• Chinese Water Deer (Hydropotes inermis)

    Like the Muntjac, the Chinese Water Deer was brought to the UK by the Duke of Bedford to populate the grounds of Woburn Abbey at around the start of the 20th century. As the name suggests, the Chinese Water Deer is a native to China and also to North Korea. Since its introduction to the UK, the Chinese Water Deer has inhabited both wetlands and drier parkland and wooded areas. The Chinese Water Deer prefers thick cover and wetland, but these are not essential for its survival.

    Key Facts

    Male – Buck
    Female – Doe
    Young – Fawn

    Life Expectancy – Up to 6 years in the wild.

    Key Features

    • An even-coloured pale brown coat slightly more grey in winter but with no markings.
    • Adult bucks have readily visible tusks.
    • Bucks do not carry antlers at any time of year.
    • Black ‘button’ eyes and nose with large rounded ears giving a ‘teddy bear’ look.
    • Rump higher than shoulders due to differences in leg length.
    • Often runs for a short distance before lying down, even in the open.

    Where can Chinese Water Deer be found?

    The range of the Chinese Water Deer is limited and populations sparsely spread and isolated. There are Chinese Water Deer in the eastern counties of England including Bedfordshire, where they were first introduced, and outlying populations in Wales, the Midlands and northern England. The Chinese Water Deer are limited in their spread due to their specific habitat requirements and competition with Muntjac.


    The coat of the Chinese Water Deer is fairly uniform sandy brown which darkens and becomes slightly speckled and greyer in the winter. There is a small degree of counter-shading but there are no rump markings. The does have a finer face than the bucks, which appears short and blunt. The ears, which are large and rounded, are held erect and this adds to the ‘teddy bear’ look, which their button eyes and nose create. The Chinese Water Deer’s tail is short.


    The Chinese Water Deer is similar in size to the Muntjac, around half a metre or eighteen inches at the shoulder. In proportion, their legs are longer than the Muntjac’s which makes them look taller. Their hind legs are longer than their forelegs, which cause the rump to be higher than the shoulders.

    Males Females Young
    Height (woodland) Up to 50cm Up to 48cm
    Live weight (woodlands) Up to 19+kg Up to 17+kg At birth 1kg


    The Chinese Water Deer is a solitary deer, only grouping to feed on a good food source or associating to breed. They mainly eat grasses, sedge and rushes with some browsing and sometimes they will even eat vegetable crops. The Chinese Water Deer often interrupt a grazing session to ‘couch’ in long grass and chew the cud. They are not able to jump as high as other deer species.

    The bucks keep a territory, which they mark with scrapes and scent marks. These domains usually cover several does’ ranges. The bucks become more aggressive in the rutting season, which is in December, and fight each other with their tusks.

    The does can produce as many as seven kids and become sexually mature at six months old, ready for the rut, and birth six months later. Although this sounds as though the deer would be able to increase their numbers quickly, in reality, only two or three fawns are born to each doe.


    The Chinese Water Deer is generally a quiet deer, only barking when in danger, a sound that may be repeated. The young can also scream if frightened and the bucks click and squeal during the rut.


    The tusks develop in the bucks at around six months old, but will not be long enough to see until the buck is a year old. At eighteen months old, the tusks will be visible from a distance. The tusks continue to grow until it’s two months old and they are quite moveable, as they are not firmly fixed in their sockets. They have a sharp inner edge and this sits against a smooth section of the lower lip. The teeth move forward when the bucks ‘snarl’ at each other by raising the upper lip.
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