Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin


Rusa unicolor


Sambar are a species of deer with short, coarse hair that is dark brown. Light brown to white hair can be seen on the undersides, and backsides of a bushy tail. Sexual dimorphism (difference between male and female) exists in the dense mane on the neck of males. Male sambars tend to be larger than females and also have antlers with 3-4 tines. These antlers are shed and replaced periodically.


Sambar can be found in India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma, Sri Lanka, Philippines, southern China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, and Java. Populations of this species have been successfully introduced to Australia, New Zealand, California, Florida and Texas. Sambar prefer gently sloping and steep forested hillsides. They commonly inhibit cultivated areas, thick forests, swamp forests, and open scrublands.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

This species browse on leaves, berries, grasses, bark from young trees, fallen fruit, herbs and buds. They feed mostly at dusk or at night, browsing clearings and forest edges.


Sambar are polygynous, meaning the males mate with multiple females. Males mark their territory using secretions by scent glands and they will aggressively defend females within their territory from other males during breeding season. Breeding occurs between September and January. One fawn with brown hair and light spots is born nine months after mating occurs. Young stay with their mother for about two years before becoming independent. Sambar become sexually mature by two years of age. Males grow antlers after two years old, by the time male young are three years old their antlers have two points while adults have antlers with three or four points.

Months and Times of Activity

This is a nocturnal species, actively foraging during the night and resting in heavy forest cover during the day. Males are typically solitary and aggressive during breeding season while females remain in groups of eight individuals. Some populations move from higher to lower altitudes during the summer. Sheltered areas are used during the winter.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

•    There are several subspecies of sambar including Rusa unicolor equines, Rusa unicolor unicolor, Rusa unicolor brookei and Rusa unicolor dejeani.
•    Sambars are very good swimmers.
•    To read folklore featuring this animal go to;
•    Children’s book featuring this animal: Dear Deer by Gene Barretta


Brown, C. 2002. "Rusa unicolor" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at