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Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
      Order: Artiodactyla
        Family: Cervidae
          Subfamily: Cervinae
            Genus: Rucervus

Rucervus schomburgki

      Schomburgk's deer

Taxonomy

Rucervus schomburgki [Blyth, 1863].  
Citation: Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1863:155.
Type locality: Thailand.

General Characteristics

Body Length: 180 cm / 6 ft.
Shoulder Height: 104 cm / 3.4 ft.
Tail Length: 10 cm / 4 in.
Weight:100-120 kg / 220-264 lb.

The coarse coat is a dark chocolate brown colour, with the underparts lighter.  The legs and forehead are a reddish brown, and the short tail has a bright white undersurface.  A short mane, composed of 5 cm / 2 inch long hairs, runs along the lower neck and down the front of each foreleg.  The spectacular antlers of the males are often described as basket-like, with the characteristic feature of all main stines branching.  This results in a large number of 'points' - up to 33 on a pair of antlers - giving the head of a stag a crown-like quality.  The length along the outer curve of the antler is 32-83 cm / 12.8-33 inches.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Nothing is known about the reproductive habits of this extinct pecies.

Ecology and Behavior

Schomburgk's deer spent most of the day resting in shaded areas, emerging to graze throughout the evening and night.  Densely vegetated areas were avoided, and most activity occured on the open, marshy plains.  When flooding occured during the rainy season, these deer were forced to move to higher pieces of land, which often turned into 'islands'.  These islands were frequently used by hunters, who would surround the temporary land mass and attempt to kill everything they could - a habit which inevitably led to the extinction of this magnificent deer..

Family group: Small herds consisting of a single adult male, a few females, and their young.
Diet: Grasses.

Distribution

Formerly swampy plains in central Thailand (especially the Chao Phya River Valley).

Map of Former Range (Redrawn from Whitehead, 1993)

Conservation Status

Schomburgk's deer is classified as extinct by the IUCN (1996).  Ruthless hunting and excessive encroachment on its habitat with rice farming is believed to be the main cause of this deer's disappearance (see remarks).

Remarks

This species survived in the wild until September 1932, when the last remaining stag was shot by an officer of the Siamese Police.  Schomburgk's deer was not, unfortunately, saved by captive breeding - the last known specimen of this deer, an adult male kept as a pet at a temple in the Samut Sakhon province of Thailand, was killed by a drunk local in 1938.  No confirmed reports of this species have since been heard, and it is known formally considered extinct, although rumours and whispers continue to suggest a remnant population may still survive.  Only one known mounted specimen exists, preserved in Paris, and likely that of the animal which lived in the Jardin des Plantes in 1867. Sir Robert H. Schomburgk (1804-1865) was the British consul in Bankok from 1857-1864.

Literature Cited

Nowak, R. M. [editor]. 1991.  Walker's Mammals of the World (Fifth Edition).  Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Whitehead, K. G.  1993.  The Whitehead Encyclopedia of Deer.  Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, Inc.

Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder [editors]. 1993. Mammal Species of the World (Second Edition). Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.  Available online at http://nmnhwww.si.edu/msw/

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