The Sambar (Rusa unicolor) is a large dark brown, maned Asian deer. It 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).
The name “Sambar” is also sometimes used to refer to the Philippine Deer (called the Philippine Sambar) and the Rusa Deer(called the Sunda Sambar). The name is also pronunced spelled sambur, or sambhur.
The Sambar inhabits much of Southern Asia (as far north as the south-facing slopes of the Himalayan Mountains), mainland Southeast Aisa (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.
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 and Asiatic Lions. 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. 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 calf born at a time. Sambar calves have brown hair with light spots which they lose very shortly. Calves stay with their mothers for up to two years.