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The barasingha.jpg
Barasingha females.JPG
Adult female and yearling
CITES Appendix I (CITES) [1]
Scientific classification OOjs UI icon edit-ltr.svg
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Cervinae
Genus: Rucervus
R. duvaucelii
Binomial name
Rucervus duvaucelii
(G. Cuvier, 1823) [2]
Rucervus duvaucelii range map.png
Historic range (yellow); relict populations: duvaucelii (red); branderi (green); ranjitsinhi (blue)

The barasingha (Rucervus duvaucelii), sometimes barasinghe, also known as the swamp deer, is a deer species distributed in the Indian subcontinent. Populations in northern and central India are fragmented, and two isolated populations occur in southwestern Nepal. It has been extirpated in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and its presence is uncertain in Bhutan. [1]


The specific name commemorates the French naturalist Alfred Duvaucel. [3]

The swamp deer differs from all other Indian deer species in that the antlers carry more than three tines. Because of this distinctive character it is designated bārah-singgā, meaning "twelve-horned" in Hindi. [4] Mature stags usually have 10 to 14 tines, and some have been known to have up to 20. [5]

In Assamese, barasingha is called dolhorina; dol meaning swamp.


The barasingha is a large deer with a shoulder height of 44 to 46 in (110 to 120 cm) and a head-to-body length of nearly 6 ft (180 cm). Its hair is rather woolly and yellowish brown above but paler below, with white spots along the spine. The throat, belly, inside of the thighs and beneath the tail is white. In summer, the coat becomes bright rufous-brown. The neck is maned. Females are paler than males. Young are spotted. Average antlers measure 30 in (76 cm) round the curve with a girth of 5 in (13 cm) at mid beam. [6] A record antler measured 104.1 cm (41.0 in) round the curve. [5]

Stags weigh 170 to 280 kg (370 to 620 lb). Females are less heavy, weighing about 130 to 145 kg (287 to 320 lb). [7] Large stags have weighed from 460 to 570 lb (210 to 260 kg). [4]

Distribution and habitat

Swamp deer were once-common in many areas, including parts of the Upper Narmada Valley and to the south, in Bastar, prior to the 19th century. [6] They frequent flat or undulating grasslands, floodplains and marshes, and generally stay on the outskirts of forests. At times, they are also found in open forest. [4] In the 1960s, the total population was estimated to be between 1,600-2,150 individuals in India, with about 1,600 in Nepal. Today, the distribution is further reduced and fragmented, due to major losses in the 1930s–1960s following unregulated hunting and conversion of large tracts of habitat into cropland.

In Nepal, they can be primarily found in the western areas of the country, south of the Himalayas, in Shuklaphanta and Bardiya National Parks. Within India, barasingha can be found in six localities in Uttar Pradesh. They are found in Kanha National Park, in Madhya Pradesh, and have also been observed across the state border in Chhattisgarh (near to Dhamtari), [8] likely the most southerly extent of their distribution. They are regionally extinct in West Bengal, [9] and are also likely extirpated from Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Odisha. [10] A few barasingha still survive in Assam's Kaziranga and Manas National Parks. [11] [12] [13] [14]

In 2005, a small population of about 320 individuals was discovered in the Jhilmil Jheel Conservation Reserve in Haridwar district, Uttarakhand, on the east bank of the Ganges. This likely represents the most northerly limit of the species. [15] [16]

Distribution of subspecies

Three subspecies are currently recognized: [17]

Ecology and behaviour

A barasingha mother and fawn in Assam Swamp Deer Mother and Foal.jpg
A barasingha mother and fawn in Assam

Swamp deer are mainly grazers. [4] They largely feed on grasses and aquatic plants, foremost on Saccharum , Imperata cylindrica , Narenga porphyrocoma, Phragmites karka, Oryza rufipogon , Hygroryza and Hydrilla . They feed throughout the day with peaks during the mornings and late afternoons to evenings. In winter and monsoon, they drink water twice, and thrice or more in summer. In the hot season, they rest in the shade of trees during the day. [9]

In central India, the herds comprise on average about 8–20 individuals, with large herds of up to 60. There are twice as many females than males. During the rut they form large herds of adults. The breeding season lasts from September to April, and births occur after a gestation of 240–250 days in August to November. The peak is in September and October in Kanha National Park. [7] They give birth to single calves. [7]

When alarmed, they give out shrill, baying alarm calls. [5] Compared to other deer species, barasingha are more relaxed when it comes to guarding. They have fewer sentries and they spend most of their time grazing, unlike deer species like spotted deer or sambar deer. [23]


Illustration of barasingha antlers BarasinghaAntler.jpg
Illustration of barasingha antlers

The swamp deer populations outside protected areas and seasonally migrating populations are threatened by poaching for antlers and meat, which are sold in local markets. Swamp deer lost most of its former range because wetlands were converted and used for agriculture so that suitable habitat was reduced to small and isolated fragments. [9] The remaining habitat in protected areas is threatened by the change in river dynamics, reduced water flow during summer, increasing siltation, and is further degraded by local people who cut grass, timber and fuelwood, [1] and by illegal farming on government land. [24]

George Schaller wrote: "Most of these remnants have or soon will have reached the point of no return." [7]


Rucervus duvaucelii is listed on CITES Appendix I. [1] In India, it is included under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. [9]

An attempt to translocate some individuals to Chitwan National Park in Nepal was unsuccessful. [25]

In captivity

In 1992, there were about 50 individuals in five Indian zoos and 300 in various zoos in North America and Europe. [9]

Swamp deer were introduced to Texas. [26] They exist only in small numbers on ranches. [27]

In culture

See also

Related Research Articles

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Further reading