Classification and Range
Tufted deer belong to the family Cervidae, which includes 43 species of deer in 16 genera. Tufted deer belong to the genus Elaphodus. There are three subspecies of tufted deer: western (E. c. cephalophus cephalophus), Hubei (E. c. ichangensis) and Eastern or Michie’s (E. c. michianus). Western tufted deer, the largest subspecies, are native from southern China to northeastern Myanmar. The other two subspecies live in central China as far north as about 35 degrees latitude.
Tufted deer inhabit high valley jungles and mountain forests ranging from 1,000-15,000 feet (300-4,570 m). They are always found close to water.
Length and Shoulder Height
Adult length: 43-63 inches (109-160 cm). Western tufted deer are the largest subspecies of tufted deer. Adult shoulder height: 20-28 inches (50-70 cm)
37-110 pounds (17-50 kg); males are slightly larger than females)
Life span in the wild is unknown; tufted deer live in zoos at least 15 years
In the wild: Tufted deer are browsers and grazers, eating grasses and other vegetation and some fruit. Their stomach has four chambers, through which food must pass before the digestion process is complete. At the zoo: Hay, alfalfa, herbivore pellets, some fruits and vegetables, and browse.
Male and female tufted deer become sexually mature at approximately 2 years of age. In the wild, the mating season takes place during late fall and early winter. Gestation period lasts about six months after which one or two fawns are born in late spring and early summer.
Fawns are colored like their parents except for a row of spots on each side of the mid-line of the back. These spots disappear when the fawn reaches maturity. Young become independent of their mothers when they are about 6 months old.
Tufted deer are named for the "tuft" of hair on their forehead. Males grow small antlers, which are sometimes completely hidden by this tuft of hair. The deer's head and neck are inclined to be gray in color, the upper parts of the body deep chocolate-brown (almost black in winter) and the undersides white.
Tufted deer also have white markings on the tips of their ears, the underside of their tail and their muzzle. Their fur is very coarse, almost spine-like, which gives them a shaggy look. Tufted deer are mostly solitary, occasionally observed traveling in pairs. They have acute vision, hearing and sense of smell. These deer live within well-defined home territories from which they do not migrate. They are shy, usually resting during the day and becoming active as night approaches. Within their home territories, tufted deer travel along well-established paths
Chewing the Cud
Tufted deer do not have incisors in the upper jaw. Instead of upper incisors, they possess a callous pad which presses against the lower jaw’s incisors, allowing the deer to tear off vegetation as it feeds. The upper canines of males develop into short tusks which may be used for fighting.
Nearly all deer possess glands situated just in front of their eyes. These pre-orbital glands are sacs that open on the skin surface and discharge a strong-smelling secretion. One theory explaining why deer possess these glands is that they are used to scent-mark objects in their territory. Another theory is that the scent excreted from these glands enables other deer to recognize their presence and to keep in contact with one another.
Location at the Zoo
Woodland Park Zoo maintains one western tufted deer. It is located beside the Malayan tapir area at the Trail of Vines exhibit in Tropical Asia. So little is known about tufted deer in the wild that it is almost a mystery. By studying them at Woodland Park Zoo, we may answer some questions about the mysterious tufted deer that will contribute to their survival, as well as that of other Asian deer species.
The tufted deer is not listed as an endangered species. As their habitats are diminished, however, due to overpopulation, clearing of land for agriculture, logging and other human activities, their future remains uncertain. In 1985, the San Diego Zoo received the first group of western tufted deer exported from China.
In 1993, San Diego loaned Woodland Park Zoo two western tufted deer, enabling Woodland Park to participate in the North American breeding program. Woodland Park Zoo is successfully breeding these deer; young are sent to other American zoos so that they may breed new generations of tufted deer..
How You Can Help!
The effort to save threatened and endangered species often requires cooperation and support at the international, national, regional and individual levels. You can help in this cause. Join and become active in Woodland Park Zoo and other conservation organizations of your choice. Let your elected representatives know your views about conservation of endangered species and wild habitats. Contact Woodland Park Zoo at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about ways you can support conservation programs at the zoo. Learn other ways you can help conserve wildlife and the habitats they require for survival by visiting our How You Can Help page
Sources and Suggested Reading
Macdonald, David, ed. 1993. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Facts on File, Inc., New York, NY. 895 p.
Nowak, Ronald M., ed. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. 5th Edition. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London. 1,629 p.
Whitehead, G. Kenneth. 1993. The Whitehead Encyclopedia of Deer. Voyager Press, Stillwater, MN. 597 p.