Do Female Deer Have Antlers? Here Are The Species That Do & Don't

Christian Mba
Feb 29, 2024 By Christian Mba
Originally Published on Nov 18, 2021
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Read time: 8.0 Min

Deer are hoofed grazing mammals that belong to the Cervidae species.

The deer family can be divided into two sub-species. The first sub-group is called the Cervinae, which includes the thamin, hog deer, sambar deer, and fallow deer. The second one is the Capreolinae, which includes the caribou, white-tailed female deer, roe deer, and moose.Every year, male deer of all species grow antlers of all kinds. However, amongst the females, only female reindeer can develop beautiful antlers.

Others do not grow antlers due to an imbalance in hormones which results in higher testosterone levels. Deer are hoofed animals of the family Artiodactyla that are distinguished by the presence of two big and two small hooves on each leg.

As an animal, the deer has been featured in several folk stories and is an integral part of many cultures as a mythical creature. One can observe the mention of deer in various old poems and cave drawings across the world.

Deer are mammals that have long played an important role in many cultures and myths all around the world. The famed rare Lascaux world wall paintings, which date back to approximately 10,000 years, display a rich, creative tapestry of ponies, deer, and other creatures.

Deer hunting has been extremely popular for many years as people used to hunt deer for their antlers, skin, and meat. In many regions across the world, several tribes still engage in deer hunting to provide for their requirements. Deer are indigenous to all continents excluding Australia and Antarctica, and several varieties have been extensively imported as game animals outside their indigenous regions.

The Cervidae family of deer is part of the Artiodactyla group, which includes all even-toed ungulates or hoofed mammals with specific types of feet. Giraffes, bison, warthogs, camels, pigs, sheep, and cows are all members of the order. Emerging research implies that cetaceans, which originated before even-toed ungulates generations ago, are certainly relatives of the order. Across all deer species, only buck males grow antlers except reindeer where both the males and females can grow antlers.

Many species of deers have evolved over time to have antlers in place of tusks. Even today, musk deer males have long, pointed upper canines known as tusks, which they utilize for slicing and stabbing in territorial battles. A tusks' average size has reduced over the years with an increase in antler size and complexity.

After reading this article and understanding if all female deer have antlers or not like males, also read other related articles on do female cows have horns and do female moose have antlers?

Do female deer have antlers?

Antlers are one of the most distinguishing features of the Cervidae family of deer, which includes caribou, moose, elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer. Antlers have always been valued and sought after by hunters.

Their quick growth and evergreen (regrown and fall each and every year) characteristics have piqued the interest of hunters and environmental enthusiasts alike. Antlers are bone structures that grow from the pedicle on the temporal bone of a male deer's head intrigue hunters. Males' sex pedicles develop and become apparent at four to five months of age.

Every year, deer develop and shed their growing antlers, which requires a lot of nutrition and stamina. Antlers are often exclusively found on male deer as female deer with antlers are rare. Female deer have been observed to have antlers when the hormone testosterone is not properly regulated, which seldom happens. Female caribou (reindeer) is the only related deer species that routinely grow antlers amongst both males and females. Antler sizes and shapes vary greatly amongst the deer species.

Antler growth is determined by a number of factors like deer's access to quality nourishment, age, and heredity. Antler growth can, however, be influenced by a number of factors like age and health. Several theories have been offered to describe the normal genetic evolutionary function of antlers in certain male members of the white-tailed deer family. Antlers of white-tailed deer males serve as a visual search message to the female deer for mating as antlers are direct links to the health and hereditary purity of the male sex.

Generally, females could assess the quality of possible mates and search for the most suitable bucks by examining their antlers. A recent study backs up this theory. Individual differences in antler appearance, on the other hand, may not be a strong predictor of breeding performance. During the mating season, also called the rut, male deer may utilize their antlers to battle and assert supremacy over other male deer. Male deer will frequently lock antlers and shove one another to assess one's supremacy, so forming a hierarchical structure amongst animals in the wild.

When it comes to the name of a female deer with antlers, it is no doubt an anomaly that occurs rarely. As such no particular name has been assigned to them but they are commonly called hermaphrodites (if they also have male reproductive organs) or antlered doe.

Thus, a female deer with antlers is commonly called an antlered doe or is called a pseudo-hermaphrodite or hermaphrodite. The same practice shall apply to other species as well.

The chances of true antlered doe being borne is 1 in 10,000, depending on testosterone levels.

Do all deer have antlers?

Antlers are skull expansions found in species of the Cervidae family. Antlers are made up of bone, cartilage, fibrous connective tissues, keratin, nerves, and circulatory system.

With the exception of spring reindeer and caribou, only male deer grow antlers. Though, in rare circumstances, female reindeer or female white-tailed deer grow antlers due to hormonal imbalance or genetic issues. Antlers are shed regularly but also grow back in spring each year.

Antlers serve as a symbol of perceived desirability as well as weaponry in conflicts amongst bucks for herd dominance. Unlike antlers, horns seen on hooved animals and bovids including sheep, goats, buffalo, and cows are two-part structures that are rarely shed.

The core of a horn is formed of bone, whereas the external coating is made of keratin. Antler development and shedding are annual in most polar and temperate-zone animals and are governed by the duration of sunlight. Despite antlers developing each year, the length of antlers fluctuates with the maturity of the animal in several deers. It rises annually across several years until it reaches its maximum length.

Polished antlers can be shed at any time of year in tropical animals. Antlers can be shed several times of year in other subspecies, such as the sambar, depending on a variety of conditions. Some species of equatorial deer never lose their antlers. Antlers are used as weapons in fights between male deers for domination and mating presentations, though they may result in serious injuries.

The Impact Of Nutrition On The Growth of Antlers In Deer

Stags are vulnerable to the adverse effects of nourishment at various phases of their life and the antler development process. Deer grow large antlers. The length of spike antlers is influenced by feeding during the prenatal, post-natal, and yearling periods and there is a tight association between body weight and antler length. In stags, the reindeer antlers mature up to five years.

While diet has little effect on antler length during juvenile antler development, it is affected by body size and fitness at casting, i.e. at the start of new antler development. Protein amounts above seven percent in the diet have minimal effect on antler growth in adult stags. However, supplementation of fortified protein food menu or methionine food menu may boost antler development, which is a valuable article for them.

As polished antlers mineralize, significant amounts of calcium and phosphorus are retained, and calcium is taken from the skeleton to sustain this. Feeding regimens for excellent antler growth comprise identifying the times when juvenile stags are vulnerable to malnutrition and supplying enough calories to re-establish sufficient body composition in adult stags between the ending of the mating season and antler castings. This typically occurs between October and December.

Why did deer evolve to have antlers?

In decreasing order of importance, the normal reasons for the development of antlers in male deers are intraspecific battle, defense against predators, and evaluation of dominance or fighting skill.

The antlers in females of some rare deer species, such as reindeer, are most likely not functional and are just the result of excessive hormones testosterone release. Female caribou's very modest antlers may serve as a vital supply of calcium all through the winter season; antlers in this species are preserved all through the winter season.

It can be said that animals would not have evolved huge head adornments if they lived in dense forests. With just one false move, the buck could be caught in such a manner that it starves or becomes vulnerable to predators with no energy to fight. However, there is another rationale why larger, highly visible head ornamentation might be preferred in more open areas. The reason for this is that horns and antlers can signal strength from a long distance.

After all, fights are expensive for these animals. Sparring not only happens to consume a lot of energy, but it also puts a creature in the path of harm, which could limit its growing ability to compete for females or perhaps even survive. So, if a male ram or elk testosterone can scare an opponent based solely on his appearance, all the better.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for do female deer have antlers then why not take a look at do elephants have teeth or deer facts.

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Written by Christian Mba

Bachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba picture

Christian MbaBachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba is an experienced blogger and content writer with over a decade of experience. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Nigeria and has a keen interest in Python programming. Along with his writing and blogging expertise, he is also an SEO specialist with more than six years of experience. Chris, as he is commonly known, has a passion for music and enjoys playing the piano.

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