Nature Notes

Vol. XII March, 1934 No. 3

Horns vs. Antlers

The statement that deer do not have horns--that they possess antlers--may seem superfluous to some people who are acquainted with the difference. Nevertheless, nine out of ten people who visit the museum refer to the deer's antlers as "horns." Antlers drop of annually and a new set are grown. Horns are permanent and are not shed, though there are some exceptions to this as in the case of the antelope. The most familiar animal having horns is the cow, while deer, elk, moose, and caribou possess antlers. In the latter case, the antlers being found on both sexes which is not true in other animals bearing antlers.

Why do deer lose their antlers each year? Most people are satisfied that they are shed and re-grown annually in order to insure that male animals an undamaged pair when the fights during the mating season occur in the fall. This however, does not answer the question fully. Many theories concerning the why and the wherefore of this phenomena have been advanced. If you will examine the end of a freshly detached antler, you will note that it appears rough as if it had been acted upon by some acid. This will indicate that the antlers have been weakened at that point in some manner previous to its being cast aside.

Regarding this, one authority states that the "blood vessels retaining their vitality within the articulation (of antler and skull) commence a new and important work--that of absorption. They pick up particulates or rather groups of granules of what is termed the articular plate and carry them away, and when a sufficient number of particles have been removed thus the antler becomes loosened from its seat or the point of junction becomes weakened and the antler drops off or is removed by some slight force.

cones and needles

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