Cervus timorensis

Common Name(s)

Rusa deer




Rusa deer occur in New Zealand on scrub-hardwood forest types (rewarewa, manuka, three-finger) with neighbouring farm pasture; stands of bracken fern and manuka at the border to exotic forest plantation and adjacent farm land; and on three layered forest habitats. They favour site with thick cover with adjacent open feeding areas. Rusa deer are herbivorous browser and grazer, mainly feeding on grasses, leguminous, root crops, scrubs (three-finger, bracken tips, flax tips and manuka).


Rusa deer have similar physical characteristics to Sambar deer, but are generally smaller with more pointy ears and a long narrow tail. Their coat changes from dark reddish-brown in summer to greyish-red in winter. Their antlers are slender and have three tines.

Similar Species

Wapiti (Cervus elaphus nelsoni), Red deer (Cervus elaphus scoticus), Sika deer (Cervus nippon), Sambar deer (Cervus unicolor unicolor), Axis deer (Axis axis), Fallow deer (Dama dama dama), White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus borealis) and hybrids between some of these species.

Threat To Plants

Browsing and grazing of palatable species (they are also inclined to bark-chew), which my alter species regeneration and vegetation composition. When occurring in large numbers they will destroy the understorey of native forest by overbrowsing, grazing, bark stripping and trampling, which consecutively will also increases soil erosion and therefore also the fertility of the site.


Main population south-west of Totorua (Galatea and Waiohau valleys, western Ikawhenuara Range, near Whakatane River). Smaller populations around Ruatoki North and Kutarere, Waimana catchment, around Minginui and Ruatahuna.


Weight: 120kg; acromial height: 1,06m;

Year Introduced


Reason For Introduction

Food and game

Colonisation History

First introduced to New Zealand at Galatea (near Rotorua) in 1908 (8 individuals), accidentally as they were thought to be Sambar deer (Cervus unicolor unicolor). The population first rose only very slowly but accelerated suddenly after 1960 due to increased food supply (change farming methods) in the area. Increased hunting pressure resulted in the decline of the population from the 1960s onwards.