepuscular or nocturnal, meaning they are more active during the dawn and dusk. They may feed during the night, using their keen senses to locate and consume vegetation.

(v) Water Consumption:

While muntjacs can obtain some moisture from the vegetation they consume, they may also visit water sources to drink.

6. Behavior:

The Indian muntjac, also known as the barking deer, exhibits unique social behaviors and defensive strategies shaped by its solitary nature and the presence of various predators in its habitat. Here are some key behavioral characteristics:

(i) Solitary or Pair Living:

  • Indian muntjacs are generally solitary, although pairs or females with fawns aged up to six months may be observed.
  • Unlike other deer species that often form herds, muntjacs tend to maintain more independent lifestyles.

(ii) Territorial Marking:

  • Muntjacs mark their territory using secretions from glands on their face, located below the eyes.
  • Both males and females engage in scraping the ground, grass, and tree bark to establish and maintain territories.
  • Males, in particular, use hooves and canines for territorial marking.

(iii) Skittish Nature:

Muntjacs are naturally skittish, likely due to being preyed upon by a variety of carnivores in their jungle habitats, including tigers, crocodiles, leopards, clouded leopards, dholes, bears, and others.

(iv) Distinctive Barking Call:

  • The familiar and harsh barking call, akin to a dog's, is a characteristic feature of the Indian muntjac.
  • This loud vocalization is used as an alarm when encountering predators or sensing their presence.
  • The sound can be heard at least a kilometer away, giving the deer its common name "barking deer."

(v) Territorial Acquisition and Maintenance:

  • Adult males actively acquire and maintain territories, marking them with secretions from preorbital glands and engaging in various territorial behaviors.
  • Males fight with each other over territory, vegetation resources, and access to females during the mating season.

(vi) Rut Behavior:

  • During the rut, territorial lines are temporarily disregarded, and males roam constantly in search of receptive females.
  • Males may overlap territories during this period.

(vii) Predator Avoidance:

  • Muntjacs are highly alert creatures, and when confronted with stressful situations or the presence of predators, they emit the bark-like sound as an alert.
  • Predators include tigers, leopards, clouded leopards, pythons, crocodiles, dholes, bears, fishing cats, Asian golden cats, golden jackals, foxes, raptors, and wild boars.

(viii) Preference for Dense Vegetation:

This small deer prefers to be alone in forest cover and dense vegetation, utilizing its surroundings for cover and safety.

7. Reproduction:

The reproductive behavior of the Indian muntjac, or barking deer, involves distinct phases related to mating, territory establishment, and maternal care. Here are key aspects of the reproduction of the Indian muntjac:

(i) Polygamous Behavior:

Muntjacs are polygamous animals, with males often engaging in territorial fights to establish possession of a harem of females.

(ii) Sexual Maturity:

Females typically become sexually mature during their first to second year of life.

(iii) Polyestrous Females:

Female muntjacs are polyestrous, meaning they undergo multiple estrus cycles throughout the year. Each estrus cycle lasts about 14 to 21 days, with an estrus period lasting for approximately 2 days.

(iv) Gestation Period:

The gestation period for Muntjacs is relatively long, lasting 6–7 months.

(v) Offspring Production:

Females usually give birth to a single offspring, but twins can also be produced.

(vi) Birth in Dense Growth:

Females prefer to give birth in dense vegetation to conceal the young from both the herd and potential predators. This behavior enhances the chances of the offspring's survival during the vulnerable early stages.

(vii) Maternal Care:

After giving birth, females provide maternal care to their offspring. The mother and the concealed offspring form a bond during the initial months.

(viii) Independence of Offspring:

The young Muntjac leaves its mother after about 6 months. It establishes its own territory, contributing to the species' dispersal and distribution.

(ix) Lack of Specific Breeding Season:

Unlike some other ungulates, muntjacs do not exhibit evidence of a specific breeding season within the species. The absence of a specific breeding season contributes to the flexibility and adaptability of their reproductive strategies.

8. Lifespan:

The lifespan of Indian muntjacs, also known as barking deer, in the wild is typically around 10 to 16 years. However, various factors can influence the actual lifespan of an individual, and there may be differences in longevity between individuals in captivity and those living in their natural habitat.

Barking Deer in India

Where is barking deer found in India?

The Indian muntjac, commonly known as the barking deer, has a widespread distribution across various regions of India. Here are some key points about its presence in different parts of the country:

1. Pan-Indian Distribution:

The Indian muntjac is found throughout India, making it a species with a pan-Indian distribution. It is known to inhabit a variety of ecosystems across the country.

2. Southern India:

Indian muntjacs are found in the southern regions of India, including areas like the Western Ghats, which is a biodiversity hotspot known for its rich flora and fauna.

3. Central India:

The species is present in the dry forests of central India, adapting to the specific environmental conditions of this region.

4. Himalayan Region:

The Indian muntjac is also found in the evergreen temperate forests of the Himalayan region, showcasing its ability to inhabit diverse altitudes and climates.

5. Northeast India:

Dense rainforests of northeast India, known for their high biodiversity, also provide a suitable habitat for the Indian muntjac.

Barking Deer Protection Status

The protection status of the Indian muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak), commonly known as the barking deer, varies based on national and regional conservation efforts.

1. IUCN Status:

The Indian muntjac is generally listed as "Least Concern" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. This designation suggests that, at the global level, the species is not facing an immediate threat of extinction.

2. Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (India):

In India, the Indian muntjac is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. This legislation provides legal safeguards for wildlife species and their habitats.

Barking Deer Conservation

Conservation efforts for the Indian muntjac, or barking deer, typically focus on a combination of habitat protection, anti-poaching measures, community engagement, and research initiatives. Here are some key aspects of conservation related to the Indian muntjac:

1. Habitat Protection:

Preserving and protecting the natural habitats of the Indian muntjac is crucial. This involves safeguarding forests, grasslands, and other ecosystems where the species is found.

2. Protected Areas:

Establishing and maintaining protected areas, such as wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, helps provide safe havens for the Indian muntjac. These areas often have regulations in place to minimize human disturbance.

3. Anti-Poaching Measures:

Implementing anti-poaching strategies is essential to prevent illegal hunting of the Indian muntjac. This includes increasing patrolling efforts, employing technology for surveillance, and enforcing strict penalties for wildlife-related crimes.

4. Research and Monitoring:

Conducting research on the ecology, behavior, and population dynamics of the Indian muntjac provides valuable information for conservation planning. Monitoring programs help assess the health of populations and detect potential threats.

5. Community Engagement:

Involving local communities in conservation efforts is vital. This may include education programs, awareness campaigns, and initiatives that promote sustainable coexistence between humans and wildlife. Engaging communities can reduce human-wildlife conflicts and garner support for conservation goals.

6. Corridor Conservation:

Establishing and maintaining wildlife corridors is essential for the movement of Indian muntjac populations. These corridors facilitate genetic exchange between fragmented populations and promote overall biodiversity.

7. Translocation Programs:

In certain cases, translocation programs may be considered to establish or reinforce populations in suitable habitats. However, such programs require careful planning and monitoring to ensure success.

8. International Collaboration:

Collaboration between countries and international organizations can enhance conservation efforts. Sharing knowledge, resources, and expertise contributes to a more comprehensive approach to protecting the Indian muntjac.

9. Legislation and Policy:

Strengthening and enforcing wildlife protection laws and policies, such as the Wildlife Protection Act in India, provides a legal framework for the conservation of the Indian muntjac.

10. Conservation Model and Tiger Reserves:

The current conservation model in India, including the declaration of protected areas and tiger reserves, has played a role in safeguarding the Indian muntjac. The "umbrella model" suggests that by conserving charismatic species like tigers, other co-inhabitants, including the muntjacs, also benefit indirectly.

11. Importance of Forest Conservation:

The Indian muntjac's survival is intricately linked to the conservation of healthy forest ecosystems. Ongoing efforts to protect and restore forests are critical for the long-term well-being of the species.


The Indian muntjac, or barking deer, faces various threats that can impact its population and habitat. Understanding these threats is crucial for implementing effective conservation measures. Here are some of the key threats to the Indian muntjac:

1. Hunting for Sport, Meat, and Skin:

Indian muntjacs are hunted for various reasons, including sport, meat, and skin. The species is considered a nuisance around agricultural areas due to crop damage and bark-stripping, leading to hunting as a means of control.

2. Crop Damage and Bark Stripping:

The muntjacs are often perceived as a threat to crops, leading to their killing to protect agricultural fields. Additionally, their habit of stripping bark from trees can result in conflicts with farmers.

3. Illegal Hunting:

The meat of the Southern red muntjac is highly prized in certain regions, contributing to illegal hunting despite legal protections. Markets, particularly in places like Nagaland, may trade in the remains and carcasses of illegally hunted barking deer.

4. Lack of Enforcement of Legal Protections:

While the Southern red muntjac is a protected species under Schedule 3 of the Wildlife Protection Act in India, the lack of strict enforcement and penalties often means that illegal hunting continues without adequate consequences.

5. Habitat Loss:

Habitat loss poses a significant threat to the Southern red muntjac. The species requires healthy forest ecosystems for survival, and deforestation, logging, and land-use changes contribute to the degradation of its natural habitat.

6. Human-Wildlife Conflict:

Conflicts arise as the muntjacs encroach on agricultural areas, leading to retaliation from farmers. This can result in the killing of barking deer to prevent further crop damage.

Barking Deer UPSC Question

Q. Is barking deer endemic in India?

A. Yes, the barking deer, specifically the Indian muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak), is endemic to India. "Endemic" refers to a species that is native to and found exclusively in a particular geographic region. In the case of the Indian muntjac, it is native to various regions across the Indian subcontinent.

Q. Which national park is famous for barking deer?/Barking deer is found in which national park?

A. The Indian muntjac, commonly known as the barking deer, can be found in various national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across India.

Q. Why is it called barking deer?

A. The Indian muntjac, commonly referred to as the barking deer, gets its name from the distinctive and unique vocalizations it produces. The sound it makes is often described as a series of short, sharp barks, which is quite distinct and resembles the barking of a dog. This vocalization is used by the muntjac for communication and as an alarm call.

Barking Deer

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