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Sambar Deer (Rusa unicolor)

India parvez Offline
Tiger Maharshi
( This post was last modified: 12-10-2017, 10:16 PM by Ngala )

The sambar deer of Asian deer is one of the larger species in the deer family and most widely seen deer species in the world. They are native to southern and southeast Asia. The appearance and the size of sambar vary widely across their range, which has led to considerable taxonomic confusion in the past; over 40 different scientific synonyms have been used for the species. In general, they attain a height of 102 to 160 cm (40 to 63 in) at the shoulder and may weigh as much as 546 kg (1,204 lb), though more typically 100 to 350 kg (220 to 770 lb). Head and body length varies from 1.62 to 2.7 m (5.3 to 8.9 ft), with a 22 to 35 cm (8.7 to 13.8 in) tail.[4] Individuals belonging to western subspecies tend to be larger than those from the east, and females are smaller than males. Among all living cervid species, only the moose and the elk can attain larger sizes. The large, rugged antlers are typically rusine, the brow tines being simple and the beams forked at the tip, so they have only three tines. The antlers are typically up to 110 cm (43 in) long in fully adult individuals. As with most deer, only the males have antlers. The shaggy coat can be from yellowish brown to dark grey in colour, and while it is usually uniform in colour, some subspecies have chestnut marks on the rump and underparts. Sambar also have a small but dense mane, which tends to be more prominent in males. The tail is relatively long for deer, and is generally black above with a whitish underside.
Adult males and pregnant or lactating females possess an unusual hairless, blood-red spot located about halfway down the underside of their throats. This sometimes oozes a white liquid, and is apparently glandular in nature.
1.Rusa unicolor brookei or residing in Borneo,
2.Rusa unicolor cambogensis residing in mainland south east Asia,
3.Rusa unicolor dejeani or South china sambar deer residing in Southern and south western china,
4.Rusa unicolor equina or malayan sambar deer residing in Sumatra,
5.Rusa unicolor swinhoi or Formosan sambar deer residing in Taiwan,
6.Rusa unicolor unicolor or Indian or Srilankan sambar deer residing in India, Srilanka, Bangladesh,
7.Rusa unicolor hainana or hainan sambar deer residing in hainan, china. 

The subspecies of sambar in India and Sri Lanka are the largest of the genus with the largest antlers both in size and in body proportions. The South China sambar of Southern China and mainland Southeast Asia is probably second in terms of size with slightly smaller antlers than the Indian sambar. The Sumatran sambar that inhabits the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra and the Bornean sambar seem to have the smallest antlers in proportion to their body size. The Formosan sambar is the smallest R. unicolor with antler-body proportions more similar to the South China sambar.

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Comparison to human,

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Albino sambar spotted in Corbett,

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Sambar (Cervus unicolor Kerr, 1792)
Antler condition and breeding season

The period of breeding (rut) of sambar is determined by the annual antler

cycle of antler development, the frequency of sexual behaviour, and, in

a way, the time of fawning. Sambar stags exhibited a distinct antler cycle

in Sariska (Sankar 1994). Hard altlers were shed during the summer,

followed by emerging and velvet antlers during monsoon months. During

the remaining part of the year, sambar remained in hard antler stage. In

Bandipur sambar stags in hard antlers were observed largely between

November and April and most males had shed their antlers by May

(Johnsingh 1983). In St. Vincent Islands, Florida, during July and August

98 to 100 % of all sambar stags were in velvet antlers and most stags

shed their antlers between April and June (Shea

et al.


In India the peak rut of sambar occurs between October and December

(Lydekker 1916, Schaller 1967). Schaller (1967) reported that in Kanha

the rut spreads over a period of at least seven months with a peak in

November-December. In Sariska the peak rutting season was in winter

when almost all stags were carrying hard antlers (Sankar 1994). The

main rut of sambar in New Zealand was in June and July with a small

peak occurring in November (Kelton 1981).

Sex ratios

Schaller (1967) estimated a sex ratio of 0.2 males : 1 female in Kanha. In

Bandipur the average male : female ratio was 0.3 : 1, and the female:

fawn ratio was 1 : 0.3 (Johnsingh 1983). The male : female ratio in

Nagarahole (Karanth and Sunquist 1992) was 0.4 : 1. In Sariska the

estimated average male: female ratio was 0.1 : 1 and the average female:

fawn ratio was 1 : 0.2 (Sankar 1994). In Gir, the average male : female

ratio was 0.5 : 1, and the female : young ratio was 1 : 0.1 (Khan et a!.

1995). Flynn


(1990) recorded the male : female : fawn ratio as 0.7 :

1 : 0.2 in Florida, USA. Richardson (1972) recorded a 1 : 1 male-female

ratio, and 1 : 0.2 female-fawn ratio in Texas, USA. The relatively low

male numbers may be either due to selective predation, or sambar stags

may be more vulnerable to stress conditions. 
In Kanha, sambar fawns were seen from April to December and the peak
fawning period was in May and June (Schaller 1967). However, in
Sariska most of the sambar fawns were dropped between November
and January (Sankar 1994).

Sambar (Cervus unicolor Kerr, 1792) (PDF Download Available). Available from: 
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Food habits
Sambar have been observed to feed on more than 139 species of plants
(Schaller 1967, Johnsingh and Sankar 1991). The food requirements of
sambar are less specialised than those of other deer (Schaller 1967).
Sambar would graze or browse depending upon the forage available at
any given point of time (Bentley 1978, Kelton 1981, Ngampongsai 1987).
Young green grasses are the preferred forage of sambar in Kanha, but
browse is often important during seasons when green grasses are scarce
(Schaller 1967). Analysis of faecal pellets of sambar in Kanha National
Park revealed that browse was a dominant dietary component (Martin 1977).
In Sariska sambar were observed grazing as long as the green grasses
are available, but switched over to browse and fallen leaves, flowers and
fruits in winter and summer (Sankar 1994). Dinerstein (1979) confirmed
that browse is important for sambar in Nepal. Richardson (1972) reported
that the diet of sambar greatly varied from large amount of browse in the
dry season to an almost complete dependence on grass and herbaceous
plants in the wet season in Texas.This flexibility of sambar diet from graze
to browse has enabled the wide distribution of this species.
Predation and Mortality
Predation (mainly by tiger, leopard and dholes) is the main cause of
mortality in sambar, though sambar are also a favourite with hunters and
poachers. In Kanha, sambar remains were found in nearly 11 % of tiger
scats and 9% of leopard scats analysed (Schaller 1967). In Bandipur
remains of sambar were found in about 30% tiger scats, 14% leopard
scats, and 14% dhole scats (Johnsingh 1983). In adjoining Nagarahole
remains of sambar were found in about 25% tiger scats, 13% leopard
scats, and 10% dhole scats (Karanth and Sunquist 1995). In Sariska,
around 51% of the scats of tiger and around 20% of leopard scats
contained sambar remains (Sankar 1994). Sambar remains were found
in nearly 14% of tiger scats in Pench (Biswas and Sankar 2002) and
50% of tiger scats in Ranthambore (Bagchi
et al. 2003).
Mortality of sambar stags is usually high relative to their representation
in the population (Johnsingh 1983, Karanth and Sunquist 1995). Males
are said to be more susceptible to predation. Weakened condition after
rut (Hornocker 1970) and territorial contests (Estes and Goddard 1967,
make males vulnerable to predation. 
Sambar are predominantly forest-dwellers, favouring the cover of trees,
venturing out into the open mainly at night, and late at dusk or early dawn.
They usually rest the whole of the daylight hours (Schaller 1967).

Sambar constitute one of the largest, and in turn, the most favoured prey
species of large carnivores such as the tiger, leopard and dhole as
reported from Kanha (Schaller 1967), Bandipur (Johnsingh 1983) Rajaji
National Park (Johnsingh
et al.
1993), and Sariska (Sankar 1994). Next
only to chital, sambar are numerically the second most important prey
species of the large carnivores of India. In large tracts of forests not
inhabited by chital, sambar are the mainstay of the prey biomass
available to carnivores. Taking into consideration sambar's preference
for cover and avoidance of disturbance, the abundance of sambar would
be a reliable indication of the health of a forested area, and it's potential
to host adequate carnivore numbers.

Sambar (Cervus unicolor Kerr, 1792) (PDF Download Available). Available from:
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Sambar in namdapha,

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India parvez Offline
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