Do Moose Have Horns or Antlers?

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Most animals in the wild have some impressive headgear that serves lots of purposes. To narrow down, animals have either horns or antlers and moose like the deer, and elk have antlers. Antlers and horns are similar in use yet so different in appearance. So do moose have antlers or horns?

Whereas an antler is an extension of living tissue, horns are dead, yet both continue to grow every year. As for moose and other animals that grow antlers, they shed them each year. 

Are Antlers the Same as Horns? 

It is a great misconception, and many people assume that antlers are similar to horns. The two are miles apart as antlers have living tissues that will continue to regenerate all through a deer’s life. A horn made up of dead tissue pieces called the keratin will never fall off until the animal dies. Another difference is that antlers are temporary, while horns are permanent. The antler structure is a honeycomb, while that of the horn is a dead solid bone.

Antlers belong to elk, deer, moose, and caribou, while horns are for cows, buffalo, goats, and rhinoceros, among others.  

Understanding Horns

Horns belong to animals in the Bovidae family, and they include animals like antelopes, goats, cows, and buffalo, among others. They are made of keratin, which is the same as human nails and has spiral rings curved and have ridges.  

Horns will start to grow immediately the animal is born, and will continue to do so throughout the animal’s entire life. When a horn is broken during an animal’s lifetime, it is often permanent and will never regrow it back instead of the antler of a moose or deer. 

Both male and female animals belonging to the Bovidae family will grow horns. However, it is more common for males to grow horns than females. Males’ horns are enormous, and hence more visible, they will use their horns to fend off would-be predators. 

Besides using horns to fight for mating rights and dominance of territory, horns are essential in digging and removing barks from trees as they feed on them. It is believed horns are also used as a cooling system when the bulls are feeling hot. 

Understanding Antler Growth 

Antlers are for animals that belong to the Cervidae family and include moose, elk, caribou, and deer. A bull moose has pedicles, and these are twin bony structures at the top of the head. It is from the pedicles that the antlers start to grow or form. 

Sometimes before winter, it is common to see moose with an antler covered in velvet. Velvet is the living skin that feeds the growth of antlers with rich oxygenated blood and nutrients.  As the antlers mature to full size, the velvet stops the blood supply and, hence, the rubbing process.  

The now-dead velvet skins must be shed to leave the moose brandishing healthy and shiny antlers. At this stage, the rack is no longer alive, and if it breaks, it will not be repaired.

How moose grows its antlers is directly related to the changes in light for different seasons. This means that the increased daylight during spring causes an increase in testosterone levels that will later trigger both the neck muscle and antler growth.

The size of the antlers falls heavily on what moose feeds on during summer and spring. For an antler to grow big, it needs lots of nutrients, especially proteins. The velvet is the tissue that provides the antlers with blood, oxygen, and the necessary nutrients, hence not decorative.

Bulls are often referred to by their points. An example is a four-point or six-point bull. However, it is not an indication of age, as only mature bulls at their prime have the most points. As antlers grow every year, they tend to have more tips, and these are what hunters call points. Many points on an antler is an indication of a bulky, healthy, and strong bull. It is the ideal prize for trophy hunters. 

Understanding the Moose Antlers

How Do Moose Use Their Antlers? 

Bull moose antlers are enormous and quite intimidating. Antlers are mostly defensive features to fend off predators and competition from other males when battling for leadership. Antlers are crucial to all bulls as it supports their quest for dominance and separates the strongest from the weakest. It ensures that only the strongest male get to pass along their genes.

But moose can also use antlers to attract females when it is mating season. The ones with the gigantic racks are considered fitter and can gather food. Hence antlers are a sign of metabolic efficiency. The cow moose are attracted to alpha bulls that are dominant as all these traits are amongst the most desirable when looking for a partner. 

Moose shed antlers every year as they head for winter when they need more carbohydrates and fats to stay alive. As the rut approaches, bulls of mature age have to grow them back again. The process is intense, and antlers need lots of nutrients to grow fast and healthy to challenge dominance and mating rights. 

Another factor that is often overlooked for moose with antlers is a better hearing aid. There is some observation that moose with antlers have better hearing than the ones without.  

Antlers Difference between Male and Female Species

Of all the animals that grow antlers every year, only the reindeer has both the male and female growing antlers. Though the reindeer females will not grow huge antlers than the males, they are visible and just as lethal as their male counterparts. 

The cow moose will not grow antlers at all, but their sheer size and aggression are enough to fend off predators. 


Most people assume that you can tell the age of a moose by looking at the size and number of points on the animal’s rack. You can get close, but the antlers are not reliable in determining the bull’s age. However, antlers are an indication of bulls’ health, fitness, and metabolic efficiency. 

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