Do Reindeer Shed Their Antlers?

Yes, reindeer shed their antlers. This is a natural phenomenon of their body, and it helps them to grow new, better, and taller antlers. Though male and female reindeer shed their antlers, male reindeer do this before the females.

However, there are more interesting facts about reindeer shedding their antlers. Especially male and female reindeer especially follow different patterns for shedding their antlers. If that sounds interesting to you, let’s dive deeper into the topic together.

What Is an Antler? What Is It Made From?

Antler is one kind of skull extension that is normally found on deer family members. These antlers are made of bones.

As it is made of bone, it is also a part of their skeleton system. It’s mainly a single structure containing bone, cartilage, nerves, blood vessels, and skin. In some deer species, antlers are entirely made of a protein named collagen. Besides, when the antlers are immature, they are covered with fine hairs. This phase is termed as velvet phase.

How Is an Antler Different from A Horn?

There are some basic distinguishing aspects between antlers and horns. Those are:

Distinguishable featuresAntlerHorn
StructureA single-bone structureHorn has two part-structure. The interior is made up of bone, and the exterior is made of specialized hair follicles like Keratin.
GenderMainly found in male deer members. Exceptions are reindeer.Found in both male and female members.
SheddingShed and regrow once a year.Continue to grow and never shed. (Exception: pronghorn)
AppearanceGenerally, they look like branches of a tree having numerous times and points.Mostly twisted or spiral and only have one point.
Growing pointGrows from the tipsGrows from the base

What Are Shedding Antlers?

Shedding antlers means antlers falling from the head of animals, which will regenerate after a period. This process keeps continuing in a cycle year after year.

The shedding process starts with a drop in testosterone levels in the deer’s body. And consequently, results in the dropping of their antlers. This process mainly takes 3 weeks to complete.

See also  Are Reindeer Dangerous or Friendly?

Do Male Reindeer Shed Their Antlers? Why?

Yes, male reindeer shed their antlers. They do this because there is no use for them after impressing the female reindeer with the antlers.

The main purpose of the antlers of a male reindeer is to attract female members. Also, they use their antlers to fight with other males for breeding rights.

reindeer with antlers

Rutting season is the prime mating time for reindeer. During this time of year, their antlers become the hardest and biggest. They show off their beautiful antlers to attract the cows to make their harem.

Sometimes, two harems get close, or any male tries to enter the harem of another male. Then, they use their antlers to attack each other to protect their harem or to access another harem.

Also Read: Do Female Reindeer Have Antlers?

But, after the breeding season, they don’t need their antlers. That’s why they shed their antlers which will grow back again.

What Is It Called When Reindeer Shed Their Antlers?

When reindeer shed their antlers, it is called casting. After casting, they will grow back their antlers again but taller than before.

After the casting, the growing back of antlers is called the regeneration process. The old antlers that they shredded can be used for multiple purposes. As those antlers consist of bone and calcium, they can’t decompose as fast as animal fleshes. If buried under leaves, it can decompose slowly.

The most popular use of those antlers is in crafting. Besides, those can also be used on trophy heads for decorative purposes.

Do Reindeer Shed Their Antlers Every Year?

Yes. Reindeer shed their antlers every year. It enables them to grow their antlers stronger, harder, taller, and prettier than ever before.

Initially, the immature antlers are covered with a sensitive skin layer named “velvet.” This time, many blood vessels remain housed inside those antlers. These blood vessels assist in serving vitamins and minerals from the food to those antlers for growth.

See also  Are Reindeer Real? Let’s Prove Its Appearance

Once the growing period of antlers ends, the protective velvet layer starts to disappear. With the disappearing velvet layer, a new ring around the break-off point starts to appear. This is called the shut-off region.

This ring is responsible for creating the base of antlers. When the shedding season comes, the blood vessels simply cut off due to physiological circumstances. Thus, the vitamin and mineral supply from food sources to their antlers also stopped. In the deficiency of proper nutrients, the antlers fall off.

This shedding and regeneration cycle continues year after year. For a particular period of the year, they grow their antlers and shed those. As a result, they can replace their old antlers and grow back healthier antlers again.

Do Reindeer Shed Their Antlers in The Winter?

No. All reindeer don’t shed their antlers in the winter. It depends on their gender. Though male reindeer shed their antler in winter, female Reindeer keep those throughout the winter.

Shedding of antlers depends on a few things. They are:

  • The amount of daylight experienced
  • Testosterone level of male reindeer
  • The calving of the female reindeer.

 After the mating season, their testosterone level goes down. Which is also responsible for their shedding of antlers in winter.

On the other hand, female reindeer keep their antlers till their calves are born. Because, during their winter pregnancy, they need to secure their food. Besides, food sources also become scarce during winter. That’s why they keep their antlers to find their food from beneath the snow to ensure their nutrients are uptake during pregnancy.

Do Reindeer Shed Their Horns?

Reindeer don’t have any horns. Rather, they have antlers that they shed.

Horns grow from the base and continue to grow for a lifetime. A soft velvet covers the horns all the time. Thus, it allows horns to have blood circulation and to grow continuously. That’s why animals with horns can’t shed them.

See also  How Big Are Reindeer? Let’s Explore Their Sizes

On the other hand, the velvet outer layer of antlers starts to turn into spongy bone as they keep growing. After some time, the blood circulation stopped, so the antlers fell off. Reindeer don’t have any horns but antlers. Thus, they shed their antlers.

Why Do Reindeer Antlers Bleed?

Reindeer antlers bleed as it is covered with a velvet layer that is full of blood vessels.

During the growing seasons of antlers, the velvet layer is full of blood and nerve tissues. Those help in the growth of the antlers. With time, the antlers become developed, and the velvet layer dries.

You may find reindeer rub their antler against any tree or surface. Do you know why? They try to remove the dried velvet skin off their antlers by rubbing their antler against a tree.

When the skin comes off, the newly developed antlers become exposed. Still, there remains some layer of skin on their antlers. Thus, the antlers look bloody.

Does Antler Shedding Hurt?

No. Though the shedding process looks painful, it’s painless. Antlers ate made of bone, and it come out from their base. But it doesn’t hurt the reindeer.

Besides, antlers don’t have any blood or nerve tissue inside them. A protective outer skin layer consisting of nerve and blood tissues is present during the growing period of antlers. But it disappears with the antler growth. As there is no nerve tissue inside the antlers, shedding can’t cause pain.

Why Do Male Reindeer Lose Antlers?

Male reindeer mainly lose their antlers due to a drop in their testosterone level. Also, during winter, they face more environmental stresses, which is a significant reason for their loss of antlers.

The pedicles and the antlers only remain connected when their testosterone level is high. After the mating season, the level drops. Then, a boned cell named osteoclast removes the connective tissue between the pedicle and the antlers. As a result, male reindeer will lose their antlers.

Moreover, during winter, scarcity of foods and harsh cold weather create environmental stress on male reindeer’s bodies. This stress and nutritional deficiencies cause the antlers to fall off.


Reindeer’s long and branched antlers make them more majestic. Their antlers are so strong that they can even withstand the impact of head-lock fighting. But they have to shed their antlers every year so that they can grow new ones. This occurs due to their hormonal changes. Sometimes, nutritional deficiencies can also cause their antlers to fall off.

1 thought on “Do Reindeer Shed Their Antlers?”

Leave a Comment