Common name – Chinese water deer

Latin name – Hydropotes inermis


Estimates suggest the UK’s population of Chinese water deer represents some 10% of the world’s total of this small, primitive deer with bucks having tusks, rather than antlers.  Introduced to London Zoo in 1873, from the Yangtze River, the breed is thought to have escaped from Whipsnade Zoo in 1929.

Geographical distribution

This breed has established itself – in low densities – primarily in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.  Its relative rarity and primitive nature means it is a biologically important species.

Social behaviour

Chinese water deer are fairly solitary individuals and their preferred habitat of reedbeds, lakes and riverbanks is somewhat restricted, meaning they are the least common of wild deer in the UK.

They are active at all times, though particularly so at dusk.  Like other species,

lying-up to ruminate is a common trait.

Management notes

The relative scarcity of Chinese water deer, coupled with their tendency only to lightly browse woody plants, grasses, herbs and sedges means they are the least damaging of deer species, particularly of woodlands.  Their population is now beginning to flourish in their main areas, and therefore is in need of responsible, sustainable management plans.

Breeding season

Some 40% of young fail to survive so that, whilst does frequently have twins or triplets (or more), numbers of Chinese water deer are still only increasing modestly.  At six or so years, the lifespan of this species is also modest.

Chinese water deer pair-up during November and December to defend their area until April.  Does give birth from May to July.

Shooting season – Link to tables

Medal information – CR

Links to DSUK articles –