Sika Deer

(Cervus nippon)




Facts about this animal

The size of sika deer varies greatly depending of the subspecies. The head-body length ranges from 105 to 170 cm, the shoulder height- 65 to 110 cm, the tail length from 10 to 20 cm, and the body-weight from 25 to 120 kg and more. Also the colour of the coat is variable, from blackish to yellowish-brown, and mottled with more or less clearly visible white spots arranged in seven or eight rows on the upper sides of the back.

Based on molecular examination, it has been suggested to split the sika into a mainland species hortulorum, a Japanese species nippon, and a Taiwanese species taiouanus. Japanese sika have black antler velvet, tend to be dark and always have a pale facial chevron. There is a considerable difference in size between northern and southern forms, and the Japanese sika may even be further split into two different species. Mainland and Taiwan sikas have red velvet. The mainland sikas have eight-pointed antlers. The Taiwan sika is clearly spotted also in winter, strongly maned in the male, and with antlers rather weak but ten-pointed.

Did you know?
that the sika deer is regarded as sacred in Japan? While some sika subspecies in other Asian countries are endangered, large numbers of sika deer in some Japanese parks are causing a lot of damage to vegetation.


Name (Scientific) Cervus nippon
Name (English) Sika Deer
Name (French) Cerf sika
Name (German) Sikahirsch
Name (Spanish) Ciervo Sika
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
James P. Henley Jr.



Range China, Japan, Korea, Russland, Taiwan Introduced: Mongolia, New Zealand, Australia, USA, Ireland, united Kingdom, France, Germany and other European countries, Madagascar, Morocco
Habitat Deciduous forests with dense undergrowth
Wild population Unknown, but decreasing (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 1193 reported to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo

How this animal should be transported

Hard antlers should be removed before transport under proper restraint and, where required, sedation. No deer with antlers in velvet at a stage of growth which could be damaged easily should be transported where there is a risk of injury.

For air transport, Container Note 73 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations, should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex

Why do zoos keep this animal

As a species, the sika deer is currently not threatened. In several countries sika deer have been released as hunting game, and there are considerable numbers in deer farms for the production of meat, panten (antlers in velvet) and skins. However, most of these translocated or farmed deer are either of unknown genetic origin or are subspecific hybrids. On the other hand, several subspecies have become extinct in the wild or are critically endangered. The VietNam sika( C. n. pseudaxis ), and C. n. mandarinus and C. n. taiouanus in China, were probably extirpated as a result of hunting and habitat conversion for agriculture.

Zoos used to keep sika deer (and many still do) without taking into account the subspecies, the animals serving for educational purposes - the sika is a classic example of the Cervinae subfamily - or, because they are fairly small and become quite tame, allowing for close encounters with the visitors. In 1991, however, a Vietnamese Sika Breeding and Conservation Programme was initiated with a shipment of ten animals to Europe on breeding loan from VietNam. In 1993, an International Studbook kept by Tierpark Berlin, was established under the WAZA umbrella, and in Europe breeding is coordinated under an EEP.


Currently, the zoo population of VietNam sikas comprises some 400 animals. There are also self-sustained zoo populations of the subspecies taiouanus and mandarinus, as well as of the Manchurian sika and the Dybowski's deer.