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Ideally, only males have fully grown antlers in the elk family, which play an essential role in the male lifespan. Female elks, also called cows, on the other hand, cannot claim to grow antlers. However, in some individuals, exceptional cases of short, deformed spikes shoot on the cow’s skull. These small mini-antler-like protrusions are very rare to come across and always enclosed under the velvet.
Names used to refer to the cow antlers are like mini-pedicles and eo-antlers and evolve from renowned biologists and researchers. Not all cows get to have this outstanding feature, and mostly only individuals whose ovarian cycles affect the older cows’ androgen levels. They remain hidden in the velvet and, once exposed, last only a few weeks before shedding.
The few cows that are either lucky or unlucky to develop this set of antlers are more prominent in size and output. A hunter is most likely to confuse the fully mature cow with a bull as their size and body formation are very much alike, without the massive antlers. The positioning of the eo-antler convinced researchers that they are antler protrusions, as they appear exactly where the male ones are.
Can a Female Elk Have Antlers?
In general, a cow cannot form and grow antlers. However, with time, reports of antlers possessing cows are on the rise, and researchers believe that a female elk can partially grow them. In other words, some feminine individuals of this species do have antlers.
A female elk that has the potential of antler growth is seen at a very young age. After the first few weeks of its first step, you’ll find it in competition with its peers over food and water, most of the time winning the encounters. Signs of antler growth on its scalp will soon show, and the protrusions will slowly rise on the location of antler growth. It occurs at the same time its male counterparts start growing their pairs.
The short malfunctioned pair may soon after disappear and reappear in its elderly years. This time it will be influenced by a handful of reasons and aspects that will expound on a later section of the article. They may either reappear or not depending on hormonal levels, gene composition, and even diseases.
The notion of evolution taking a toll on this species is also a possibility that biologists have put strong argumentative statements on its cause.
Why Do Female Elks Grow Antlers?
As it is in humans, there is a possibility that a cow may have more male hormones in its formation than they females. This mostly occurs during birth and lasts throughout the animal’s lifespan, affecting both its behavioral patterns and body build. It means that the female will display more masculine attributes during its life in the wild than their feminine counterparts.
Will such characteristics be observed from a young age, especially since both sexes are not separated while growing? The male and females live in the same environment and share most of their essential needs. You will observe the female preferring the company of other young bulls instead of hanging around its mother. Its body size and feeding habits clearly show that its company is the best fit for worthy competitors.
Cows are less aggressive than bulls; however, this individual will prefer physical conflicts and win most of her fights’. The small antlers act as adaptation features to dig around and act as weapons on their female opponents and life-threatening predators. The mini-pedicles may disappear during its middle ages but reappear at later seasons.
At their young ages, both sexes mingle freely is a worthy reason explaining why female elks have antlers. This social formation will mean that they will be in each other’s company most of the time, hence stealing characteristics and behaviors from each other. A female elk raised among males will react aggressively to every unfamiliar situation, unlike other cows.
Young ones who are the most playful, will fight for their necessities and engage in small competitions to find the best. A female in the company of this herd will find herself engaging in such activities, hence developing the same characteristics early. This process is called mimicry and is evident in numerous wild species.
At this stage, the female develops adaptation features to aid and ease its growth process. Among characteristics like massive bodies and healthy bone structure lies the growth of antlers. Having these small antler-like protrusions on its head can dig up more ground with lesser energy than before. Also, during the brawls and friendly fights with its peers, it will have better chances of winning.
From a handful of biologists and dedicated elk researchers came the notion that female elks are slowly evolving. They claim that just as humans came from Australopithecus to Homo Sapien Sapien, cows will grow antlers. According to Darwin, change is always there, and any living organism must evolve to ensure they remain in existence.
Cow elks developing antlers means that they can partake in activities that they were previously unable to complete, increasing their productivity. In combat, antlers are an advantage, and although they are of small stature, they are harmful. Since most females are already equivalent to bulls in weight and build matters, the final adaptation remains fully-grown antlers.
For now, there may be low instances of hunters observing antlered cows, but after a few hundred years, the number will have increased.
If you have ever had the opportunity to observe a cow with antlers, well count yourself among the lucky few in the world. It is rare to observe such animals, and only keen eyes can pick out such a feature in this species. Although females are friendlier than males, it is safe to assume that they will face a change in their approach. With time, elk cows having antlers will be an everyday thing.
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36 years old, been hunting and fishing my entire life – love the outdoors, family, and all kinds of hunting and fishing! I have spent thousands of hours hunting hogs and training hunting dogs, but I’m always learning new stuff and really happy to be sharing them with you! hit me up with an email in the contact form if you have any questions.