The chital or cheetal (Axis axis), also known as chital deer, spotted deer or axis deer is a deer which commonly inhabits wooded regions of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and in small numbers in Pakistan. The Chital goes by various names in India, among which include: Chital horin in Bengali, Thith Muwa in Sinhalese, Jinke in Kannada, Pulli Maan in Tamil and Malayalam, Duppi in Telugu, Phutuki Horin in Assamese, Haran/Harin in Marathi, and Hiran in Hindi/Urdu (the latter two derived from Harini, the Sanskrit cognate for 'deer'). It is the most common deer species in Indian forests. The name Chital comes from the Bengali word Chitral (চিত্রল)/Chitra (চিত্রা), which means "spotted". The chital is monotypic within the genus Axis, but this genus has also included three species that now are placed in Hyelaphus based on genetic evidence.
The chital's coat is pinkish fawn, marked with white spots, and its underparts are also white. Its antlers, which it sheds annually, are usually three-pronged and curve in a lyre shape and may extend to 75 cm (2.5 ft). Compared to the hog deer, its close relative, the chital has a more cursorial build. It also has a more advanced morphology with antler pedicles being proportionally short and its auditory bullae being smaller. It also has large nasals. It stands about 90 cm (3 ft) tall at the shoulder and masses about 85 kg (187 lb), although males tend to be larger than females. Its lifespan is around 8–14 years.
Chital have well-developed preorbital glands which have hairs that are like stiff little branches.They also have well-developed metatarsal glands and pedal glands on their hind legs. Males have larger preorbital glands than females and are opened very often in response to certain stimuli.
The chital ranges over 8–30ºN in India and through Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.The western limt of its range is eastern Rajasthan and Gujarat. The northern limit is along the bhabar-terai belt of the foothills of the Himalaya and from Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal through to Nepal, northern West Bengal and Sikkim and then to western Assam and the forested valleys of Bhutan which are below 1,100 m asl.The eastern limit of its ranges is through western Assam to the Sunderbans of West Bengal (India) and Bangladesh.Sri Lanka is the southern limit.Chital occur sporadically in the forested areas throughout the rest of the Indian peninsula.however it currently occurs only in the Sundarbans in Bangladesh as it became extinct in the central, north-east and south-east regions.
Social behavior and reproduction
Axis deer most commonly occur in herds of ten to fifty individuals of both sexes. Large dominant stags without velvet stay in the center of the herd and are surrounded by the females and their young.Smaller stags with velvet occupy the boundaries of the herd.Chital stags pay close attention when a stag of equal size to them enters their group.They will follow, graze with and display to the newcomer. Sparring is more common between young stags while older, larger stags prefer horning, pawing and marking.Large stags with hard antlers are more likely to be well spaced out. Stags are known to stand on their hind legs and mark tree branches above.
The chital has a protracted breeding season due in part to the tropical climate, and births can occur throughout the year. For this reason, males do not have their antler cycles in synchrony and there are some fertile females at all times of the year. Males sporting hard antlers are dominant over those in velvet or those without antlers, irrespective of their size and other factors. Stags commonly bellow during the rut.Chital hinds have three week long estrous cycles. Chital courtship is based on tending bonds.A stag will follow and guard a hind in estrous.During this time the stag will not eat. The pair will do several bouts of chasing and mutual licking before copulation.Hinds birth one fawn, rarely two, at a time.Young fawns suckle longer than older fawns which suckle for 55 seconds. Hinds and fawns have loose bonds and it is common for them to get separated.However because chital tend to stay close to each other it is not difficult for a hind to find a fawn.Fawns sometimes gather in nurseries.
Chital are generally silent when grazing together.They do however make high-pitched chuckles when walking. When grazing chital do a "courtesy posture" when they pass each other.The bellow of a chital stag exists in a primitive state of development compared to other deer like the red deer or elk. Its calls is one or several coarse bellows and loud growls, which may be weaker versions of the bellow.Bellowing coincides with rutting.Stags guarding estrous females will make high-pitched growls at lesser stags that hung about.Stag will also moan during aggressive displays or when resting.When alarmed, chital will bark. These barks usually occur among females and juveniles and is repeated back and forth. Fawns that are separated from their mothers will squeal. When in danger, they run in groups. They will make bursts of high-speed running and then soon tire and dive into heavy cover to hide.