7 Difference Between Antlers and Horns (With Table)

What is the difference between Antlers and Horns?

Antlers and horns are structures that grow on top of animals’ heads. Different animals possess them for different functions.

Antlers are paired, branched structures that are made entirely from bone and shed annually. Where antlers develop, there is high water and protein content and soft, hair-like covering which comprise of blood vessels and nerves.

Horns are unbranched two-part structures with a bony core and covered with keratin sheath which grows from specialized hair follicles.

The main difference between antlers and horns is that antlers are shed and regrown yearly while horns do not shed and continue to grow throughout animals’ life.

Difference Between Antlers and Horns

Comparison Table (Antlers vs Horns)

Characteristics Antlers Horns
Shedding They shed and are regrown yearly. They do not shed instead continue growing throughout animals’ life.
Where found They are found on members of the deer family. They are found on pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and bison.
Gender They are found on males only. They are found in both males and females.
Appearance They are paired, branched structures. They are unbranched two-part structures.
How they grow They grow where there is high water and protein content and soft, hair-like covering which comprise of blood vessels and nerves. They grow from specialized hair follicles.
What they are made of They are made of bone. They are made of the bony core.
Uses They are used for mate selection during the breeding season. They are used for dominance, territorial and anti-predator interactions.
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What are Antlers?

Antlers are found in animals in the Cervidae family. The family comprises deer and their relatives. They shed the antlers on yearly basis.

The antlers are paired, branched structures that are made entirely from the bone. They grow in areas where there is high content of water and proteins and soft, hair-like covering which comprise blood vessels and nerves.

As a result of hormonal and environmental imbalance, the antler is converted into harder, thicker lamellar bone before the velvet falls off.

They are only present for few months on animals thereafter they are shed off. They are only found in male animals with exception of reindeer where it is found on both males and females.

What are Horns?

They are found in animals in the Bovine family. The animals include cows and their relatives. They do not shed instead they continue growing throughout the animals’ life.

Horns are unbranched, two-part structure with a bony core and covered by a keratin sheath. Keratin sheath is the same material found in human hair and nails. The sheath grows from the specialized hair follicle.

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They are permanent features and, in some animals, they do not stop growing. They grow continuously throughout their life.

Pronghorn antelopes are the exception as they have branched upright horns with a sheath that is shed annually.

Horns are found on both male and female species. They are used for social dominance, territorial and anti-predator interactions.

Main Differences between Antlers and Horns

  1. Antlers are found on members of the Cervidae family while horns are found on members of the Bovidae family and their relatives.
  2. Antlers are branched while horns are not branched.
  3. Antlers are shed yearly while horns are permanent and continuous to grow throughout animals’ lifetimes.
  4. Antlers are found on male species alone except the reindeer where it is found on both while horns are found on both male and female species.
  5. Antlers are used for mate selection during the breeding season while horns are used for social dominance, territorial and anti-predator interactions.
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Similarities between Antlers and Horns

  1. They both grow on top of the head.
  2. Both are found on the heads of herbivores.

In Conclusion

Antlers and horns are both located on top of animals’ heads. They are there for different reasons. Antlers are used to attract females directly or deter rival males through the display. They are mainly useful during mate selection when they are breeding.

Horns are useful when it comes to social dominance, territorial and anti-predator interactions. Antlers are only found in males while horns are found in both male and female species.

The main feature that makes antlers to be different from horns is the shedding. Antlers are shed yearly while horns are permanent structures that grow throughout animals’ lifetime.

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