|Sambar (also sambur, sambhur, Tamil: Kadaththi maan, Assamese: Xor Pohu), is the common name for several large dark brown and maned Asian deer, particularly for the Indian species (Cervus unicolor), which attains a height of 102 to 160 cm (40 to 63 in) at the shoulder and may weigh as much as 546 kg (1200 pounds), though more typically 162-260 kg (357-574 pounds). The coat is dark brown with chestnut marks on the rump and underparts. The large, rugged antlers are typically rusine, the brow tines being simple and the beams forked at the tip. In some specimens the antlers exceed 101 cm (40 in).
Sambars are primarily browsers that live in woodlands and feed mainly on coarse vegetation, grass, and herbs. They are diurnal animals who live in herds of 5-6 members, grazing on grass, sprigs, fruit and bamboo buds.
These deer are seldom far from water and, although primarily of the tropics, are hardy and may range from sea level up to high elevations such as the mixed coniferous/deciduous forest zone in the Himalayan Mountains sharing its range with the Himalayan musk deer. These deer are found in habitats ranging from tropical seasonal forests (tropical dry forests and seasonal moist evergreen forests), subtropical mixed forests (conifers, broadleaf deciduous, and broadleaf evergreen tree species) to tropical rainforests. Their range covers a vast majority of territory that is classified as tropical rainforest, but their densities are probably very low there. In these areas, the deer probably prefer clearings and areas adjacent to water. They live as far north, according to Wild China, as the southern slopes of the Qinling Mountains in Central China. In Taiwan, sambar along with sika deer have been raised on farms for their antlers, which they drop annually in April to May. Sambars are a favorite prey item for tigers. They also can be taken by crocodiles, mostly the sympatric Mugger Crocodiles. More rarely, leopards and dholes will take young or sickly deer.
Lifestyle and reproduction
Though they have no specific mating season, sambars commonly mate from September and on to January in the Northern hemisphere. Males defend rutting territories and attempt to attract females by vocal and olfactory displays. The males are solitary and highly aggressive toward other males during this time. Females may live in groups of eight. A male may have one whole group of females in his territory.
The gestation period for the females is around 9 months with one fawn born at a time. Sambar fawns have brown hair with light spots which they lose very shortly. Fawns stay with their mothers for up to two years.
The Indian Sambar (Cervus unicolor syn. Cervus aristotelis) inhabit much of southern Asia (as far north as the south-facing slopes of the Himalayan Mountains), mainland Southeast Asia (Burma, Thailand, Indochina, the Malay Peninsula), southern China (including Hainan Island), Taiwan, and the islands of Sumatra and Borneo in Indonesia. This deer has been seen congregating in large herds in protected areas such as national parks and reserves in India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. The subspecies of Indian 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 Cervus unicolor with antler-body proportions more similar to the South China sambar.
There are two small, separate but similar species, the Philippine Sambar (Cervus mariannus) and the Philippine Spotted Deer (also known as the Visayan Spotted Deer or Alfred’s Sambar) (Cervus alfredi), that inhabit the Philippine Islands. Both deer are smaller than the Formosan sambar.
The Rusa Deer, or Sunda Sambar (Cervus timorensis), is slightly smaller than the Indian Sambar and inhabits the islands of Java and Bali in Indonesia and, unlike the latter three species, it is predominantly a grazer and forms the largest herds. This deer probably originated in Java but was widely introduced to several adjacent islands as well as the Molucca Islands and Lesser Sunda Islands. Herds gather in open savannas but will retreat to adjacent dry deciduous woodlands or seasonal mixed deciduous monsoon forests for cover. This deer is a favorite prey of the Komodo Dragon.
There is also a small herd of sambar located on St. Vincent Island in Florida. These were brought in by the former owner, before he sold the island to the Nature Conservancy.
* Cervus unicolor apoensis Mindanao, Philippines.
* Cervus unicolor barandanus Mindoro, Philippines.
* Basilan Sambar Deer Cervus unicolor basilanensis Basilan, Philippines
* Bonin Sambar Deer Cervus unicolor boninensis Bonin Islands (extinct).
* South China Sambar Deer Cervus unicolor deejeani Southern and Southwestern China.
* Malayan Sambar Deer Cervus unicolor equinus Sumatra, Malaya, and Burma.
* Cervus unicolor francianus Mindoro, Philippines.
* Hainan Sambar Deer Cervus unicolor hainana Hainan Island, China.
* Cervus unicolor nigellus Mindanao, Philippines.
* Indian Sambar Deer Cervus unicolor niger India.
* Philippine Sambar Deer Cervus unicolor philippinus Philippines.
* Formosan Sambar Deer Cervus unicolor swimhoi Taiwan.
* Sri Lankan Sambar Deer Cervus unicolor unicolor Sri Lanka.