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Everything You Wanted to Know About Chamois Facial Scent Glands

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key point

  • There are obvious "holes" in the face of the muntjac. These "holes" are not actually holes. These are the scent glands that muntjacs use to mark their territory.
  • If you look at images of muntjacs, you'll notice that they have a "V" shape on their foreheads, these are called frontal glands.
  • The preorbital gland is an exocrine gland. These types of glands include mammary, salivary, lacrimal, and mucous glands.

If you've ever seen a muntjac, you've probably noticed the "holes" in its face, as some call it. Well, these aren't holes; they're just scent glands that muntjacs use to mark their territory. In addition, muntjacs are the only deer species that have frontal glands, the "V" on the forehead. If you want to learn more about these, keep reading!

muntjac facial scent glands

a-male-chinese-muntjac-muntiacus-reevesi-in-Wales
The preorbital glands of male muntjacs are larger than those of female deer.

©Erni/Shutterstock.com

Muntjacs have frontal and preorbital glands. In fact, they are the only deer species with frontal glands. If you look at their faces, you'll notice a "V" on their foreheads—these are the frontal glands, which, according to the study, are "a pair of slits in the face that line up with staghorn pedicles." The preorbital glands of male muntjacs are larger than those of female deer. In addition, the preorbital glands of Reeves muntjacs are larger than those of Indian muntjacs.

What is the preorbital gland?

The preorbital gland is an exocrine gland. Eccrine glands, in turn, are glands that secrete substances through ducts. Exocrine glands include mammary, salivary, lacrimal, and mucous glands. In ungulates, the preorbital gland is similar to the lacrimal gland in humans.

Which animals have preorbital glands?

As mentioned above, the preorbital gland is an exocrine gland, and muntjacs are not the only animals with such glands. The gland consists of a glandular region located in a pouch near the corner of the eye in ungulates.

Other familiar animals also have eccrine glands, such as skunks and weasels, however, it does not produce the same types of odors that the preorbital glands provide to ungulates.

Quadrupeds aren't the only creatures in the animal kingdom with scent glands. In fact, cloacal scent glands are commonly found in snakes. These glands dilate and secrete a thick, odorous fluid.

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Additionally, preorbital glands are frequently found in ungulates, including:

  • sheep
  • goat
  • musk
  • serum
  • antelope

Similar animals, such as other species of deer, also have preorbital glands. The preorbital gland is considered an odor gland due to its role in odor marking. The function of these glands may be to produce antimicrobial compounds to fight skin pathogens.

How do muntjacs use facial glands to mark territory?

This deer species uses its facial glands to mark the ground by rubbing against vegetation.

Here's how the deer do it:

  • close to an identifiable location
  • smell it
  • opens its frontal and preorbital glands and tilts its head forward
  • put its face on the ground, brush its glands
  • Looked up
  • closes its frontal glands, leaving only the preorbital glands open
  • defecating while tapping the two opened preorbital glands
  • Licking both open preorbital glands while pissing.

Can muntjacs turn on their facial glands?

Sambar deer in wetlands of Keoladeo National Park or bird sanctuary in India in beautiful winter light and colorful background.
Some deer keep their preorbital glands open while resting.

©iStock.com/Sourabh Bharti

Yes, muntjacs can open their facial glands.

When a deer defecates or urinates, it opens the frontal and preorbital glands. Fawns lick the preorbital gland from the first defecation and urination. Sometimes, the preorbital gland also opens as part of a social display. Some deer keep their preorbital glands open while resting.

On the other hand, when a deer chews on something hard, such as a piece of bone, the frontal glands open. They can thus open up when the deer needs it, or this happens involuntarily, "forced" by other facial muscles.

The frontal gland can only open about 0.39 inches wide. In contrast, the preorbital gland is much larger and can evert when opened. This means muntjacs can turn their glands inside out.

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In addition to marking their territory, deer use their scent glands to communicate with other deer. For example, doe deer often open their preorbital glands when caring for their calves. Additionally, some deer will rub their preorbital glands on tree branches for fun.

Are muntjacs the only deer with preorbital glands?

Graceful mule deer on the road
The mule deer has preorbital glands 1.3 inches long.

© iStock.com/Elizabeth Laura

Although they are the only deer species with frontal glands, many other deer also have preorbital glands. For example, the preorbital gland of the white-tailed deer, the most common species in North America, is 0.87 inches long. The mule was 1.6 inches long, and the mule's preorbital gland was 1.3 inches long.

Red deer are another species that have preorbital glands, which are extremely important to calves as they indicate their stress levels. The preorbital glands of a stressed calf will open, while those of a relaxed calf will close. Additionally, calves turn on glands when they are hungry and close them when they are full.

preorbital gland of muntjac and deer

A study comparing the facial muscles and glands of two muntjac fawns to those of adult North American deer showed that although the fawns involved were only ten days old, the muscles that connect them to the preorbital glands were much stronger. Much bigger.

Additionally, they possess a special muscle that allows them to turn the preorbital gland inside out. North American deer lack this muscle.

What other scent glands do deer have?

Deer usually have seven scent glands in their bodies. These glands include:

  1. forehead gland
  2. preorbital glands, located under the eyes
  3. nasal glands, located in the nostrils
  4. interdigital glands, located between the toes
  5. Foreskin glands, located inside the foreskin of a deer penis
  6. Metatarsal glands, on the outside of the hind leg
  7. tarsal gland, located on the inside of the hind leg

unbelievable muntjac facts

Indian muntjak (Muntiacus muntjak), also known as southern red muntjak and barking deer, is a species of deer native to South and Southeast Asia.
The Indian muntjac is the mammal with the least chromosomal variation.

©PLOO Galary/Shutterstock.com

If the muntjac's unique facial glands have you curious enough, we've prepared some other incredible facts about this deer species!

  1. Muntjacs are believed to have inhabited the earth over 15 million years ago!
  2. The IUCN lists most muntjac subspecies as species of least concern. However, the giant deer is critically endangered, the Borneo yellow deer is near-threatened, and the black deer is vulnerable.
  3. An invasive species of muntjac in the UK originated from deer that escaped from the Woburn Abbey estate in 1925.
  4. The Indian muntjac is the mammal with the least chromosomal variation. Male Indian muntjacs have 7 chromosomes, while female Indian muntjacs have 6 chromosomes. In contrast, Reeves muntjacs have 46 chromosomes.
  5. Indian muntjacs are also known as "barking deer" because of the bark-like sound they make when threatened. In this way, they warn other deer of the imminent danger.
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How long can muntjac live?

These usually solitary creatures live an average of 18 years. Often live longer than bucks – bucks spend their time defending small territories against other bucks, while females tend their fawns. Muntjacs have no definite breeding season and breed year-round. It is indeed possible to conceive again within a few days of giving birth.

The gestation period for muntjacs is seven months – seven months after birth, female muntjacs are ready to mate. Does and their babies communicate through a series of squeaks and are active throughout the day, being most active at dusk and dawn. Deer will lie down and chew their cud for a long time after a meal.

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featured image

Muntjac on the grass in the woods.
Muntjac on the grass in the woods.

© iStock.com/MikeLane45


about the author

jeremiah wright


I have seven years of professional experience in the content field, focusing on nature and wildlife. Besides writing, I also enjoy surfing the Internet and listening to music.

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source
  1. National Library of Medicine, available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1231931/
  2. Discover Wildlife, available here: https://www.discoverwildlife.com/uncategorized/understand-mammal-behaviour-part-9-muntjac-deer/