The chital or cheetal, Axis axis, is the most common deer on the Indian peninsula. It can be easily recognised from its coat which is peppered with white spots all year round.
Mammalia, Cetartiodactyla, Cervidae
15 to 20 years
90 cm at the shoulder, 90 kg at the most
7.5 months, one baby
grassy meadows, lightly-wooded areas, wooded hills, near water
grasses, leaves, fallen fruit
LC Least concerned
Way of life
Unlike most Cervidae, the chital doesn’t have a specific breeding period, it extends throughout the year depending on the sexual maturity conferred by the antlers.
It lives in a herd composed of a dominant male surrounded by a large number of females and several males who stay on the outskirts of the group.
The males can lose their fine and sparse antlers at any time of the year. They then leave the herd while they wait for them to regrow. It is certainly the lack of synchronisation where antler growth is concerned that makes male chitals the least aggressive of the Cervidae, with males usually only fighting one fellow male chital armed with the same antlers.
The name “chital” is a Hindi word meaning “with spots” and aptly characterises the chital, whose fawn coat is mottled with white spots all year round, just like the deer, although, unlike the deer, its antlers are not webbed.
Chitals often graze beneath trees that are home to langurs. These primates often drop fruit that the chitals are fond of. Furthermore, the warning cries of these tree-dwelling monkeys who move about the high branches of the trees guarantees additional protection against predators as they can be spotted from afar. The deer then flee and, with top speeds of 90 km/h, they can put plenty of distance between them and their predators.
The chital is a protected species. It is not threatened and can be found in many protected areas. Locally, they can experience habitat degradation and are at risk of being hunted when they compete with cattle.
It has been introduced as game in a number of countries including Argentina, Australia, Brazil or the United States.