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What Is The Difference Between Horns And Antlers?

There are some important differences between horns and antlers.

white antlers overlapping each other

Photo: Kamal Hamid (Flickr)

Check out these white antlers!

Horns and antlers have some important things in common. They both grow from an animal’s forehead, and both are used to assert dominance, provide defense and attract mates.

How To Tell Them Apart?

First off, horns look like daggers and are sometimes twisted into exotic shapes. Antlers look like branches and have multiple points. Second, different types of animals sport different types of headgear. Horns belong to the bovids — animals such as sheep, goats, cows and bison. Antlers belong to the cervids. That includes all deer, elk, moose and caribou (or reindeer).

A third difference is that horns are made of keratin just like your fingernails, meaning that they grow throughout an animal’s entire life and never fall off. Antlers, on the other hand, are made of bone. They fall off every year in winter or early spring, and a whole new set grows in time for mating season in the fall.

Anglers Belong To Males

Which brings us to our last big difference. Horns, you see, usually grow on both the male and female members of a species. Antlers, meanwhile, belong almost exclusively to the boys. Female caribou are the only exception, and their antlers are pretty small.

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