Chinese Water Deer vs Muntjac: What Are the Differences?

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Written by Kyle Glatz

Updated: January 24, 2023

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Although the largest deer most often receive the most attention, smaller deer can be interesting too. For example, Chinese water deer and muntjacs are two of the smallest deer, and many people don’t know that they possess long fangs that they use to fight. Since they’re both small and fanged, it can be hard to tell them apart. Today, we’re going to compare and contrast the Chinese water deer vs. muntjac and show you what makes them unique.

By the time we’ve finished, you’ll know how to tell each of these “vampire deer” apart!

Comparing a Chinese Water Deer and a Muntjac

Water deer

The Chinese water deer has a golden-brown coat.

©Erni/Shutterstock.com

Chinese Water DeerMuntjac
SizeWeight: 20-31 lbs
Height: 1.5-2 ft
Length: 2.5-3.3 ft
Weight: 22-38 lbs
Height: 1.4-1.8 ft
Length: 2.5-3 ft
Morphology– Golden brown coat and light
-colored undersides
– Possesses a long neck
– Lacks antlers
– Possesses inguinal glands for scenting
– Has long, prominent tusks or fangs that can measure up to 3 inches long
– Rear legs are longer than forelegs
– Russet or ginger brown for most of the year, but their coat grays during the winter
– Possess small tusks, about 1 inch long, that can grow downward and slightly outward to the side of the mouth
Males have short antlers that point backward  
Species– Hydropotes inermis inermis
Capreolinae subfamily
– Two subspecies, one in China and one in Korea
– Cervus muntjac
Cervinae subfamily
– Has 12 different subspecies
Range– Native to China
– Other subspecies lives in North Korea and South Korea
– Introduced in Great Britain in the 19th century
– Found most often in the lower portion of the Yangtze River and the west coast of North and South Korea
– Prefer to live near rivers and swamps, but also lives in grasslands and mountains
– Native to South Asia and Southeast Asia
– Nonnative species in the U.K and parts of Japan
– May become the most numerous deer in England
– Lives in forested areas and places with a large amount of vegetation that is near water
Social Behavior– Solitary creatures
– Males are very territorial
– Females may congregate in loose bands
– Females and their young will stay together
– Do not form herds
– Does may be seen with fawns at any time throughout the year

The Key Differences Between a Chinese Water Deer vs. Muntjac

The greatest differences between Chinese water deer and muntjacs are found in their morphology and species. The Chinese water deer is descended from the Capreolinae subfamily of New World deer, while the muntjac comes from the Cervinae subfamily of Old World deer.

The Chinese water deer has a golden-brown coat as opposed to the muntjac’s russet or ginger-brown coat, and both of them experience graying in cold weather. Both deer possess tusks, but the Chinese water deer’s tusks or fangs measure up to 3 inches long, while the muntjac’s fangs only grow to about 1 inch long. Lastly, the Chinese water deer has longer rear legs than front legs and lacks antlers. The muntjac has short antlers that point backward.

These are some of the major differences between these similar-looking mammals. We’re going to delve deeper into more of their dissimilarities below.

Chinese Water Deer vs. Muntjac: Size

The Indian muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak), also called Southern red muntjac and barking deer, is a deer species native to South and Southeast Asia.

The Indian muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak), also called Southern red muntjac and barking deer is a deer species native to South and Southeast Asia.

©PLOO Galary/Shutterstock.com

The Chinese water deer and muntjacs are roughly the same size, but the muntjac often weighs more, while the Chinese water deer has a slightly larger body. The Chinese water deer weighs up to 31 pounds, and the muntjac weighs up to 38 pounds.

The muntjac stands up to 1.8 feet tall, but the Chinese water deer stands up to 2 feet tall. Moreover, the Chinese water deer measures between 2.5 and 3.3 feet long, but the muntjac only measures 3 feet long at its maximum.

All in all, it’s hard to tell these animals apart by their size alone.

Chinese Water Deer vs. Muntjac: Morphology

The Chinese water deer and muntjac differ in their coat colors, antlers, and tusks. The muntjac has a russet or ginger-brown coat that turns gray in the winter months, and the Chinese water deer has a golden-brown coat and a light underside that fades in the winter months.

The Chinese water deer lacks antlers, but the male muntjac has antlers. Those antlers are short and point directly toward the back of the creature’s head. The Chinese water deer is unique in that it has inguinal glands that it uses for scent marking, like the musk deer, but the muntjac does not have those glands.

Lastly, the tusks of the Chinese water deer are significantly longer than those of the muntjac. The Chinese water deer’s tusks measure about 3 inches long, but the muntjac’s tusks only measure about 1 inch long. Both deer use them to fight others.

These are the major morphological differences between the two species, but they’re not the only ones.

Chinese Water Deer vs. Muntjac: Species

Water deer

The Chinese water deer is unique in that it has inguinal glands that it uses for scent marking.

©Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.com

The Chinese water deer comes from the species Hydropotes inermis inermis, and it is a member of the Capreolinae subfamily of New World deer. One other subspecies of water deer exists, and it lives in Korea.

The binomial name of the muntjac is Cervus muntjac, and this is a member of the Old World deer subfamily, Cervinae. This species has 12 different subspecies. These deer are not as closely related as other species in the deer family.

Chinese Water Deer vs. Muntjac: Range

As its name suggests, the Chinese water deer is originally from China, a place where you can also find the muntjac. These days, Chinese water deer are mostly found near the mouth of the Yangtze River, but the Korean subspecies live on the west coast of North Korea and South Korea. Both subspecies frequently live near bodies of water like rivers and swamps, but they inhabit grasslands and mountains.

The muntjac lives in South Asia and Southeast Asia. They can be found throughout the Indian subcontinent and in many countries like China, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, and many others. They live in tropical rainforests and other places with access to water and vegetation.

Interestingly, both species are found in the U.K. since they were introduced in the nation and subsequently escaped confinement to create stable populations. In fact, muntjac may become the most numerous members of the deer family in England!

Chinese Water Deer vs. Muntjac: Social Behavior

Muntjac on the grass in the woods.

The muntjac can be found throughout the Indian subcontinent and in many countries like China, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, and many others.

©iStock.com/MikeLane45

Both Chinese water deer and muntjac are solitary creatures that rarely herd. Male Chinese water deer are known to be very territorial, and so are females that are with their young. The females of the Chinese water deer may congregate in loose bands, and muntjac does are often seen in small groups with their fawns. Otherwise, these creatures are not often seen together.

All in all, these fanged deer are similar, but they have enough distinctions to set them apart. By looking at their fang size, coloration, and location, it’s easy to distinguish these creatures. Still, if you ran into one in the wild, you may have to do a double take to figure out its identity.

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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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