Montag, 22. Mai 2023

Development of Roe Deer Antlers

Hello and welcome to a long overdue entry. This time I want to look closer to roe buck antlers. Only male roe deer grow antlers and these could be long and thin or short and bold. Or long AND bold! They come in such a variety - it's very interesting! But how do they grow? Please read more under the cut.

NOTE: English is not my mother tongue. I may use wrong words to describe something!

You have to know that roe deer shed their antlers from October till December. As soon as they fell from the head they start to grow a new pair. In March/April they "rub off" the velvet and a brand-new set of antlers is ready for mating season!
It is to notice that young bucks lose their antlers later than the old ones, so they "rub off" the velvet later too. Older bucks may lose their antler first, but also "rub off" the velvet earlier. That's a benefit, so they have a head start when it comes to fights about dominance.

The photos of the grazing and the two fighting bucks were taken on the same day and time (April). The grazing one seems to be a yearling and has freshly rubbed off the velvet, that's why it's still red (blood).

The dominant male. His antlers are free from velvet, maybe he rubbed it off in March.

But all starts with the birth in May/June. The growth of antlers doesn't start from birth, so male and female fawns look the same. But in late summer the pedicles start to grow. They are thin, often long and on them grow a set of little knobs or spikes - also covered with velvet.

Unlike the adult bucks, the fawns "rub off" the velvet between December and January and shed their mini-antlers in February already. A very unique and important detail about these first antlers is: there are no roses on the antler base!

No roses, so it's the very first set of antlers.

After they lose their first set of antlers, their first "adult-antlers" start to grow. These second antlers are longer, thicker and often start to branch. Each year the new antlers will be bigger and finally show the typical three branches on them.

The little ones are from yearlings, because they show a rose.

While the antlers grow bigger, the pedicles grow thicker and shorter. That's because by each shedding they lose a bit of bone too. After 8 years the pedicles could be pretty worn down.

The line is the breaking point.

But antlers don't grow stronger and bigger each year. When the animal is on its peak of life (about 6 years old), the antlers start to grow shorter and weaker again. Very old bucks could also have only spikes or knobs.

This old buck had very long antlers (compared with a yearlings antler). The antlers still grew long, but the prongs started to disappear. Could also be genetical, but I thinks he's showing signs of age.

But be aware: you can't tell the age of a roe buck only by its antlers! You have to look on other signs like a strong/wide chest, grey hairs in the face, wide head - the whole look of its appearance. But the only way to be sure if it was an old animal is to check the teeth in the lower jaw. But try that on the living animal :)

With the age of 2 the roe deer is fully grown, with 4 years they could be capital. In the wild a roe deer could up to grow 15 years old, in captivity even 25! But normally they die much earlier due to nature or humans.

Two different old roe bucks. Right one seems (maybe) one year younger.

The left one shows bigger pedicles.

Of course there are a lot of factors if a roe buck grows big and massive antlers. I think a lot is also genectical.

Well, it was funny to write about these very cute animals and their very beautiful "headdress". I always enjoy a sight of roe deer. I only wish I had a better zoom in my camera.

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