Elaphodus cephalophustufted deer

Geographic Range

Tufted deer live in northeast Burma (Myanmar) and southern and central China. Their range extends from 24 to 35 degrees N latitude and from 98 to 122 degrees E longitude. (Sheng and Lu, 1982; Whitehead, 1972)


Tufted deer live in forested regions at high altitudes (between about 300 and 4600 meters above sea level), and in rain forests in high-altitude valleys. Their habitat is always near water. (Nowak, Ronald M., 1999)

  • Range elevation
    300 to 4600 m
    984.25 to 15091.86 ft

Physical Description

Tufted deer are similar in appearance to muntjac, although they are slightly larger. They weigh from 17 to 50 kg (37-110 lbs), and are 110 to 160 cm long (3.6 to 5.3 ft), with a shoulder height of 50 to 70 cm (1.6-2.3 ft). The tail is 7 to 16 cm (2.8-6.4 inches) long. The coat is coarse and dark gray or brown, with a dark gray head and neck. The underside is white, including the underside of the tail, and the lips and the tips of their ears are also white. Tufted deer gets their name from the tuft of hair on the forehead, which can sometimes hide the small antlers of the male. These antlers are simple and spiked, growing from short bony pedicles. Tufted deer have no upper incisors, but their upper canines are long and tusklike, similar to those of the muntjac. Male tufted deer are slightly larger than females. When a tufted deer fawn is born, its coloration is similar to that of an adult tufted deer, but with two parallel rows of spots on the back, on either side of the spine. These spots fade and disappear when the young deer reaches maturity. (Grzimek, B., 1990; Nowak, Ronald M., 1999; Waller, 2001; Whitehead, 1972)

  • Range mass
    17 to 50 kg
    37.44 to 110.13 lb
  • Range length
    110 to 160 cm
    43.31 to 62.99 in


During the mating season, tufted deer males bark to attract mates. (Nowak, Ronald M., 1999)

Tufted deer mate in late fall and early winter, the young are born in the early summer after a gestation of 180 days. However, a female tufted deer at the Twycross Zoo in the United Kingdom gave birth after an average gestation period of 240 days over the course of 5 years. Tufted deer usually give birth to one or two fawns per year. Until the age of six months, a young deer is dependent on its mother. Tufted deer become sexually mature between eighteen months and two years of age. (Nowak, Ronald M., 1999; Sheng and Lu, 1982; Waller, 2001; Whitehead, 1972)

  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs in late fall and early winter.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    6 months
  • Average gestation period
    180 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    18 to 24 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    18 to 24 months

Young tufted deer are nursed and cared for by their mother until independence. They are capable of standing soon after birth.


In captivity, tufted deer live to as long as 15 years, their longevity in the wild is not well documented. (Waller, 2001)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    15 (low) years


Like the white-tailed deer, the tufted deer has a tail with a white underside, which it points upward while feeding. When the deer runs, it lifts its tail, exposing the underside in a similar manner to that of the white-tailed deer. Tufted deer sometimes live in pairs, but are usually solitary. They bark when alarmed, which serves as a warning to others of their species in the area. They are territorial and do not tend to move far from their home territory. The bucks are known to fight over territory and mates, and their chief weapons are their elongated canines; their antlers are also used, but are not as dangerous. Tufted deer are crepuscular; they are shy during the day and more active during the evening and night. (Grzimek, B., 1990; Waller, 2001; Whitehead, 1972)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Tufted deer eat leaves, twigs, fruits, grasses and other types of vegetation. They are both browsers and grazers. These deer tear off vegetation to eat by pressing the lower incisors against a callous pad that takes the place of upper incisors. (Sheng and Lu, 1982; Waller, 2001)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • fruit


Tufted deer bark when alarmed. (Whitehead, 1972)

Ecosystem Roles

The tufted deer is a terrestrial herbivorous grazer and browser and a source of meat to carnivores such as the leopard and dhole. (Grzimek, B., 1990)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Tufted deer may be hunted for meat and fur throughout their range. They may also help to alert humans to the presence of predators through their barks. (Grzimek, B., 1990)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no adverse affects of tufted deer, they are too rare to pose a threat to crops.

Conservation Status

As of 1993, there were estimated to be 500,000 tufted deer living in China. They are not listed as an endangered species, although deforestation for agriculture and logging threaten their habitat. There are several tufted deer living in zoos, and they have been successfully bred in captivity. Annual kill by humans is estimated to be about 100,000. (Nowak, Ronald M., 1999; Sheng and Lu, 1982)

Other Comments

The tufted deer is the only species in the genus Elaphodus, and this animal has not been extensively studied to date. Little is known about its longevity in the wild, and some sources list its diet as omnivorous, although the majority list the tufted deer as an herbivore. There are a disputed number of subspecies of Elaphodus cephalophus, most commonly there are three listed: E.c. cephalophus, which is found in northeast Burma and southwest China, E.c. michianus from eastern China, and E.c. ichangensis from central China. It is possible that E.c. ichangensis is a hybrid of the other two subspecies. (Grzimek, B., 1990; Whitehead, 1972)


Barbara Lundrigan (author), Michigan State University, Rebecca Oas (author), Michigan State University.


bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


active at dawn and dusk


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


having more than one female as a mate at one time


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


Grzimek, B., 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals, Volume 5. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Nowak, Ronald M., 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition, Volume II. Baltimore & London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Sheng, H., H. Lu. 1982. Distribution, habits and resource status of the tufted deer (*Elaphodus cephalophus*). Acta Zoologica (Sinica), 28: 307-311.

Waller, M. 2001. "Animal Fact Sheets: Western Tufted Deer" (On-line). Accessed March 26, 2002 at http://www.zoo.org/educate/fact_sheets/deer/tufted.htm.

Whitehead, G. 1972. Deer of the World. New York: Viking Press.