Muntjac info

General Characteristics

Body Length: 90 cm / 3 ft.

Shoulder Height: 40 cm / 16 in.

Tail Length: 10 cm / 4 in.

Weight: 11-16 kg / 24-35 lb.

The short, soft coat is a reddish brown in colour, with the undersides, including the lower legs and the ventral surface of the neck and chin, fading to creamy white. The forehead and nose are black, while the surrounding face is generally a pale tan. Males have small tusk-like canines, which can grow up to 2.5 cm / 1 inch long and small antlers, averaging 7-8 cm / 2.75-3.2 inches in length. These are mounted on skin-covered pedestals which slope back from the face. Females also have remnant pedicels which are seen as small bony knobs on the forehead. The body is rounded, and the legs are slender, the overall form resembling that of the South American agouti.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 7 months.

Young per Birth: 1, sometimes 2.

Weaning: At 2 months.

Sexual Maturity: At 6-12 months.

Life span: Up to 17 years.

Breeding occurs primarily from January to March in the UK there is no defined season, Does may be pregnant at any time of the year.

Ecology and Behaviour

Captive observations indicate that the Reeves's Muntjac are primarily crepuscular, active at dawn and dusk, although both diurnal and nocturnal activity have been reported. When alarmed or in the presence of potential danger, Muntjacs make a sharp barking sound, which is surprisingly loud and gives them their alternate name "barking deer". There are a number of possible explanations for this behaviour, although the true reason is not known. This noise may serve as a warning to the predator that it has been spotted, and hence that its chances of a successful hunt have been reduced. The vocalizations may also serve as communication between individuals. In either case, there is a correlation between intensive barking an reduced visibility. Both sexes defend small, solitary territories, chasing away most resource competitors. These territories are marked with pre-orbital gland secretions.

Although the antlers of males may be used in battle, the sharp canines are the more dangerous weapon.

However, he will cast his antlers in the following May or June with all the older bucks. At first casting he may be anything from about a year to over

two years of age. After that, he will follow the regular routine of casting in early summer and cleaning velvet from the new antlers in August/September.

Muntjac bucks are able to mate successfully whether they have antlers or not.

Family group: Solitary or in small groups.

Diet: Grasses, sprouts, fruits, seeds, carrion, eggs.

Main Predators: Leopard, Tiger, Dhole, Jackal, Crocodile, Python. In the UK: man.


Deciduous forests in southern China and Taiwan.

Range Map (Redrawn from K. Whitehead, 1993)

UK Distribution 2010 (The National Biodiversity Network)

Conservation Status

Reeves's muntjac is a common species.


An adaptable animal, this small deer has escaped from British gameparks and now lives ferally in the southern portion of Great Britain.

Muntiacus (New Latin) from Muntjak, the native name for these deer in the Sunda language, in western Java. Named after John Reeves, FRS (1774-1856), a British naturalist who was resident in China from 1812 to 1831. He studied the natural history of the country, and sent specimens back to England.

Following the death of his brother in 1893, the 11th Duke of Bedford moved to Woburn Abbey. He introduced Reeve’s Muntjac to the estate.

The Duke was President of the Zoological Society of London. His collection at Woburn Abbey included some 40 species of deer and various other exotic species. By the turn of the century, Woburn Abbey was essentially a zoological park.

Victorian land owners were keen to find out which species might survive and acclimatise in this country.

The Victorians' were fascinated by, and interested in, the flora and fauna that had been discovered in the countries of the British Empire as scientific phenomena. There was a general interest in the diversity of plants and animals after the publication of Darwin’s great work, “On The Origin of Species by means of natural selection”.

The Victorians' may have generally thought that the mammal fauna of the UK was limited, so had a desire to introduce decorative species (particularly deer, which could be hunted).

The wife of the 11th Duke, Mary, recorded how the different animals fared at Woburn. She noted that animals were kept in large grass paddocks with open sheds or turned out into the open park. She noted that Elk and Reindeer (Caribou) had failed due to ‘parasitic disease of the lungs and stomach’. She also noted that between 1894 & 1905 a total of 24 Muntjac had been imported and then turned out into the woods, where they appeared to prosper.

It is thought that some of these animals made their way or were released into the wild. (Local lore attributes the walls surrounding Woburn Abbey being damaged by bombs during WWII allowing the escape of these and other small deer). Since that time other releases or escapes have occurred, for example, from Whipsnade Zoo in 1921.