The Muntjac has been a recent addition to the UK deer population. Originally from Asia, the first herd was brought to Woburn Abbey in 1893, in this case it was the Indian sub-species, which was introduced. These were replaced later with Reeves’ Muntjac. Many Muntjacs were intentionally released in the 1940’s and 50’s and this population has grown over time, escaped animals have also increased the numbers. Over the last twenty years, however, the population has significantly dropped.
Males – Buck
Females – Doe
Young – Kid
Life Expectancy – Up to 16 years in the wild.
Where can Muntjac be found?
Muntjacs were first brought to Bedfordshire and this remains a Muntjac stronghold, along with most of the eastern and central counties. Scattered populations also exist across Wales and the Southwest, plus one or two colonies in northern England and Scotland. Muntjacs are even, more recently, being seen in town parks and gardens.
- Short neck and hunched posture.
- Short legs and stiff legged run.
- Tail held erect showing white underside when alarmed.
- Bucks have long pedicles extending onto the face as facial ridges.
- Bucks have ginger faces with black stripes up their long pedicles.
- Does have a black diamond shape on the forehead.
- All have prominent sub-orbital and forehead glands.
The Muntjac is a small, hunched looking deer. Its summer coat is chestnut with a white belly and light throat. The tail is quite short and white underneath, with a corresponding white rump, which the tail covers when lying flat. The tail may be raised in alarm to show the white area as a signal. The legs are black on the front edge and the bucks have black muzzles and dark V stripes on the pedicles. The does and immature bucks have lighter, brown faces with a black top of the head and a dark diamond marking on the face. Prominent glands can be seen on the Muntjacs’ faces below the eyes and on the forehead, and bucks have tusks showing from the upper jaw. Does also have tusks (canine teeth) but these are not usually long enough to see. The Muntjac’s ears are quite naked and blunt in appearance.
The average height of an adult Muntjac is only around half a metre or eighteen inches. They are able to browse higher foliage by standing on their hind legs or bending saplings down to reach the leaves by walking over them.
|Height (woodland)||Up to 49cm||Up to 47cm|
|Live weight (woodlands)||Up to 20+kg||Up to 15+kg||At birth 1.2kg|
The typical habitat of the Muntjac is broadleaf woodland with copious and varied undergrowth. If they live in ornamental parkland or conservation areas, they will often eat wild or decorative flowers and other plants of interest, particularly if food supplies are short.
The Muntjac Deer is usually seen alone, unless it is a doe with a fawn or a small family group. It is also common to come across single fawns, which are left unattended while the doe forages. The Muntjac often move between feeding ground and lying up ground as they both feed and rest for short periods. They commonly develop well-worn tunnels and tracks between their popular sites and leave scent messages more frequently than other deer species.
The Muntjac buck asserts and defends a territory marked with scent marks, scrapes, dung and fraying. Their territories commonly include several does’ grounds and when the females are in oestrus, the bucks join the does and any young they have. Muntjac breed all year round and bucks mature sexually at nine months, does at seven months. The bucks fight using antlers and tusks and can injure each other quite seriously in spite of the thick protective skin on their necks. It is important for the bucks to keep their antlers and tusks in good condition, as without them they cannot defend their territory. A doe will take seven months to produce a single fawn and usually mate again soon afterwards. In order to cull humanely, a large doe being courted by a buck should not be shot, as she will usually have given birth within the last week. On the other hand, a doe that is heavily pregnant can be shot safely, as her previous fawn will be old enough to survive. It is also better to shoot maiden does to account for the female part of the cull.
Muntjacs are famous for their dog-like bark, leading to the name ‘barking deer’. Both bucks and does bark and they may do so repetitively for several minutes, sometimes stamping their forefeet. Bucks also grunt during rutting and does will call back in a bird-like manner. A clicking may be heard from the bucks when threatening one another. Fawns can be heard to squeak to attract the attention of their dams.
Although the Muntjac breeds all year long, the bucks still have a yearly antler cycle. They shed their antlers in May and lose the velvet on their new pair in September, with the first set budding at around six months of age, whatever the time of year. The Muntjac bucks usually have four-inch long antlers with a curved-in tip, and often a small brow tine.