Deer are beautiful animals and one of the features we remember them by the most are their magnificent antlers. They are often the focal point of a male deer and are a symbol of their strength and might. But, you might ask yourself why deer have antlers. Well, there are reasons we know of, and probably more that we don't, but I will explain some of the main reasons why deer have antlers.
Do Both Male and Female Deer Have Antlers?
Most people believe that only male deer grow antlers. Well, this is true for all deer species except caribou. In caribou, both males AND females grow antlers, although a females antlers are usually smaller and less complex. This is because both male and females need them to scavenge for food in the north to survive. When snow covers the entire landscape, caribou will use their antlers to uncover the ground and forage for their food.
Another exception to the "only male deer have antlers" is a hormone imbalance that causes one out of every six thousand or so female deer to grow antlers. In the news recently there was a 27-point doe shot and killed by a hunter in Kansas. This just goes to show, while antlered does are rare, they do occur in nature.
Using Antlers To Fight
Deer use their antlers for a number of things. One of the main uses for them is to fight other bucks. They will usually challenge other male deer by grunting and kicking the ground. If neither buck backs down, they will charge each other with their antlers first, knocking into each other. Sometimes the male deer may get their antlers stuck together during these fights. Fights between male deer can last for as little as a few seconds, or until one of them tires. These fights are brutal at times and their antlers can even get stuck together during the match.
These fights between male deer typically occur when it's breeding season, known as the rut. During this time, their hormone levels are high and they will fight each other for the right to mate with a female deer nearby. On rare occasions, some bucks have even been known to charge at people and cars during the breeding season, so always take caution during this time of year.
Showing Off Their Antlers
A bucks antlers are also a way of showing other deer they are dominate. If a deer with a large set of antlers is facing one with a small set, then the chances are the smaller deer will back down. He will see that he's facing a larger threat and will most likely reject the offer to fight. Although there's no way of knowing for sure, many believe that a male deer with larger antlers is more likely to attract a doe than those with smaller ones.
Deer use their antlers as a tool to mark their territory. A male deer will do this by rubbing their antlers against the side of a tree, causing the bark to fall off. This not only marks their territory and tells other bucks not to come around, but it's also a way for them to sharpen their antlers. Some deer can become quite aggressive when making these rubs, nearly sawing in half some moderately sized trees.