Rabbit Deer: Characteristics, Feeding, Reproduction

The rabbit deer, dwarf deer or little pudu ( Pudu mephistophiles ) is the smallest deer in the world. It can be between 12 and 35 centimeters tall and its weight could be in a range of 3 to 6 kilograms. This mammal lives in mountain forests and in the moors of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

The Pudu mephistophiles is also known as northern pudú, soche, chonta deer or moorland deer. Males are characterized by their 9-centimeter antlers that do not have ramifications; females lack this structure.

Its fur is reddish, turning darker towards the back. On the head, which is black, there are rounded ears, the interior of which is greyish-white.

The little pudú is an expert in running and climbing. In this way it can flee from its predators or access the branches or young shoots of trees, which are part of its diet.

Due to poaching and the loss of its natural habitat, the population of Pudu mephistophiles has decreased substantially. For this reason, the small pudu is categorized by the IUCN as a species vulnerable to extinction.


The Pudu mephistophiles is a solitary animal, interacting socially for the sole purpose of mating. Also, it could form a group when the female nurses and cares for the fawn.

It can have diurnal or nocturnal habits, although this species possibly performs most of its activities during different hours of the day, alternating them with periods of rest.

Faced with a threat, this deer quickly flees with zigzag movements, hiding on steep slopes or in bushes.

General characteristics


The rabbit deer has a robust body, with thinner legs. In height, this species could measure between 32 and 35 centimeters. The length would be around 60 to 74 centimeters. With reference to weight, it could be 3 to 6 kilograms.

Osseous system

In Pudu mephistophiles , the external and middle cuneiform tarsal bones and the cuboid-navicular bone form a single bony structure. The caudal region of the spine is made up of eight vertebrae.


The coat is fragile, dense, voluminous and abundant. In almost all species, the body has a reddish tone, changing to a dark brown or black color in the dorsal area. The inside of the legs and the abdomen vary between red and reddish brown.

The legs are dark brown and the flanks are cream or some shades of red. The face is black, including the chin, muzzle, chin and the outer part of the ears. The inside of the ear is grayish-white or gray.

Fawns are characterized by their thick and uniform fur, without spots and without the abrupt contrast between the color of the body and the face that the adult dwarf deer has.


In pudú boy it has a total of 32 teeth. The first incisor has a slightly spatulate shape. The canine is kept in the vast majority of adult rabbit deer.


The rhinarium of Pudu mephistophiles is bulbous. The underdeveloped preorbital gland has an opening towards the face. The lacrimal orifice is on the surface and its shape is similar to that of a disk.


Males have short, spike-shaped antlers, slightly curved back. They do not have ramifications and can measure about 9 centimeters. Females do not have antlers.


Animal Kingdom.

Subkingdom Bilateria.

Chordate Phylum.

Vertebrate Subfilum.

Mammal class.

Subclass Theria.

Infraclass Eutheria.

Order Artiodactyla.

Cervidae family.

Subfamily Capreolinae.

Genus Pudu (Gray, 1852)

Species Pudu mephistophiles (Winton, 1896)

Distribution and habitat

The dwarf deer is found in a fragmented and discontinuous range, which goes from the Central Cordillera, in southern Colombia, through the Eastern Cordillera of Ecuador, until reaching the south of the department of Junín, in Peru.

In Colombia, it is distributed in regions between 1700 and 4000 meters above sea level, encompassing the Roncesvalles district in Tolima, south of Parama de Cumbal, Azufral and Chiles in the department of Nariño. It is also found in the moors of Cauca, Huila and Valle del Cauca.

The Pudu mephistophiles inhabits the Andean ecoregion of Ecuador, from 2800 to 4500 meters above sea level. Evidence indicates that it lives in almost all the mountainous provinces, especially in the Eastern Cordillera. Some of these regions are Carchi, Pichincha, Imbabura, Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, Tungurahua, Loja and Azuay.

The population in Peru is divided into two: one to the north of the Andes, in Cajamarca, and the other to the southeast of Marañón, from the south of the department of Amazonas to Junín.


Throughout this distribution, the rabbit deer has diverse habitats. Their favorites are the mountain forests that are at a high altitude and the moors or humid meadows.

Mountain forests are moist forests, such as cloud forests and elphins, which are found close to páramo grasslands. The altitude of these ecosystems is between 2000 and 4000 meters above sea level, reaching up to 4500 meters above sea level in Ecuador.

The páramo is a humid meadow where mosses, bromeliads, lichens and tree ferns are found.

The temperature of the regions can drop, being able to present some frosts at night. Precipitation is very high, presenting itself in the form of rain, fog or snow. The land has a high degree of humidity, becoming swampy on flat soils.


The dwarf deer is a herbivorous animal whose diet is made up of vines, shrubs, and low-leaved trees. It also eats buds, ferns, grasses, flowers, bark, fruit, and fallen trees. This animal can survive long periods without drinking water, due to the high content of liquid in the foliage it ingests.

This species uses several methods to get the foliage they want. Their small size and cautious demeanor are tools that the Pudu mephistophiles use effectively to reach their food.

To obtain the bark of young trees, females and fawns gouge it out with their teeth, while males do it using their sharp antlers. Often this animal stops to perceive the aromas of flowers and fruits, thus locating the location of the plant.

The rabbit deer usually use its front legs to put pressure on the bushes until they bend or their branches go down enough to reach their leaves.

You can also climb the tree, reaching up to the shoots and branches. The dwarf pudú places its front legs on the bamboo shoots to be able to walk on them and thus eat the upper branches.

The digestive process

The plants that are part of the diet of the Pudu mephistophiles are constituted in a high percentage by cellulose. This chemical compound is difficult to absorb, so the body uses various mechanisms that help in the process of converting it into a simpler substance.

The digestion

When the dwarf deer eats, it chews the food just enough to be able to swallow it. This food bolus reaches the stomach, which has four chambers. The first of these is known as the rumen, where all the food eaten by the animal is stored.

The dwarf pudu is a ruminant, so the food that is in the rumen is returned to the mouth, where it is chewed again. After this, the food mass reaches the second cavity of the stomach, called the reticulum. There, the microorganisms act on the organic matter and ferment it.

In this process, the cellulose molecule is metabolized into simpler substances that can be absorbed by the body. The fermented food reaches the omasum, which works like a pump, driving the product of digestion to the abomasum.

In this last cavity, also known as curdling, enzymes and hydrochloric acid break down the proteins and part of the nutrients are absorbed.

During its passage through the intestines, the rest of the nutritional substances and water are extracted. The waste is accumulated in the large intestine and expelled to the outside through the anus.


Female rabbit deer are sexually mature when they are around 6 months old, while males reach this stage between 8 and 12 months of age. This species is solitary, so they pair up just to mate. Olfactory signals are important in the reproductive process.

The glands in your body secrete chemicals that leave traces in the environment. They attract members of the opposite sex and, in the specific case of the female, provide information to the male about her estrus.

The breeding season is short and seasonal, lasting from April to May. Courtship in the Pudu mephistophiles may begin with gentle touches to the groin and flanks. Then they could lick and groom each other.

Copulation usually lasts about three days, during which time the male repeatedly mounts the female, with intercourse lasting a few seconds. The gestation period lasts seven months.

Before delivery, the female builds a nest where the young will be born. After time has elapsed, a single fawn per litter is born. This weighs around 700 grams, but before the month they already reach 2 kilograms.


  1. Barrio, J. & Tirira, D. 2008. Pudu mephistophiles. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 200. Recovered from iucnredlist.org.
  2. SINIA- Ministry of the Environment of Peru. (2019) Pudu mephistophiles. Recovered from sinia.minam.gob.pe.
  3. L. Escamilo, Javier Barrio, Yannet Benavides F., Diego G. Tirira (2010). Northern Pudu Pudu mephistophiles. Recovered from researchgate.net.
  4. ITIS (2019). Pudu mephistophiles.Retrieved from itis.gov.
  5. Boada, C (2018). Pudu mephistophiles. Mammals of Ecuador. Recovered from bioweb.bio
  6. Wikipedia (2018). Pudú. Recovered from en.wikipedia.org.

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