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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2021



Hog Deer

Family : Cervidae
Species : Axis porcinus

Head-Body Length : Males up to 150 cm
Tail Length : Males up to 21 cm
Weight : Males up to 110 kg

Axis porcinus, or Hog Deer, is a medium-size cervid: it is much smaller than the Sambar Rusa unicolor and considerably larger than most species of muntjac, for example the Red Muntjac Muntiacus muntjak.

This endangered species once ranged widely in South Asia and Southeast Asia, however its range is now greatly fragmented, and the species is likely to be extinct in many former territories.

There is a likelihood that Axis porcinus represents at least two separate species, however, as of 2019, the taxonomy appears unresolved. Some researchers use the genus Hyelaphus, rather than Axis, for this species. Local names for the species include 'Thai Hog Deer' and 'Indochina Hog Deer'.

In the field, the Hog Deer can be identified by its relatively short legs in comparison to body size, and its rich brown winter fur, which becomes greyish in the summer (Lekagul & McNeely, 1977). Fur colour along the dorsal line is darker, and the belly is pale. Juveniles of some populations have rows of small, pale spots - these may still be visible in some adults (for example, the animal in the foreground in Figure 2). Males have slender antlers, which have a short projection at the base, and which fork into two tines at the tip.

In Thailand, where the species has been locally reintroduced, herds of 'several dozen individuals' once inhabited alluvial or riparian plains, especially where there were tall grasses (Lekagul & McNeely, 1977). IUCN summarizes their diet as including 'young grasses, particularly Imperata cylindrica, Saccharum spp ... it also takes herbs, flowers, fruits ... young leaves and shoots'.

Hunting pressure and conversion of grassland habitat for agricultural uses has contributed to the decline of this species, which probably now only occurs in two countries of Southeast Asia, namely Thailand (reintroduced) and Cambodia. It is probably extinct in Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.

Outside the region it still occurs in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, but is probably extinct in China.

Fig 1 : Female example from a sanctuary run by the Lao Conservation Trust for Wildlife (LCTW) in Thoulakhom District, Vientiane Province, Laos.

Fig 2 : The adult deer in the foreground still has a row of faint, pale spots on either side of its dorsum.

All photos thanks to Noel Thomas. Thanks to Will Duckworth for assistance.

References : M3, M5

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Fig 1
ゥ  Noel Thomas

ゥ  Noel Thomas