An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Artiodactyla

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

Rusa timorensis

      Rusa, Sunda sambar


Rusa timorensis [Blainville, 1822].  
Citation: J. Phys. Chim. Hist. Nat. Arts Paris, 94:267.
Type locality: Indonesia, Lesser Sunda Isls, Timor Isl.

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

General Characteristics

Body Length: 142-185 cm / 4.7-6.2 ft.
Shoulder Height: 83-110 cm / 2.8-3.6 ft.
Tail Length: 20 cm / 8 in.
Weight: 50-115 kg / 110-253 lb.

The rough grayish brown coat is often coarse in appearance.  Unlike many other deer, the young of the rusa are not spotted.  The ears are broad and slightly rounded.  The legs are relatively short, giving this deer a slightly stubby appearance.  Only males bear the lyre-shaped, three-tined antlers (four points  and 'palms' - flat pieces of antler - have been recorded on rare occasions).  These have been recorded growing to lengths of 110 cm / 3.6 feet, although lengths of 60-75 cm / 2-2.5 feet are more common.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 8 months.
Young per Birth: 1, rarely 2.
Weaning: At 6-8 months.
Sexual Maturity: At 18-24 months.
Life span: No more than 20 years (probably less than 15).

Breeding occurs throughout the year, although the breeding peak in Java is reached between July and September.

Ecology and Behavior

While the rusa is primarily nocturnal, it may graze during the day.  Unlike many other deer species, the rusa does not carry its tail erect when fleeing.  Recorded vocalizations included a bark to signal alarm, and a shrill roar put out by males in the mating season.  When courting, strong males decorate their antlers with grass and twigs, most probably to intimidate other males.  Rusa rarely drink, obtaining their needed moisture from the plants they eat.  This characteristic has allowed them to colonize habitats that other Asian ungulates avoid.  

Family group: Previously single sex groups of 25-1,500 animals.
Diet: Primarily grasses, also leaves.
Main Predators: Dhole, python, crocodile, Komodo dragon.


Deciduous forests, plantations and grasslands on the southern Indonesian islands.

Range Map (Redrawn from Whitehead, 1993)

Conservation Status

The Sunda sambar is a common, non-endangered species.


Sambar and rusa are Hindi names for deer.  The Sunda Islands are found in Indonesia, near Java.

Cervus (Latin) a stag, deer.  -ensis (Latin) suffix meaning belonging to: this deer lives on, but is not confined to, the island of Timor.

Literature Cited

Kurt, F.  1990.  Sambars (Subgenus Rusa).  In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. Edited by S. P. Parker. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 164-171.

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

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