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Difference Between Horns and Antlers

Updated on November 4, 2012

Horns and antlers are skull appendages that function either as weapons for offense and defense or mate-selection tools in the animal kingdom. Although many of us can easily distinguish antlers from horns by just looking at them alone, there are still many who still erroneously refer to antlers as "horns". To help establish a clear distinction between the two, below are the salient differences between horns and antlers:


Horns vs. Antlers

  1. Antlers are made up of true bones while horns are made up of a fibrous protein called keratin similar to what we have in our fingernails.
  2. Antlers are shed and regrown annually while horns are permanent in nature and will continue to grow throughout the animal's life.
  3. Antlers appear as a multi-branched protrusion from an animal's skull while horns are unbranched and have curved or spiral forms.
  4. Horns are found on both males and females of certain animal groups while antlers are found only on males of certain animal groups.
  5. Antlers are commonly found in deers, moose, caribou, and elk while horns are mostly found on buffaloes, goats, sheep, cows, and rhinos.


Photos of Animals with Antlers

An antlered elk grazing in the pasture.
An antlered elk grazing in the pasture. | Source
An Eld's deer with mature antlers.
An Eld's deer with mature antlers. | Source

Photos of Animals with Horns

A Long-Horn Buffalo with its massive-looking horns.
A Long-Horn Buffalo with its massive-looking horns. | Source
An Ibex Goat with its curved horns.
An Ibex Goat with its curved horns. | Source

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