Sambar (Rusa unicolor)

sambar‘The dominant transplant’ as Arthur Bentley termed it in his An Introduction to the Deer of Australia, the sambar is the largest of the deer species established here in the wild.
Stags stand at about 127cm at the shoulder and weigh around 225kg (hinds 115cm, 150kg), although much heavier weights have been recorded in individuals. Antlers are typically three tined, but despite this simplicity, there is a wide variety of styles. Coat colour is normally brown but individuals of grey to almost black are seen.

Sambar were first released in Victoria in 1863 and while the original animals were received from Ceylon (the Ceylon Elk), others were also obtained from India and Malaysia. Following subsequent releases, the sambar has extended its range throughout the Central Highlands of eastern Victoria and into southern New South Wales.

Behaviourally, sambar live as individuals or in small groups; as with other tropical species, breeding is irregular, with seasonal peaks in May/June and from September to November. A very interesting and complex behaviour is proving difficult to unravel due to the extreme elusiveness of this magnificent animal. The sambar is well in control of most situations it encounters in the bush, but for those rare occasions when it is surprised, the stag’s alarm bark (honk) is something which has to be experienced to be believed. It loses nothing by comparison with a close encounter with the air horn of a MACK truck in the middle of a still, dark night!