Chinese Water Deer (Hydropotes inermis)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family:    Cervidae
Size:    Height: 18 to 22 inches (46 to 55 cm) to shoulder 
Weight: 17 to 30 pounds (8 to 14 kg)
Diet: Plants
Distribution: China, Korea, England and France
Young:  A litter of 2 to 8
Animal Predators:  Fox, stoat and dogs 
IUCN Status: Lower Risk, Near Threatened
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: 10 to 12 years



·       The scientific name means: Hydro = water; potes  = drinker; inermis  = unarmed (because it has no antlers).

·       Females sometimes give birth to up to eight young at a time, more than any other kind of deer.

·       Although the males are fiercely territorial, clashes rarely result in death.

·       During mating season, the males whistle at the does.



Chinese water deer are tiny, about the height of medium-sized dogs. Their fur is reddish brown and they have a white underbelly. They have large, black eyes and a black nose, and a unique feature of these deer is that neither the male nor the female grows antlers. Instead, they have long canine teeth that extend into tusks. These sharp tusks are usually longer in the male, and are very effective weapons when it becomes necessary to defend themselves or their territories. Bucks’ tusks are hinged and loose in their sockets, so they can turn them backwards while eating, or push them forward for fighting.



The historical range of Chinese water deer is east central China as well as Korea, but they have also been introduced to France and England. They were brought to England in the 1870s to roam on private estates. Over the years, several escaped and began living in the wild. Males are extremely territorial and will not allow other males nearby, although females are accepted without any protest. When approached by another male during mating season, a buck will make a clicking sound. The males mark their territories with scent glands. They range from swamps and riverbanks to hills and mountains, in dense grasslands.


Feeding Habits

They eat plants and vegetation, including garden plants such as carrot tops and beets. 



Although most other species of deer have only one or possibly two offspring at one time, female Chinese water deer usually give birth to litters of two to four, with the largest recorded litter having been eight. They have only four teats, so if there are more, the youngsters have to take turns nursing. They are born early- to mid-summer, six to seven months after mating takes place. The doe usually goes off by herself to give birth, and keeps the fawns, who are born with white spots along their backs, well hidden. Directly following the birth, the doe cleans up all signs of a birth having taken place and licks her babies clean. Fawns can stand within an hour of birth and are able to walk a short distance by the end of the first day. Their spots disappear within two months, and they are weaned at three months, having begun to eat grass alongside their mother. The young remain with the group for a year or two. 



Chinese water deer are usually solitary, sometimes living in pairs. Occasionally they live in small herds that consist of one mature male, several females and their offspring. They live in long grass with plenty of shrubs—anywhere with sufficient cover to hide. Chinese water deer like to live near water, and are adept swimmers. When danger approaches, they warn nearby deer by barking and then leap in the air with their backs humped, in a series of exaggerated hops.



They are considered pests by farmers, and are heavily hunted for this reason, as well as for use in folk medicines. The population estimate is 10,000 in the wild in China.




Chinese Water Deer Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US