What’s the difference between antlers and horns?

When referring to animal headgear, people often confuse antlers and horns, but they are not the same thing.

For one, they belong to different animals. Antlers belong to members of the Cervidae family, which includes deer, moose, and reindeer, while horns belong to the Bovidae family, including cows and bison.

Then there’s the fact that antlers are made from bone and fall off in the winter, whereas horns are made of keratin — the same substance that our nails are made from —and they can continue growing throughout the animal’s life.

Finally, horns can be found on both male and female bovids and do not branch out, whereas antlers are only found on male cervids (with the exception of female reindeers) and they form branches.

There are some similarities, however. Both horns and antlers grow from the forehead and are used as a defence mechanism, to assert dominance and to attract a mate.

Issue 55 of World of Animals has the answers to even more of your animal questions – buy it now in store or online!