Muntjacs (/mʌntæk/ MUNT-jak),[1] also known as the barking deer[2] or rib-faced deer,[2] are small deer of the genus Muntiacus native to South Asia and Southeast Asia. Muntjacs are thought to have begun appearing 15–35 million years ago, with remains found in Miocene deposits in France, Germany[3] and Poland.[4] Most species are listed as Least Concern or Data Deficient by the IUCN, although others such as the black muntjac, Bornean yellow muntjac, and giant muntjac are Vulnerable, Near Threatened, and Critically Endangered, respectively.[5][6]

Temporal range: Miocene to present
Indian muntjac
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Cervinae
Tribe: Muntiacini
Genus: Muntiacus
Rafinesque, 1815
Type species
Cervus muntjak
Zimmerman, 1780
Geographic range


The present name is a borrowing of the Latinized form of the Dutch muntjak, which was borrowed from the Sundanese mēncēk. The Latin form first appeared as Cervus muntjac in Zimmerman in 1780.[7][8] An erroneous alternative name of Mastreani deer has its origins in a mischievous Wikipedia entry from 2011 and is incorrect.[9]


Head of a common muntjac

The present-day species are native to Asia and can be found in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Vietnam, the Indonesian islands, Taiwan and Southern China. Their habitat includes areas of dense vegetation, rainforests, monsoon forests and they like to be close to a water source.[10] They are also found in the lower Himalayas (Terai regions of Nepal and Bhutan).

An invasive population of Reeves's muntjac exists in the United Kingdom and in some areas of Japan.[11] In the United Kingdom, wild deer descended from escapees from the Woburn Abbey estate around 1925.[12] Muntjac have expanded rapidly, and are present in most English counties and also in Wales, although they are less common in the north-west. The British Deer Society in 2007 found that muntjac deer had noticeably expanded their range in the UK since 2000.[13] Specimens appeared in Northern Ireland in 2009, and in the Republic of Ireland in 2010.

Inhabiting tropical regions, the deer have no seasonal rut, and mating can take place at any time of year; this behaviour is retained by populations introduced to temperate countries.


Males have short antlers, which can regrow, but they tend to fight for territory with their "tusks" (downward-pointing canine teeth). The presence of these "tusks" is otherwise unknown in native British wild deer and can be an identifying feature to differentiate a muntjac from an immature native deer. Water deer also have visible tusks[14] but they are much less widespread. Although these tusks resemble those of both water deer and the Musk Deer, the muntjac is not related to either of these (and they are not related to each other). The tusks are a quite different shape in each.


Muntiacus muntjak chromosomes

Muntjac are of great interest in evolutionary studies because of their dramatic chromosome variations and the recent discovery of several new species. The Indian muntjac (M. muntjak) is the mammal with the lowest recorded chromosome number: The male has a diploid number of 7, the female only 6 chromosomes. Reeves's muntjac (M. reevesi), in comparison, has a diploid number of 46 chromosomes.[15]


The genus Muntiacus has 12 recognized species:

See also

  • Deer of Great Britain


  1. Wells, John (3 April 2008). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.). Pearson Longman. ISBN 978-1-4058-8118-0.
  2. "Notes and comments – The alien deer of the Chilterns". New Scientist. 9 April 1959. p. 784. (URL is Google Books)
  3. Baynes, T. S.; Smith, W.R., eds. (1884). "Muntjak" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 17 (9th ed.). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  4. Czyżewska, Teresa; Stefaniak, Krzysztof (December 1994). "Euprox furcatus (Hensel, 1859) (Cervidae, Mammalia) from Przeworno (Middle Miocene, Lower Silesia, Poland)" (PDF). Acta Zoologica Cracoviensia. 37 (1): 55–74.
  5. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Muntiacus vaginalis". 25 September 2015.
  6. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Muntiacus muntjak". 18 November 2015.
  7. "muntjac, n.", Oxford English Dictionary, 2003.
  8. Von Zimmerman, Eberhard August Wilhelm (1780), Geographische Geschichte des Menschen, und der Allgemein Verbreiteten Vierfussigen Thiere, vol. II, p. 131. (in German)
  9. Smith-Jones, C. (2020), 'Mastreani deer, a very modern hoax', The British Deer Society: Deer Journal Summer 2020 p25
  10. Jackson, Adria. "Muntiacus muntjak (Indian muntjac)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 20 July 2021.
  11. "Reeves's (or Chinese) Muntjac / Invasive Species of Japan". Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  12. Whitehead, George Kenneth (1964). The deer of Great Britain and Ireland: an account of their history, status and distribution. London: Routledge & K. Paul. pp. .
  13. Deer Distribution Survey 2007 Archived 23 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine The British Deer Society. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  14. Emily. "Chinese water deer". People's Trust for Endangered Species. Retrieved 27 August 2022.
  15. Wurster, D. H.; Benirschke, K. (1970). "Indian Momtjac, Muntiacus muntiak: A Deer with a Low Diploid Chromosome Number". Science. 168 (3937): 1364–1366. Bibcode:1970Sci...168.1364W. doi:10.1126/science.168.3937.1364. PMID 5444269. S2CID 45371297.
  16. "Fauna of Corbett National Park". Internet Archive. Archived from the original on 4 July 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  17. "Muntiacus malabaricus". Mammal Diversity Database. American Society of Mammalogists. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  18. Groves, C. (2003). "Taxonomy of ungulates of the Indian subcontinent". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 100 (2–3): 341–362.
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