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An Ultimate Ungulate Fact Sheet
Axis axis
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Common name:
Scientific name:
Other names:
Chital ("CHEE-tul")
Axis axis
Axis deer, cheetal, Indian spotted deer, Cerf axis, Axis-Hirsch, Ciervo axis, Chitra, Jhank, Buryia, Chatidah, Darkar, Dupi, Jatat (also Jate, Játi), Kars, Lupi, Mikka, Pali-man, Pullimal, Pasu, Pooli marn, Pústa, Sáraga, Saranga jinke, Tic huha, Tic muwa

Physical Characteristics

Head and body length: 110-140 cm
Shoulder height: 75-100 cm
Tail length: 20-30 cm
Adult weight: 45-55 kg (females), 65-85 kg (males)

Chital are a lightly-built species; males are larger and heavier than females. The bright reddish-brown coat of both sexes is marked with scattered white spots in all seasons. Near the belly the spots may merge to form a horizontal stripe. A dark line runs along the spine from shoulder to tail, and this is bordered by a row of spots. The underparts, including the underside of the tail, are white, and there is a white "bib" on the upper throat. Males alone carry antlers, which have three tines: a brow tine and a terminal fork. Old males may retain a single set of antlers for over 19 months. The antlers typically grow 75-85 cm in length, with a record of 101 cm. When in "hard-rack" (with fully developed antlers), males have prominent thick necks and a dark chevron above and between their eyes.

Similar species

  • Fallow deer (Dama sp.) and some subspecies of sika deer (Cervus nippon) also retain a white-spotted coat into adulthood. Neither of these species has the white "bib" that is present on the throat of chital.

Reproduction and Development

Gestation period: 225-235 days.
Litter size: 1, twins are very rare.
Weaning: Begins around three months; all young fully weaned by 6 months.
Sexual maturity: Females as early as 9-10 months, males at 14 months.
Life span: 15 years.

Chital have no fixed breeding season: males in hard antler may be found throughout the year, and infants may be born in any season. In Central India (Madhya Pradesh), it has been suggested that mating is at its peak in April-May. Males do not maintain a harem, but instead guard estrous females aggressively from other suitors. Fawns are born spotted, although they have shaggy coats which render their spots less conspicuous than in adulthood. For the first two weeks of life, fawns are cached in hiding spots and visited by their mothers for nursing. By four weeks of age, they are fully mobile and follow their mothers (and the rest of the herd) continually.

Ecology and Behavior

Chital are most active in the morning and late afternoon, and rest in shaded areas during the midday heat. Although grass forms the majority of the diet, in the dry season they will browse from trees and may even stand on their hind legs to reach leaves. Herds will feed under trees in which Hanuman langurs (Semnopithecus entellus) are feeding, taking advantage of food items dropped by the primates. They are very dependent on water and drink at least once per day. Population densities in dry forest are typically 20-50 deer per km2, but can reach 200 deer per km2 in good habitat (such as in Bardia National Park, Nepal). Forests tend to be the preferred habitat during the dry season (November to May), but following the monsoon rains chital are more frequently encountered in grasslands. Home ranges average 1.4 km2 for females and 1.95 km2 for males. Although this species is sociable (sometimes associating in groups of several hundred), the composition of herds is not stable and individuals within the group frequently change. Herds tend to travel in single file. Chital are wary creatures and are always alert for danger. When alarmed, they will stamp their forelegs and emit a shrill bark; they also pay attention to the alarm calls of other species such as Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus). When fleeing from danger, the tail is raised to display the white underside.
Family group: Typically mixed herds of 10-30 animals throughout the year, although congegrations of more than 200 have been recorded in the dry season.
Diet: Primarily short grasses, also herbs and foliage.
Main Predators: Tiger, leopard, and dhole. Also wolves, pythons, jackals.

Habitat and Distribution

Chital inhabit open deciduous forests and grasslands throughout much of pensinsular India and Sri Lanka. Proximity to a permanent water source is essential. The approximate range is depicted in the map below. Chital have also been introduced to Argentina, Australia, Brazil, South Africa, USA (Florida, Texas, California, and Hawaii), and Argentina.

Range Map
(data from Duckworth et al., 2008)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List: Least Concern (2008).
CITES Listing: Not listed (2013).
Threats: Hunting, competition with domestic livestock.

Chital are locally abundant, especially in protected areas. However, the population is significantly reduced from the beginning of the 20th Century due to hunting and the conversion of high-quality habitat into farmland.

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