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Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
      Order: Artiodactyla
        Family: Cervidae
          Subfamily: Cervinae
            Genus: Rucervus

Rucervus duvaucelii

      Barasingha, Swamp deer


Cervus duvaucelii [G. Cuvier, 1823].  
Citation: Rech. Oss. Foss., Nouv. ed., 4:505.
Type locality: N India.

Click on the pictures above for a larger view of the photographs

General Characteristics

Body Length: 180 cm / 6 ft.
Shoulder Height: 119-124 cm / 3.9-4.1 ft.
Tail Length: 12-20 cm / 4.8-8 in.
Weight: 170-280 kg / 374-616 lb.

The coat is generally orange to brown colour, with males being slightly darker than females.  During the summer, the pelage lightens, and some populations develop faint spots on the back and sides.  The underparts, including the underside of the tail, are whitish.  There is a dark dorsal stripe, on each side of which may be a row of light spots.  The smooth antlers are worn only by males, and have a crown-like look with the points concentrated near the tips of the arching antler beam.  As the barasingha's name suggests, there may be 12 or even up to 15 points per head (6-8 on each antler), with each antler growing up to 1 meter / 3.3 feet in length. 

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 240-250 days.
Young per Birth: 1
Weaning: At 6-8 months.
Sexual Maturity: At 2-3 years.
Life span: Probably no more than 20 years.

The breeding season extends from September to April, although there is a peak in activity in December-January.  The barasingha is the only deer species known to be monestrous, with females coming into heat only once every year.

Ecology and Behavior

The barasingha may be active at any time during the day.  During the breeding season males attempt to gather harems of up to 30 females.  In order to gain breeding privileges, males fight amongst each other in order to create a dominance hierarchy from which the higher ranking individuals having priority access to females in heat.  During this time, the stags often call out with a roaring sound.  The other major vocalization of this deer is an alarm call which consists of a shrill bark.  Population density estimates have been variable, ranging from 0.2-30 animals per square kilometer.

Family group: Single sex or mixed herds of 13-20 animals, rarely over 500 individuals. 
Diet: Grasses, rarely leaves.
Main Predators: Tiger, leopard.


Marshy grasslands, floodplains, and meadows in northern India.

Range Map (Redrawn from Whitehead, 1993)

Conservation Status

The barasingha is considered a vulnerable species by the IUCN (1996).  R. d. duvaucelii is considered a vulnerable subspecies, while R. d. branderi is classified as endangered.  Most serious, however, is the status of C. d. ranjitsinhi: critically endangered.


Barasingha is Hindi for "twelve horns", from barah (Hindi) twelve, and sig (Hindi) a horn, as this deer usually has twelve tines on its antlers.

Duvaucel (1796-1824) was a French naturalist.

Literature Cited

Kurt, F.  1990.  Barasinghas (Subgenus Rucervus).  In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. Edited by S. P. Parker. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 171-174.

Nowak, R. M. [editor]. 1991.  Walker's Mammals of the World (Fifth Edition).  Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Whitehead, K. G.  1993.  The Whitehead Encyclopedia of Deer.  Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, Inc.

Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder [editors]. 1993. Mammal Species of the World (Second Edition). Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.  Available online at

Additional Resources

Burnett, J. H.  1959.  Increase of swamp deer (Cervus duvauceli Cuv.) in the Kaziranga Sanctuary, Assam.  Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society  56: 318-319.

Everts, W.  1980.  Keeping and breeding the Barasingha deer Cervus duvauceli duvauceli in a northern European 'forest' enclosure.  International Zoo Yearbook 20: 89-93.

Holloway, C. W.  1973.  Swamp deer in Uttar Pradesh.  Oryx 12: 41-48.

Martin, C.  1977.  Status and ecology of the barasingha (Cervus duvauceli branderi) in Kanha National park (India).  Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 74: 60-132.

Schaller, G. B.  1967.  The Deer and the Tiger.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ullrich, W.  1972.  Zur Herdenordung und Territorialität des Barainghahirsches (Cervus duvauceli duvauceli) in Assam.  Zool. Gart., Lpz. (N.F.) 41: 223-232.

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