An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Artiodactyla

Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
      Order: Artiodactyla
        Family: Cervidae
          Subfamily: Capreolinae
            Genus: Hippocamelus

Hippocamelus antisensis

      Peruvian guemal, Taruca


Hippocamelus antisensis [d'Orbigny, 1834].  
Citation: Ann. Mus. Hist. Nat. Paris, 3:91.
Type locality: Bolivian Andes, near La Paz.

General Characteristics

Body Length: 150-170 cm / 5-5.6 ft.
Shoulder Height: 78-91 cm / 2.6-3 ft.
Tail Length: 11.5-13 cm / 4.6-5.2 in.
Weight: 45-65 kg / 99-143 lb.

The coat is made of coarse, brittle hairs, each with a white base, overlying a wooly undercoat.  The overall colour of the pelage is a speckled yellowish-brown to grayish-brown, remaining a uniform tone throughout the year.  A black Y-shaped blaze on the face darkens the "eyebrows" and the bridge of the nose, while the lips and lower muzzle are whitish.  There is a white bib at the base of the jowls, and the abdomen is usually whitish.  The tail is dark brown on top, with fluffy white hairs on the lower surface.  The limbs and neck are relatively short and the body is long and thick.  The canines are well developed in both sexes, although they do not extend past the lips.  Males possess small, V-shaped antlers, with the front prong generally smaller than the rear one.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 7.5 months.
Young per Birth: 1, rarely 2
Life span: 10 years.

Breeding occurs primarily in June and may continue into August.  Fawns are thus born from February to April, the end of the rainy season.  The unspotted young remain hidden for several weeks after birth.

Ecology and Behavior

The Peruvian guemal is a diurnal species.  Inhabiting higher slopes during the summer months, there is a general downward shift in the range of this species in fall, with most animals spending the winter in sheltered valleys.  Adults have year-round home ranges, although different segments are used seasonally.  One of the most unique social structures of deer is found with this species.  During the day, individuals of both sexes and all ages join together in close herds, led by an adult female.  The composition of these groups is constantly changing, although it has been suggested that these are components of a more stable subpopulation.

Family group: Flexible herds composed of several males, females, and their young, generally with about 8 animals, although with a maximum of 31 individuals.
Diet: Lichens, mosses, herbs, grasses.
Main Predators: Humans, puma, Magellan fox.


Rugged hills, mountain slopes, and alpine grassland at elevations of 2,500-5,200 meters.

Range Map (Redrawn from Whitehead, 1993)

Conservation Status

The current status of the Peruvian guemal is unknown, and is reported as data deficient by the IUCN (1996).


Although known locally as the taruca, the English names 'guemal' and 'huemul' are from the American Spanish names for this species.  Hippos (Greek) a horse; kamelos (Greek) a camel: while this deer is neither of these creatures, it was considered an intermediate between a horse and the Andean llama.  Antisana is the name of a mountain peak in the northern Andes; -ensis (latin) suffix meaning belonging to.

Literature Cited

MacNamara, M.  1990.  Guemals, Pudus, and Brockets (Genera Hippocamelus, Pudu, and Mazama).  In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals.  Edited by S. P. Parker.  New York: McGraw-Hill.  Volume 5, pp. 219-229.

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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