Sambar (Cervus unicolor)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family:    Bovidae
Size:    Length: 64 to 97 inches (162 to 246 cm)   Height: Up to 59 inches (150 cm) at the shoulder 
Weight: 240 to 600 pounds (109 to 272 kg)
Diet: Grass, leaves and fruit
Distribution: Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Florida, Texas and California
Young:  1 calf, once per year
Animal Predators:  Tigers, leopards, red dholes, Indian wolves, crocodiles, golden jackals and pythons
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Calf
Lifespan: Average 20 years in the wild and up to 26 years in captivity



·       The scientific name Cervus unicolor means “one-coloured deer.”

·       Sambars especially love to eat blackberries.

·       They are good swimmers and will enter water to feed on the vegetation beneath the surface.

·       Sambars have large tear ducts under their eyes that they can protrude at will.

·       They are very susceptible to domestic bovine diseases.



Sambars are the largest Indian deer and are solid, powerful animals. They have shaggy, chestnut-coloured fur with light brown to cream-coloured undersides. Although most deer have four-tined antlers, sambars (only the males, the females have no antlers) grow three-tined antlers on a yearly basis. Like other deer, sambars raise their tail to show a flash of white when they run from predators. Males are larger than females and have a mane. 



Sambars are native to Southeast Asia, including countries such as India, China, Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia. They were subsequently introduced into the wild in Australia, New Zealand, Texas, Florida and California. Sambars can adapt to a wide variety of habitats but prefer to live in forested areas.  


Feeding Habits

Mainly nocturnal, sambars come out during the late afternoon, and feed throughout the night. They obtain most of their moisture from the grass, leaves and fruit that they eat. They are able to eat plants that are poisonous to other animals because they have organisms in their digestive system that work to detoxify the poisons.



During mating season, males scent mark a territory and then drive off any males that enter it. When a receptive female enters a male’s territory, they mate. Males may mate with up to eight females during one season. Females give birth eight months later, usually to one fawn, although sometimes twins are born. The mother eats the afterbirth and hides her fawn in an area with thick cover while she grazes. She comes back periodically to nurse the baby until it is old enough to eat solid foods. The youngster is weaned when it reaches six to eight months, and stays with its mother for the first year of its life. Male fawns leave to join a bachelor group and, although they are able to mate by two years, they do not do so until they reach five or six years of age. By then, males begin to grow adult-sized antlers and will be able to defend their territory from other males. Female fawns stay with their mothers for much longer, joining her herd indefinitely.



Sambars live in small family groups, although males sometimes remain solitary. They are imposing animals, but move silently through the forest. They have good vision and an excellent sense of smell and hearing, and are usually very cautious and alert to oncoming dangers, but when startled, they let out an extremely loud, alarming bark or honk. 



Sambars are not a conservation concern. 



Sambar Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US