Monday, March 17, 2014

Horns and Antlers

Recently our family had the opportunity to enjoy a wildlife tour near our home. Besides the thrill of seeing so many non-native animals to Texas (many of them from Africa and India) as we drove through the 1800-acre park, we were able to learn so many interesting things about these animals.

One little tidbit that stood out to me was the explanation of the difference between horns and antlers.

Which is which?

On the left is the horn. On the right is the antler.

I was so intrigued at being able to hold and feel these in my own hands and get a good look at the cross-section. The horn felt just like a piece of sanded wood. It was dense, with the outer coating like the fine bark of a tree. The antler was more like what I would expect, being also visibly porous: bony. However, they are both bone!

Take a look at this quick video for a super-simplified (and somewhat entertaining) explanation:

Some basic differences are...


  • Bone core with keratin coating
  • If broken, will not grow back (permanent)
  • Never branched

  • Begin as cartilage, then through ossification turn to bone
  • Shed and grow back yearly (not permanent)
  • Branched
Fallow Deer

For more in-depth information and scientific reading, visit here. I found this very helpful ... and it has pictures! (always a plus)

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