A large deer with a woolly golden-hued coat, the Barasingha swamp deer gets its name from the many tines on an adult male’s antlers; “Barasingha” means “12-tined” in Hindi. Stags can actually have up to 20 tines, which gives them a very regal look indeed, for those lucky enough to see these beautiful, elusive animals.
The Barasingha hard-ground swamp deer (Branderi Barasingha) is the state animal of Madhya Pradesh in Central India. It was very close to extinction when a successful breeding program and conservation practices at Kanha National Park brought the animals back from the brink.
Today the national park, best known as a tiger reserve, is the only place on the planet to see the endangered deer in the wild. The Barasingha are magnificent creatures when you see them standing tall in a meadow, with the golden sunlight of India lighting up their coats.
The species is still on the vulnerable list after numbers fell drastically in the mid-20th century. Human encroachment on their habitat, poaching, and disease all led to the decline. There were only about 60 individuals left in the national park when the conservation program started in the early 1970s.
Various conservation methods were used, including habitat improvement and captive breeding, and today there’s an estimated 450 Barasingha in Kanha. Today, you can see herds of 10 to 20 strong roaming the fields and meadows of this large and beautiful national park and tiger reserve.
Along with the Barasingha, there’s an abundance of other animals and birds you can enjoy seeing at Kanha National Park, which sprawls over 360 square miles (940 square km). These include spotted deer, dhole, gaur, golden jackals, Hanuman langurs, and, of course, tigers. The tiger population in Kanha, and elsewhere in India, is on the rise, and the reserve is one of the best places in the country to see one in the wild.
The Barasingha is a Kanha success story, which the park celebrated in 2017 by becoming the first tiger reserve in India to officially introduce a mascot: Boorsingh the Barasingha.
Know Before You Go
Kanha National Park is open from October 15 to June 30. It's a very popular park and visitor access is highly restricted. Best to book jeep safaris at least three months in advance.