Ozotoceros bezoarticusPampas deer

Geographic Range

The pampas deer once lived throughout the natural grasslands of eastern South America situated between latitudes 5 and 40S. Now the distribution is restricted to local populations. Jackson (1987), Nowak (1991).


The pampas deer occupies a wide variety of open grassland habitats at low elevations. These habitats include areas temporarily inundated by fresh or estuarine water, rolling hills, and areas with winter drought and no permanent surface water. In some places the grass is high enough to completely cover a standing deer. However, much of the original range has been modified by agriculture and other human activities. Jackson (1987), Nowak (1991).

Physical Description

Ozotoceros bezoarticus is a medium-sized, lightly built cervid. Head and body length is 110 - 140 cm, shoulder height is 70 - 75 cm. The prevailing color of the upper parts and limbs is reddish brown or yellowish gray. The face, crown, and tail are darker. Coat color is richer on the back than toward the extremities. Cream-colored areas occur as tarsal tufts, inside the ears, around the eyes, chest, throat, underparts, and underside of the tail. There is no marked difference between summer and winter pelage. Pelage of newborns is chestnut with a row of white spots on each side of the back and a second line from the shoulders to the thighs. The spots disappear by about 2 months of age, leaving a russet juvenile coat.

Males are slightly larger but there is no marked sexual dimorphism in size, weight, or pelage. Only males have antlers, that consist of three tines: a lower or front prong of the main fork and the upper or posterior prong divided. A synchronized antler cycle exits. Antlers are shed in mid winter, a new set begins to grow immediately and racks are cleaned of velvet by early summer.

It was suggested a latitudinal size gradient with northern animals larger. Three subspecies have been described based on geographic variation of the color coat. Ozotoceros bezoarticus bezoarticus is pale red-brown, O. b. leucogaster is tawny-brown, and O. b. celer is bay.

Jackson (1986, 1987), Nowak (1991), Gonzalez et al. (1991).

  • Range mass
    30 to 40 kg
    66.08 to 88.11 lb


Ozotoceros bezoarticus is a seasonal breeder. Gestation is slightly more than 7 months. Females are capable of giving birth at 10-month intervals. Pregnant females can be distinguished visibly about 3 months before parturition and the udder is evident 1 to 2 weeks before birth. The majority of fawns born in the spring (September to November), although births have been recorded in almost all months. The pampas deer virtually always bears a single fawn.

In captivity, the first discernible sexual behavior in males occurs when they are about 1 year of age; adult males are capable of mating year-round. Sexual maturity in captive females may occur at 12 months.

Jackson (1985; 1987); Langguth and Jackson (1980).

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    213 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    365 days


  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    21.9 years


The home range of Ozotoceros bezoarticus is unknown, but this spcies is largely sedentary. No regular daily or seasonal movements are described. The pampas deer lives in small groups rarely exceeding 5 - 6 individuals. Most observations are of solitary animals. Groups are fluid in composition; the members, especially adult bucks, freely move from one group to another at any season. However, mother-young bonds appear strong with fawns staying with the maternal female all year. Males mix with females throughout the year. No evident habitat partitioning exists, either by sex or age. Sometimes, aggregations of up to 50 or more individuals form on common feeding grounds. When undisturbed during clement weather the pampas deer often lays on open feeding grounds to ruminate and rest. Reactions to disturbance include staring, peering, standing alert, footstamping and snorting, stilting, and tail raising. To avoid detection, the pampas deer also freezes if in cover, lies on ground, or crawls or slinks away. Agresive postures include glaring, a head-low threat and chase, striking with the forefoot, biting and antler-present threats; submisive acts include looking-away, exposing the neck, and commencing self-grooming.

During the mating season adult males compete with one another for the estrous females. They trash vegetation with their antlers and rub the scent glands on their heads and face on plants and other objects. Aggression is demonstrated by thrusting with the antlers or flailing with the forefeet. Flighting is frequent between males of equal size. There is no evidence of territoriality or of lasting pair or of harem formation. Several males may harry a receptive female simultaneously.

Pregnant females and those with neonates become secretive. Females physically defend their small young by foot stamping, snorting, feigning injury, and butting.

Jackson (1985, 1987), Jackson and Langguth (1987), Langguth and Jackson (1980).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Ozotoceros bezoarticus is herbivorous, but its exact diet is unknown. It seems that the pampas deer selects new green growth, although shrubs also are browsed and seed-heads of grasses consumed (Jackson 1987).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The role of Ozotoceros bezoarticus in the culture of the Indians was comparable to that played by the bison in the lives of the plains Indians of North America. Later, the pampas deer was hunted commercially for skins for exportation and stomach stones (bezoares) for pseudomedicinal use. Over 2 million skins of Ozotoceros are estimated to have been exported from Argentina in the years 1860-70, and many more were captured in other countries. Official statistics for 1880 indicate that 61,401 skins of pampas deer were shipped from the port of Buenos Aires (Argentina). Also, the pampas deer was hunted locally for food, sport, skins, and stomach stones. Jackson (1987), Nowak (1991).

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Ozotoceros bezoarticus competes for food and space with domestic livestock, especially sheep (Jackson 1987).

Conservation Status

Ozotoceros bezoarticus occurred in great numbers, especially on the pampas of Argentina and Uruguay. Numbers declined rapidly through loss of habitat, transmission of disease from domestic livestock, and continued uncontrolled hunting. The pampas deer is on Appendix 1 of CITES and is designated an endangered species by the IUCN. Jackson (1987), Groombridge (1993).

Other Comments

The taxonomic status of Uruguayan specimens is undefined, althougth an affinity with Ozotoceros bezoarticus leucogaster was suggested (Gonzalez et al. 1991). Ozotoceros bezoarticus is distinguished by well-developed hind interdigital glands. The exudate of these glands gives a pungent, persistent, onionlike smell characteristic of the species. This odor can be detected at a distance of 1.5 km, and it is particularly strong at bedding sites and along regurlaly used paths. It was also suggested that this secretion could have an alarm role during moments of danger. Histological work demonstrated that the gland has a musculature that may assist in expelling secretion (Jackson 1987, Nowak, 1991, Lannguth and Jackson 1980).


Guillermo D'Elia (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

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


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.


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.


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


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


Groombridge, B. (ed). 1993. 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. UICN, Cambridge.

Gonzalez, S., A. Gravier, and N. Brum-Zorrilla. 1991. A systematic subspecifical approach on Ozotoceros bezoarticus (Linn. 1758) (Pampas Deer) from South America. Pp. 129-132 in Spitz A., G. Janeau, G. Gonzalez, and S. Aulagnier (eds). Ongules / Ungulates 91. Societe Francaise pour lEtude et la Protection des Mammiferes, Paris. Jackson, J. E. 1985. Behavioral observations on the Argentinian pampas deer (Ozotoceros bezoarticus celer Cabrera, 1943). Zeitschrift fur Saugetierkunde 50:107-116.

Jackson, J. E. 1986. Antler cycle in pampas deer (Ozotoceros bezoarticus) from San Luis, Argentina. Journal of Mammology 67:175-176.

Jackson, J. E. 1987. Ozotoceros bezoarticus. Mammalian Species 295:1-5.

Jackson, J. E., and A. Langguth. 1987. Ecology and status of pampas deer (Ozotoceros bezoarticus) in the Argentinian pampas and Uruguay. Pp. 402-410 in Wemmer, C. M. (ed). Biology and Management of the Cervidae. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D. C.

Langguth A. and J. E. Jackson. 1980. Cutaneous scent glands in pampas deer Blastoceros bezoarticus (L., 1758). Zeitschrift fur Saugetierkunde 45:82-90.

Nowak, R. M. 1991. Walkers Mammals of the World. Johns Hopkins university Press, London.