Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Artiodactyla / Cervidae / Hydropotes / Species
Hydropotes inermis - Chinese water deer (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Water-deer
  • Chinese water-deer
  • CWD
  • Ke (Chinese)
  • Hydropote (French)
  • Hydropote chinois (French)
  • Chinesisches Wasserreh (German)

Names for new-borns / juveniles

Names for males Buck
Names for females Doe

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General Appearance

Small deer with plain brown coat - dull sandy colour in winter, large rounded ears, black, button-like eyes and nose and no antlers (B142, B144, B158.A8.w4)

Similar Species

  • Smaller than Capreolus capreolus - Western roe deer, and without white/cream caudal patch. 
  • Slightly larger than Muntiacus reevesi - Reeve's muntjac, with larger more rounded ears, no dark facial markings and shorter tail which is not held erect.


Sexual Dimorphism Long tusks in male only (B142, B144, B158.A8.w4).

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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

Husbandry references:

(UK Contacts)

(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

  • --

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

  • Deer (Cervidae)

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

  • Deer (Cervidae)

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Husbandry Information


Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

Length Head-body length: 
  • 2.5-3.3ft/75-100cm (B144) ; 77.5-100cm (B147)
  • Males 82.0-105.0cm mean 92.5cm, females 90.0-105.0 mean 95.6cm (B142)


Height To shoulder:
  • 18-22in./455cm (B144); 45.0-55.0cm (B147)
  • Males 42.0-56.0 mean 49.1cm (B142); 52cm (B52); 55cm (B158.A8.w4); females 42.0-61.0 mean 50.3cm (B142); 48cm (B52)
Adult weight General --
  • 24-31 lbs. / 11-14kg (B144).
  • 12.0-18.5 mean 14.2kg (B142)
  • 11-14kg (B52)
  • 12kg (B158.A8.w4)
  • 20-26 lbs./ 9-12 kg (B144)
  • 14.0-17.4 mean 15.6kg (B142)
  • 8-11kg (B52)
New-born weight 0.15-1kg, mean about 0.8kg (B142); about 1kg (B147); 0.8kg (B158.A1.w3)
Growth rate --

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General No antlers (B52, B142, B144)

Skull: about 167cm long (B142)

Nose: black, shiny, button-like (D30, B158.A8.w4)

Ears: large (about 9-12cm long), rounded (B142)

Dentition (Teeth)
  • I 0/3, C1/1, P3/3, M3/3 (B142, B147)
  • Upper canine in females small (about 4mm).
  • In male long and curved, visible well below lower jaw. Normal length approximately 70mm (B52, B142, B147, D30, B158.A8.w4); up to 8cm/3.2 ins. (B144)
Eyes Black, button-like (B142, B158.A8.w4)

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Legs and Tracks

  • Cloven-hoofed (B142)

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  • Short. Not held upright. Colour similar to rest of coat (B142, D30).
  • Length: mean males 6.5cm, females 6.2cm (B142); 2.4-3in./6-7.5cm (B144); (B147); 7cm (B158.A8.w4)

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Coat / Pelage

Adult Female
  • Summer: reddish-brown/chestnut (sometimes described as sandy), sleek.
  • Winter: Brindled. Overall colour dull sandy/yellow-brown/pale fawn to dark grey-brown. Very thick coarse coat, dull appearance.
  • Underparts whitish.
  • No rump patch
  • Muzzle /chin, and upper throat: grey-whitish.

(B52, B142, B142, B147, D30, B158.A8.w4)

Variations (If present) --
  • March to May transition to summer coat (B142).
New-born / Juvenile
  • Brown with lines of pale spots - lost at about two months old (B52 B142)

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Neonate (New-born) Characteristics

Precocial. White spots for about two months (B142, B147).

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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

  • Reproductive: Two pairs of teats on udder (B142, B147)
  • Scent glands: small pre-orbital glands, interdigital glands on hind feet, inguinal glands (not present in other deer) (B142, B144, B147).

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Reproductive Stages

Breeding Season
  • Rut November to December in Britain (B142; B158.A1.w3)
Oestrus / Ovulation --
Gestation / Pregnancy
Parturition / Birth
  • May to July (B142); late May to June (B158.A1.w3)
Neonatal development
  • Birth: spotted coat. Precocial. 
  • Two months old: (approximately) spots lost, weaned

(B142, B147).

Litter size
  • 1-2, occasionally 3-4 (B144).
  • Britain mainly 1-2 in wild. Whipsnade 75% twins, 25% three or four fawns.
  • China mainly 2-3 but up to 5 or 6 recorded (B142)
  • Usually 2-3 (B147)
  • 1-7, usually 2-3 (B158.A1.w3)
Time between Litters / Litters per year --
Lactation / Milk Production
Sexual Maturity
  • Six months old (B144, B158.A1.w3)
  • 5-7 months; 8 months reported from China (B142).
  • Males 5-6 months females 7-8 months (B147)
  • At least 6 years (B142); 10-12 years (B144); maximum 13 years 11 months recorded in captivity (B147)

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Natural Diet

  • Grasses, reeds, sedges, brambles.
  • Also make use of vegetables.

(B142, B144, B147)

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Temperature --
Pulse --
Respiration --
Faeces Black/dark brown, 1.0-1.5cm by 0.5-1.0cm, cylindrical, pointed one end, rounded one end (B142)
Haematology / Biochemistry --
Chromosomes 2n = 70, FNa = 68 (B142)
Other --

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Feeding Behaviour


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Parental Behaviour

Initially fawn left singly in sheltered places, doe returning for the fawn to suckle. Fawns remain with doe until autumn (B142).

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Social Behaviour / Territoriality

  • Generally solitary or in pairs,
  • Pairs seen mainly following rut (November-December) until April.
  • Small groups e.g. grazing in winter (January-February) and does with young in late summer.
  • Bucks form territories in rut and mark and defend them
  • Bucks use tusk-like upper canines in fighting .
  • Young males driven out of territories

(B142, B144)

Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

Rudiments of pair formation. (B144)

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Predation in Wild

  • In Britain: foxes take juveniles. Also crows kill young fawns, pecking eyes and head (B142, V.w5).

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Activity Patterns

  • Usually walk.
  • Run/leap when frightened.
  • Swim well.

(B142, B147)

  • Most active morning and evening (B144).
  • Active any time, but most active around dusk (B142)

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

  • Reed beds and rushes along rivers, swampy areas, also woodland with grazing areas, and arable farmland.

(B142, B144, B147, D30)

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

  • Prefer to shelter in dense cover (B143)

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

  • North-eastern China and Korea (B142, B143, B147); east-central China and Korea (B51)
Occasional and Accidental --
  • Introduced in England and France (B51, B142, B143, B144)

  • In Britain: mainly East Anglia - Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk Broads (B142)

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Intraspecific variation

Hydropotes inermis argyropus Heude, 1884 (Korean water deer) sometimes described as a separate subspecies (B142, B143)

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Chinese subspecies secure in range, status of Korean subspecies not known (B144).

In Britain: introduced, local populations, uncommon. Pre-breeding population estimate of about 650, including 650 in England, 0 in Scotland, 0 in Wales; not including populations within Whipsnade Wild Animal Park (about 400-600) and Woburn Park (200-300). Reliability of population estimate 2: considered likely to be inaccurate by no more than 25% in either direction (B221).

General Legislation
CITES listing --
Red-data book listing Lower Risk - near threatened (B143, B147).
Threats In Britain: high mortality in harsh winters, predation of fawns and road traffic accidents (B221).
Captive Populations  

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