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Types of Deer & Antelopes of Kanha

The Kanha National Park located in Madhya Pradesh is not only a Tiger Reserve but it is also famous for the Barasingha or the swamp deer and many other such species of deer and antelopes like the barking deer, the Sambar deer, the Chital deer or spotted deer, and Chousingha the antelope with four horns, other than other fauna species like the Royal Bengal Tiger, Gaurs, Indian wild dogs, sloth bear, langurs and leopards.

Skeleton of deer in Kanha Museum

Distinction between deer and Antelopes

DifferenceDeerAntelope
Horns and AntlersDeer have antlers and that too only the male deer.Antelopes have horns that are actually living bone.
 The deer sheds the antlers annually.The horns are permanent in nature.
 Antlers are branched.Horns are never branched though can be of any size.
Species familyBovidaeCervidae

Details of different varieties of deer and antelopes found in the Kanha National Park

The Barasingha – a deer species

Popularly called the swamp deer, this species is found majorly in the Indian subcontinent. This deer of Kanha species, zoologically named as the Rucervus duvaucelli is present in south-western Nepal, northern India and central India. The key distinctive feature of the Barasingha is the antlers that are common to the deer family. In the case of this species, the antlers have more than three tines, which is why it is named as Barasingha, which in the local language means twelve- tined. They are mostly yellowish-brown in colour with patches of white at the belly, throat and the tail. Grass and water plants form their food largely. They move in herds and the average herd size of 12-14 animals. The male deer has about 10-14 tines. It finds mention in Rudyard Kipling’s The Second Jungle Book.

Due to constant poaching activities, the Barasingha has been under threat of extinction and thanks to the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, the species is now being conserved at Kanha and has been declared the state animal of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh in India.

The Barasingha in Kanha National Park

Bhoorsingh the Barasingha – 2017, Kanha National Park became the first Tiger Reserve in the country to adopt an official mascot. To increase awareness regarding the Barasingha and to save it from extinction especially amongst youngsters, the mascot was based on this animal species and named Bhoorsingh the Barasingha – Bhoor meaning golden and Singh meaning antlers. The figure was made by internationally acclaimed cartoonist Rohan Chakravarty. The reason why Barasingha was chosen rather than the Tiger or any other animal was that the Kanha is one of the major remaining homes to this species in India.

Bhoorsingh official mascot of Kanha National Park
Bhoorsingh the Barasingha – official mascot of Kanha National Park

Sambar deer – A deer species

Zoologically named as the Rusa unicolour, this is one of the largest surviving species of native deer in Kanha, India. This species is quite commonly spotted in the Kanha Tiger Reserve. The Sambar deer feeds on the vegetation found in the dense forest and is marked for the chestnut marks on the under-parts and the rump. It is of dark brown colour with the tine beams forked at the ends. It is one of the favourite preys of the Royal Bengal Tiger in the National Park. It features on the Red List of the Threatened species of the earth due to poaching and hunting activities.

Sambar deer in Kanha National Park

Barking deer – a deer species

Also known as the Muntiacus Muntjak biologically, it is one of those species of animals that are not endangered or require special conservation methods. Usually brown in colour with grey hair it is also supposed to be one of the smallest species of deer. Besides grass, it feeds on eggs of birds, tiny animals and is, therefore, an omnivore and a scavenger. Its calling sound typically sounds like a bark and hence its name. In India, it is also called the ‘Kakar’ in Hindi. Barking Deer has plenty of names , it is also referred as ‘Southern Red Muntjac’ being one of the Red Deer species found in India.

Barking Deer or Indian Muntjac by walkthewilderness.net

Chital or the spotted deer – a deer species

The common names for this deer are the spotted deer or the axis deer. It is also commonly sighted in India and has a substantial population residing in the Kanha National Park. The distinctive feature of this species is that the antler is present only on the male deer and the upper part of the species is covered in white spots. The scientific name is Axis axis. They move in a single file and when fleeing from a potential danger they do so in groups.

Chital in Kanha National Park

Chousingha or the four-horned antelope – an antelope species

The four-horned antelope is another native species of India. Unlike the other bovids, this one has four horns. They generally tend to live in areas where there is heavy or thick grass cover. Featured in the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, it is widely being conserved in the Kanha Park along with other wildlife sanctuary and national parks. These are herbivorous animals feeding mainly on grass, flowers and foliage.

Chousingha photograph by K. Sharma

Varieties of Deer and Antelope Species not found in Kanha National Park

It is believed that the Indian subcontinent is one of the remaining natural habitats in the continent that is home to several herbivorous animal species. Other the five species of deer and antelopes in Kanha mentioned here, there are few other varieties that inhabit the country but not found in KTR. Some of them are –

  1. The Sangai or the Brow-Antlered Deer an endangered species it is found in the wetlands of Loktak Lake in Manipur. It is also the state animal of Manipur.
  2. The Leaf Deer – to be found only in the thick forest regions of Noklal in Nagaland and Namdapha Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh.
  3. Himalayan Goral is found in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
  4. Himalayan Serow, a native of the Himalayas is found in Sikkim in India.
  5. The Indian Hog Deer is found only in the Kaziranga National Park, Assam.
  6. The Himalayan Musk Deer, again a native of the Himalayas is found in and is the state animal of Uttarakhand.
  7. The Black Buck can be seen in Corbett, Bandhavgarh and Velavadar National Parks.
  8. Chinkara or the Indian Gazelle is found in Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh National Park.
  9. Nilgai an antelope and known as the Blue Bull is found in almost of all areas of India except for the eastern states of Bengal and Assam and the Malabar coast.
  10. The Red Deer or Hangul is found only Dachigam National Park in Jammu & Kashmir and hence also called the Kashmir Stag.
  11. Indian Spotted Chevrotain or the Mouse Deer found in The Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghats, Simlipal Hills in Orissa, Periyar Tiger Reserve Kerala, Indira Gandhi and Wildlife Sanctuary Tamil Nadu.

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