What’s that deer with black stripe on face? (it’s a muntjac)

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Very thankful for your business.

Is there a type of deer with a black stripe on the face? Yes, muntjacs are a small stocky and rare breed of Eurasian deer whose males have pronounced black lines down their faces.

Muntjacs stand around 1.5 to 1.7 feet tall from hoof to shoulder. Fully grown muntjac bucks tip the scale at 22 to the neighborhood of 40 pounds, while females weigh between 19 and 35 pounds.

Other than muntjac deer, whitetails have been spotted bearing distinct Y-shaped lines on their foreheads. 

Is Deer With Black Stripes on Face Common?

I saw the query on an online hunting forum, regarding deer with a black stripe on their face. The deer species that come to mind as a perfect fit for the description is the primitive south Asian deer known as muntjacs. 

Muntjac bucks have straight, non-branching antlers sitting on top of a fur-covered pedicle, or base. Two downward lines run from the base of each antler, terminating just short of the muzzle.

Female muntjacs feature a dark patch crown on their heads and no antlers. Muntjacs have light-colored cheeks and distinctively large glands below their eyes.

What’s interesting is that whitetails and muntjacs share a common ancestry, branching off at around five million years ago.

Scientists enthuse that this ancestor had long ivory fans, later replaced with antlers, but significant telltale signs still exist.

Since fur coating doesn’t fossilize, it’s unknown whether this original deer had a face striped with lines. One curious black patch that whitetails are known for is on its lower jaw, right where long ivory fangs would have jutted out, accentuated by the dark background.

Fangs in deer have almost disappeared, but patches and black striped lines remain within the contemporary deer gene pool.

Muntjac Deer Appearance and Brief History

This deer species has a hunched appearance, with rumps higher than shoulders. They are russet brown colored but turn a dull grey during winter.

When disturbed, muntjacs will raise their flat, broad tail to expose a white underside. This makes the short, stocky deer to be confused with whitetails.

Another discerning attribute of this deer, especially for trackers, is that its hoof print is pretty small, only about 0.9 inches.

Introduced into Europe from China, muntjacs prefer coniferous or deciduous forest where there’s diverse under-growth. Unlike other deer species, muntjacs don’t pose a significant threat to forestry or crops.

Breeding and Behavior of Stripe Faced Muntjac Deer

Muntjac deer don’t have a defined mating season, also known as the rut. They breed all year round instead, and females can conceive within days of fawning.  

Bucks also are curiously tolerant of other subordinates; something I suspect is contributed by the lack of a rut season. 

At seven months old, a muntjac doe is ready to breed, and seven months later, give birth to a single fawn. Muntjacs are also exceptional long-livers, with does aging close to 19 years while bucks live up to sixteen years.

As though that’s not enough interesting facts about this deer with a black stripe on its face, muntjacs are also very vocal. Known in some regions as the barking deer, they bark, scream when startled, and communicate in squeaks.

Muntjacs are solitary in general, though a pair consisting of a doe with a fawn or with a buck can be encountered. Bucks are territorial, defending small exclusive areas while the territory of does will overlap with females and other males.

These deer are active all times of day and night. However, they use open foraging spaces during the night, mostly in areas where they are bound to be disturbed.

Muntjacs spend a long time lying up, where they lie down with their heads up, ruminating. Their activity peaks at around dusk and dawn. 

Black Stripe Faced Deer Antlers and Disappearing Fangs

Muntjacs bucks have straight, non-branching antlers sitting on top of a fur-covered pedicle. Two downward lines run from the base of each antler, terminating just short of the muzzle.

Female muntjacs feature a dark patch crown on their heads and no antlers. Muntjacs have light-colored cheeks and distinctively large glands below their eyes.

Another discerning attribute of this deer, especially for trackers, is that its hoof print is pretty small, only about 0.9 inches.

Above all peculiarities, muntjacs have long canine fang-like teeth. These are not the only deer species to have fangs, as whitetails have also been known to have upper jaw elongated canines. 

Do Muntjacs Have Canines? 

You, me, and everyone else is a product of genetics inherited from our ancestors. Your more recent relatives influence many of your characteristics, including such discernible features like hair, skin, or eye color.

Sometimes, however, Mother Nature plays one of her tricks, bringing up genetic echoes from ancestry’s acoustics.

Muntjacs aren’t from the recent past; you have to go back seven million years to a Miocene epoch period. You’ll also have to migrate from your North American hunting field and move across to Asia.

A small deer-like mammal without antlers known as Dremotherium had bucks whose canines were long fangs.  Fossilized evidence suggests that the species was the gene pool from which several deer types arose.

Ancestors of Eurasian deer, such as the muntjacs, had both antlers and fangs. Around 7 to 5 million years ago, some of these fanged deer species may have crossed into North America via the Bering land bridge.

Natural selection during their evolution then saw antlers become more beneficial for the male of these deer. Fangs were then replaced, fading off in almost all of the species’ modern descendants except for muntjacs.

Alongside Fangs, Deer with Black Stripe on Face Can Be of Any Species

I have seen both deer with a black stripe on their face, and whitetail with fangs. 

I’ve also heard of facial stripes sightings on whitetails, sometimes just faint outlines. These are primitive features from across the genetic ocean and are linked through shared ancestry.

The author of Deer of the Southwest, Jim Heffelfinger, is a game and fish coordinator in Arizona. He offers an expert opinion on head stripes and long canines, attributing them to the species that appeared after the Miocene epoch.

According to fossil record time, the new continent saw three distinct deer species with somewhat similar features.

One was a moose like palmated deer with antlers that made its home on the West Coast and the Great Plains.  The second was a stocky bodied rocky mountain deer that sported antlers divided into three tines.

It’s the third and most common species that thrived, Odocoileus, adapting to the Pleistocene epoch’s ravages to increase on the continent. This species has remained unchanged for close to four million years and includes whitetail, blacktails, cones deer, and mule deer.

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.

Scroll to Top