Is that a Horn or an Antler?

What is the difference between horns and antlers?

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What is the Difference Between Antlers and Horns

Bulk elk with velvet on antlers

This 4x4 bulk elk still has velvet on its antlers. This means the antlers were still growing in June when this picture was taken.

Bighorn sheep ram horns

A closer view of a bighorn sheep ram horns.

Mule deer with antlers without velvet

Mule deer in the fall after velvet has fallen off, exposing the bones of its antlers.

Bison face showing horns

This is an older bison. It falls in the category of aged 15+. Notice that the keratin of this bison's horns is rubbed smooth, which happens over time and with wallowing sessions. I say because I can't see the bison's profile to see other characteristics of age.



  • Found on members of the deer family, elk, mule deer, and moose.
  • Composed of bone, cartilage, fibrous tissue, skin, nerves, and blood vessels.
  • Found on males, only with the exception of reindeer/caribou.
  • Has multiple points.
  • Velvet is lost before the rut. The velvet is the skin, nerves, and blood vessels.
  • Shed and regrown yearly.
  • Falls off after the rut due to the drop in testosterone.
  • When growing, the velvet covers the bone and supplies blood that carries food and oxygen.



  • Found on bison and bighorn sheep.
  • Composed of bone on the inside and a thick layer of keratin on the outside.
  • Horns are on both male and female bison. Female bighorn sheep have horns, which are never as large as rams' horns.
  • Has a single point.
  • Horns never shed.
Buck pronghorn showing horns

Male, buck, pronghorn with a closer view of its horns.

Horns of Pronghorns


The horns of a pronghorn are a blend of horn and antler characteristics. It is in a category of its own.

  • Shared with both antlers and horns
    • Inside consists of bone
  • Shares with horns
    • The outside covering is keratin
  • Shares with antlers
    • Has multiple points on the horn
  • Only it does
    • Sheds only its sheath and regrown annually
      • Horns are not dropped
      • Antler velvet is first shed, then later, the bone is dropped
    • Only 70% of females have horns that are much smaller than male
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