The Axis Deer
Learn about the axis deer! Beauty of species depends on a fine head of antlers in most deer but this is not the case with the axis deer.
The axis deer is the most common deer in India. There are two species of axis deer with one known as the chital. According to observers the axis deer is one of the most beautiful deer in the world. Although in most deer the beauty of the species depends on a fine head of antlers on the stags this is not the case with the axis deer. Their beauty lies in their coats, which are brown with a yellowish or reddish tinge with white spots that give it a speckled appearance. This is set off by the bright white underparts. Antlers on this axis deer are slender with few branches. In many areas this deer is also called the spotted deer.
The only segregation of the sexes with the axis deer is when the stags leave the herd when they shed their antlers. In most cases they live in herds of up to several hundreds that include stags, hinds and young of varying ages. These deer frequent the lowlands plains and lower hills, grazing among the bushes or trees or bamboo forest. They can usually be found near a stream with a ravine for shelter. The axis deer is a good swimmer with no fear of water. The main predators of these animals are the wild hog and leopard. Since these two fierce animals keep the herd on the move, axis deer do not tend to over graze their habitat. These animals are indifferent to the presence of human beings, which has caused a severe reduction in their numbers. But in areas where few humans live, their numbers have grown due to an increase in humans hunting their predators. Today in countries into which deer have been introduced in parks, we hear of the need for culling to prevent the deer from destroying its natural habitat. In most cases this occurs because of an absence of natural predators. Thus, the axis deer have become a good example of how these predators benefit the prey species by preventing the destruction of the habitat. Most deer are known to readily increase in numbers if not checked. An example of this are the axis deer that were introduced to the Andaman Islands. In a very short period of time, these deer flourished and became a pest. Moving out from their wild habitat, they quickly took over the cultivated land. To check the growth of the herd, two female leopards were introduced to the island.
Axis deer mate mainly in the winter in the northern part of India. Even so, fawns can be seen at all times of the year. The gestation period of the fawns is between 210 and 238 days after mating. As seen with most deer, fawns are protected by both parents but will stay close to their mothers until they are large enough to defend themselves. Axis deer are less nocturnal than most deer, usually feeding for four hours after sunrise. Then they seek out water and rest in the shade during the midday heat, returning to feed for a few hours before sunset. The main diet of the axis deer consist of grasses and leaves.
A second deer is known on the grassy plains of northern India and Burma called the hog deer. Unlike the axis deer, this animal has a squat, pig like appearance and movements. The legs of the hog deer are short and the body is stouter than that of the axis deer. Unlike other deer the hog deer will run with its head down, not bounding gracefully as other deer are known to do.