Sambar Deer vs Red Deer: What Are the Differences?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Published: October 3, 2022
Share on:


Roughly three dozen different species of deer exist in the phylogenetic family Cervidae. Many of them have subspecies of their own, making it harder to distinguish them. Two types of deer that look somewhat similar are the sambar deer and the red deer. Today, we’re going to compare the sambar deer vs red deer and demonstrate the unique qualities that set them apart. By the time we’ve finished, you’ll have a good idea of how each of these species of deer is different from one another.  

Comparing a Sambar Deer and a Red Deer

Size and color and the key differences that distinguish a sambar deer vs red deer.
Sambar DeerRed Deer
Size-Weight: 240-1,200 lbs
-Height: 4-5 ft
-Length: 5-8.9 ft
-Weight: 260-530 lbs, with large subspecies that can weigh over 1,000 lbs
-Height: 3-4.3 ft
-Length: 5.5-8.1 feet
Morphology– Heavily built body and thin legs
– Amber or yellow-brown coat that turns to a deep gray
– Black tail with a light underside
– May grow a thin mane in fall and winter
– Large antlers that measure up to 3.5 ft in length  
– Have a reddish-brown summer coat that may have spots of white
– Their winter coat becomes faded, or grayer, and some subspecies develop a patch of light rump hair
– Antlers can measure up to 2.5 ft in length
– Some subspecies but not all grow a short mane in the fall
Species– Rusa unicolorCervus elaphus
Range– Indian subcontinent
– Southeast Asia
– Burma, Taiwan, south China, Thailand, Malaysia, and more
Introduced to some places like Australia and Florida
– Prefers to live in tropical forests, tropical rainforests, and grasslands
– Prefers to live near water
– Europe, northern Africa, and southwestern Asia
– Found in countries like England, France, Spain, Germany, Iran, small parts of Russia, and more
– Some of the deer were shipped to other places around the world including New Zealand, South America, and Australia
Social Interactions– Males mostly live alone
– Females and young may live together in groups of up to a dozen or more
– Males can form bachelor groups when they lose their antlers
– Males do not group up much when they have their antlers
– Females form herds of several dozen deer

The Key Differences Between a Sambar Deer vs Red Deer

The greatest differences between a sambar deer and a red deer can be found in their size and color. The average red deer is smaller than a sambar deer, weighing between 260 and 530 pounds with some subspecies that weigh over 1,000 pounds while the sambar deer can weigh up to 1,200 pounds.

The red deer stands up to 4.3 feet tall compared to the sambar deer which stands up to 5 feet tall, but both deer can measure over 8 feet long. The red deer has a reddish-brown coat in summer that fades into a grayer color in fall, but the sambar deer has a yellow-brown or amber coat that becomes grayer and faded in the winter.

5,852 People Couldn't Ace This Quiz

Think You Can?

The size and morphological aspects of the deer are just two ways that they’re different. Although these deer are very similar, we can parse their unique qualities and demonstrate everything that sets them apart.

Sambar Deer and Red Deer: Size

Male Sambar deer standing in the middle of a jungle stream at Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary.

The sambar deer is taller and longer than the red deer.


The red deer is smaller than the sambar deer. The red deer is one of the largest members of the deer family, only trailing behind the elk, moose, and sambar deer. On average, the sambar deer measures between 240 and 1,200 lbs, but the red deer measures 260 to 530 lbs. However, some subspecies weigh up to 1,000 pounds or slightly more.

Nevertheless, the sambar deer is taller and longer than the red deer. Sambar deer can stand between 4 and 5 feet tall. Moreover, they grow between 5 and 8.9 feet long while the red deer can stand between 4 and 4.3 feet tall while measuring 5.5 to 8.1 feet long.

All in all, the red deer is larger than a white-tailed deer, but it’s still going to be smaller when compared to a red deer.

Sambar Deer vs Red Deer: Morphology

Red Deer next to river

The red deer is typically reddish-brown in color while the sambar deer has a yellowish-brown or amber coat.

©Donald Macauley / Creative Commons

The easiest way to tell apart a sambar deer and a red deer is by the differences in their bodies. For example, the coat colors of the red deer and sambar are very different. The sambar deer has a yellowish-brown or amber coat.

This hair becomes grayer in the fall and winter. The same thing happens to the red deer. However, their hair is a reddish-brown color, so it’s very easy to differentiate the two deer based on their looks alone during the colder months. During this time, the red deer may grow a short mane like the sambar deer.

Another difference between these two species is that the red deer’s summer coat may have some white spots. Also, some of the subspecies of the red deer can have a light patch of rump fur during the winter, something that is not seen in sambar deer.

Both of these deer have large racks of antlers, but the sambar deer has far larger antlers. The sambar deer has antlers measuring up to 3.5 feet while the red deer’s antlers only measure 2.5 feet.

Sambar Deer vs Red Deer: Species

Some confusion exists with the term red deer, though. For a long time, it was thought that they were the same species of elk that was found in North America. However, elk and red deer are different creatures.

The sambar deer’s species is Rusa unicolor, and the red deer’s species is Cervus elaphus. These creatures are related to each other, but they are still different species.  

Sambar Deer and Red Deer: Range

The sambar deer and the red deer live in different parts of the world, but they do have some small areas where they almost overlap. For the most part, the sambar deer can be found in south Asia from the Indian subcontinent to the islands of Southeast Asia. You’ll find these deer in tropical rainforests and grasslands in China, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, and other countries.

However, the red deer lives in Europe, northern Africa, and southwestern Asia or the Middle East. You’ll find this deer in places like England, Iran, parts of Russia, France, Spain, and more. However, this deer has been introduced to other places in the world like Australia, New Zealand, and South America with varying levels of success.

Sambar Deer vs Red Deer: Social Interactions

Male sambar deer are less likely to live in groups than red deer. Male sambar deer mostly live alone unless it’s mating season. However, red deer males can form a bachelor group for protection when they lose their antlers. Females and young deer can live together in larger groups of up to a dozen. Female red deer can be found in large herds.  

Final Thoughts on the Two Deer Species

All told, sambar deer and red deer have significant differences. They live in different parts of the world and have different hair colors. They also belong to different species and have unique social interactions. These are the most helpful ways to tell these species of deer apart from each other.

However, these deer don’t live in the same parts of the world, and if they do it’s in small numbers. Thus, you’re not going to see these deer standing next to each other in the wild.

Up Next:

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Swarna367/

Share on:
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.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

  1. The Wildlife Trusts, Available here:
  2. RMEF, Available here:,in%20fact%20two%20distinct%20species
  3. The British Deer Society, Available here:
  4. Science Direct, Available here: