Difference Between Horn and Antler

Horn vs Antler

Horns and antlers are two different types of structures present in mammals, and those are very important as show off features as well as defending appendages. Despite the fact that the functions of the both horns and antlers would appear the same, structure and other related characteristics are different between each other. Additionally, antlers and horns are present in different types of animals, and this article discusses all those important facts.


Horns are hard bony structures that stick out from the head or forehead of the most of the members of the Family: Bovidae. The inner bone of the horn is covered with a thin layer of keratin protein. Horns grow at a slow rate with forming growth rings. Therefore, it is possible to make a fair guess about the age of the animal by looking at the number of growth rings in horns. Horns are paired structures, and usually the pair is similar in appearance. However, there are some exceptions in certain individuals, as the pair of horns is different from each other in shape. It is important to notice that both sexes of the bovids possess horns, but only the males do have prominent horns. Horns are not branched structures, but those could be coiled in some instances. These are never shed at any stage of life or, in other words, horns are permanent structures. Horns are important for males to defend themselves against the enemies and compete with the other males while they try to be selected as a sexual mate for a female. Therefore, it could be stated that horns are more useful directly for males than for females.


Antlers are interesting structures protrude from the forehead of the most of the deer species (Family: Cervidae). The structure of an antler includes a bone in the centre, which is covered with a velvet-like hard skin. Antlers are amongst the fastest growing structures with about 2 – 3 centimetres a day. That is the reason some of the deer species such as elk have 2 – 3 metre long antlers. Antlers are branched more often than not, and there are no annual growth rings. The formation of antlers requires the secretion of testosterone at a high level in blood, and that triggers the process. Therefore, only the males possess antlers, but the females of elk and caribou have antlers. There is a speciality about antlers that those are shed and regrown each year. Osteoclasts are the responsible cells for shedding of the antlers, as those destroy the base of the antler.


What is the difference between Horn and Antler?

• Bovids have horns while cervids have antlers.

• Horns are usually shorter than antlers are.

• The strength of the horns is much higher than antlers.

• Antlers are often branched whereas antlers are linear structures without being branched.

• A thin layer of keratin protein covers horns, whereas antlers are covered with a dermal layer of velvety skin.

• Horns have annual growth rings but not the antlers.

• Horns are present in both males and females, but males have prominent ones. However, antlers are present only in males except in elk and caribou.

• Horns are permanent structures, whereas antlers are shed and regrown each year.

• Antlers are fast growing structures, but horns grow very slowly.