Animals with horns and antlers can be found around the world, whether at the peak of mountaintops or backyard family-owned farms. If there’s one thing to be said about these fascinating beings, they are likely some of the most exciting and curious creatures in the entire animal kingdom.
Their fantastical headgear can be used for an assortment of tasks, whether it be to attract a mate or to defend themselves from their rivals.
What Are Horns and Antlers Made Of?
Have you ever wondered what horns and antlers are made of? Many think that they are a combination of bone and ivory. You would be surprised to learn the vast majority of horns are made from bone and hair follicles (keratin).
These unique hair follicles are similar to what you would find in human fingernails. Meaning, horns can be a harder and more elongated version of the nails that you have on your hands.
Antlers are slightly different in the sense that their headgear is a direct extension of their skull. You’ll mostly find antlers on male deer, and they are made from solid bone, instead of having any traces of hair follicles. If you have ever had the chance to feel antlers, they might not appear to be bone thanks to their velvety exterior.
As the year progresses, the antlers’ velvet texture will deteriorate, causing them to become shiny and smooth.
On another note, did you also know that there are plenty of animals that have horn-like fixtures on their heads or bodies that aren’t horns or antlers?
Take the Malaysian Horned Leaf Frog, for example, it features two protruding horns from its head as well as its snout, but these features are not made from bone.
What Animals Have Horns or Antlers?
Let’s get into the list of some of the fascinating horned animals or animals with antlers so you can better identify them.
1. Texas Longhorn
The history of the Texas Longhorn starts in North America over 500 years ago. They have occupied many places around the world, including the Great Plains, specifically the Dakotas, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Montana.
Texas Longhorns can get as heavy as 1500 pounds and feature horns that can be up to four feet, although many are smaller.
You’ll find that they have many attractive characteristics, including being disease resistant, so they are popular farm animals. After they have outlived their use for providing beef, many pay large sums for their skulls and horns. Farmers can make a substantial sum by selling these fixtures as they are a part of quintessential southwestern decor.
The most useful aspect of their horns is for ranchers and farmers, as you can easily hold the animal’s head. Horns also offer protection against predators. Another breed that is naturally horned is Limousin cattle.
2. Boer Goat Antlers
It’s easy to spot a Boer goat on a farm. Their contrasting red head on their white body sets them apart. You’ll also find their ears are unusually large, often more significant than their horns. These goats were first brought to North America in 1994 from both New Zealand and Australia, becoming one of the most popular breeds to consider.
The high fertility and fast growth rate of boer goats are just two of the reasons for their popularity. Their meat is also quite notable, although they make fantastic family-friendly pets.
Compared to many other goat breeds, Boers are more laid back and docile, making them great for children. Others to consider are Nigerian dwarf goats.
The horns of this species are also quite small, which makes them less of a risk if you want docile farm animals.
3. Alpine Goat
Another unique breed of goat that is great for domesticated farms is Alpine Goat. This breed was originally brought to North America from France, and they have a substantial production amount compared to other species.
You’ll also find their coats come in many colors, including piebald, brown, gray, fawn, red, and black.
On average, Alpine goat females will be no larger than 135 pounds while the males can get as large as 170 pounds. You’ll be particularly impressed with their phenomenal milk production if you have female Alpine goats.
Overall, they’re a fantastic choice for farms since they thrive in several climates and maintain high levels of production.
Similar to Boer goats, you’ll find Alpines have smaller horns compared to many other wild animals. They likely won’t pose a threat to you or any other animals on the farm.
4. Highland Cattle
Highland cattle aren’t nearly as large as Texas Longhorns, as fully mature bulls can only get up to 800 pounds. One of the most exciting features of this species is that it is the oldest registered breed in the world. Also, they can be used for beef production but also produce a small amount of milk with high butterfat content.
The distinctive horns on Highland cattle make them easy to tell apart from other livestock breeds.
Scottish Highland cattle prove to be quite useful to animals during the winter. They use their horns to forage through snowy climates by digging into the pastures. However, farmers may find it quite challenging to manage if they keep them close to other farm animals on their property.
5. Jacob Sheep
Jacob Sheep will have a unique black and white coat that can be thick and burly. Their horns are quite notable as well. They will likely have four of them compared to other animals who have only two.
Interestingly enough, there are many Jacob sheep who have six horns, which is an incredible evolutionary feat.
Their horns are small and curved, and both male and female sheep will have them, with the male’s horns being far more formidable. On average, they can get up to 120 pounds, while rams can be as large as 180 pounds.
This species was first brought to North America in the middle of the 1900s and is quite popular among weavers, hand spinners, and flock holders.
6. Manx Loaghtan
You can easily spot Manx Loaghtan if you visit the Isle of Man of Great Britain’s coast. They are similar to the Hebridean sheep, as discussed below, but they are more massive. With a beautiful coat that is a mixture of chocolate and pale browns, they’re quite noticeable.
Most of the Manx Loaghtan you will come across will have four horns, but there are plenty with two. Similar to the Jacob sheep, some varieties may have up to six horns, with both ewes and males having them.
You can typically tell the genders apart as the males will have more substantial and robust horns than the females. An interesting fact about Manx Loaghtan is that their meat is protected by European law, as it is a delicacy.
7. Hebridean Sheep
Another fascinating multi-horned species of farm animals are Hebridean Sheep, who hails from Scotland. As earlier mentioned, they are similar to Manx Loaghtan in that their horns are very alike in appearance.
You can easily find four-horned rams, while others may have two or six. Hebridean sheep are a fantastic investment for hand spinners searching for fleece with subtle variations in shades.
They are also highly recommended for conservation grazing for maintaining grasslands and heathlands. Farmers will also appreciate this species of sheep for their meat, as it is incredibly delicious.
The dark meat they provide has a rich and supple texture that is perfect for those looking for a delicious meal. As an added benefit, it has lower fat content than other types of meat, which lowers its cholesterol.
Also, they’re often the only choice for low-input farming located in harsh environments, as they’re ideal for land management.
Another sheep with horns is Ramouillet sheep.
Animals With Antlers
Like horned animals, there is an extensive list of species with antlers. Many are easily accessible around the world.
1. Elk Antlers
Easily identifiable in North America, there are four species of Elk that you can find, including Tule, Manitoban, Roosevelt, and Rocky Mountain.
The antlers on an elk can grow up to one inch each day, making it the fastest growing animal tissue in the world. Unlike many others, elk use their antlers primarily when mating season is around the corner.
You’ll find that in the fall, bulls will spar using their elk antlers to find the appropriate female elk, also known as cows, to mate with.
You can also use their antlers as an indicator of their abilities and health. Those with the most massive antlers are known to be the strongest and will have the most energy.
2. Deer Antlers
Deer is a rather large group of animals as it encompasses 50 species, including Caribou, Elk, Moose, Wapiti, and Muntjacs. You can find deer in an assortment of sizes and weights, with the smallest species being the Southern Pudu. It weighs only 20 pounds when fully grown.
Some species are so family-friendly and calm that they would make the perfect animal therapy companions, primarily as they can be domesticated for some farms.
Similar to elk and other species, deer will commonly use their antlers when it comes time to rut by rubbing them against trees to assert their dominance.
They will also use them to draw males to the area so they can begin sparring to find the most appropriate mate.
Their antlers can also be used as a defense mechanism from predators in their environments.
FAQs About Horned Animals
1. Do female animals have horns?
In some circles, there appears to be a debate that only male hoofed animals have horns. In reality, some female animals have horns for similar reasons to their male counterparts.
Female hoofed animals that can’t hide in cover at any given moment and are responsible for defending territory, such as feeding grounds, will have horns compared to those who don’t have those responsibilities.
Biologist Ted Stankowich has determined that there are up to 82 species of female bovids that have horns.
2. Which animals have horns?
There is an incredible number of horned animals, including the following:
- Bighorn Sheep
3. What animals have small antlers?
The vast majority of animals that have horns will have large ones, as they are typically used for establishing their dominance. Imagine if animals had small horns. Their sparring wouldn’t be able to attract females come mating season, nor would it be an impressive show of superiority.
Most often, animals will have smaller horns when they are younger; they grow more significant over time.
4. What animal has straight horns?
The most distinctive animal with straight horns is undoubtedly the Oryx. They rarely have a curve to their length and stick out straight from the back of the skull-like sharp sticks.
Importance of Antlers and Horns
From the Great Kudu to Caribou, animals with antlers and horns rely on them to assist with crucial tasks, such as defending themselves. Although the two differ significantly in how they are made from their hosts’ bodies, they are equally as essential to any two species you could compare.
It’s also important to note that the importance of antlers and horns can put the species in danger. Many civilizations believe they can be used for medicinal purposes. Generally, the larger an animal’s horns or antlers, the more medicinal power they are expected to have, which isn’t always the case.
Conservation for animals with horns is essential, as many are beginning to decline in areas around the world, threatening their existence.
Is Shed Hunting Illegal?
As is the case with any outdoor activity, it’s so important to follow all laws and regulations in place when it comes to shed collecting. Generally, shed collecting is fully legal in the United States with one big exception. West Virginia is currently the only state where shed collection is illegal. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources makes it clear that both removal and possession of shed elk antlers are prohibited by West Virginia State Code.
Of course, the illegal nature of antler searching in West Virginia is based on a technicality because you can keep antlers belonging to wildlife that you’ve legally killed. The big difference is that the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources considers “found” antlers to be part of nature.
Yes, you’re generally in the clear as long as you’re collecting antlers outside of West Virginia. However, various states and parks have measures in place that limit where and when you can collect antlers. It is essential to pay attention to any state rules that may be in place regarding the specifics of how, when and where you’re able to legally searching for horns in order to help local preservation efforts. Here’s a rundown of some states that have pretty specific rules in place regarding searching horns:
- Colorado forbids shed collecting from Jan. 1 to April 30 in any area west of the state’s I-25. Restrictions to protect wildlife in the Gunnison Basin were introduced in 2018.
- Wyoming forbids shed collecting from Jan. 1 to April 30 on public lands west of the Continental Divide.
- Shed collecting is forbidden in Montana Wilderness Management Areas until May 15 or June 1.
- Nevada forbids shed collecting in the counties of Elko, Eureka, Lander, Lincoln, Nye and White Pine from Jan. 1 through April 30.
- Utah requires you to have a permit for antlers gathered from Feb. 1 through April 15.
Laws and permit requirements for shed gathering are always changing. It’s important to check with local wildlife agencies before getting into the wild in search of antlers in a specific state, region or park! Luckily, states that do require certificates and permits generally offer them for free through a very easy process.
What Do You Need for Hunting Horns?
You don’t technically need any special tools or equipment to hunt for antlers that are organically positioned in nature. However, having the right equipment certainly can make your shed-hunting adventures more fruitful and enjoyable! Let’s cover the shed-hunting essentials!
First, a great pair of sturdy boots is probably the most important asset for successful shed collecting. You want great boots that can really tear into the terrain without worries of slips and falls. Shed collecting can take you everywhere from muddy to snowy terrains. Having the right boots will enable you to be bold about getting into spaces where antlers are tucked away or buried.
Binoculars are essential for saving time when shed collecting. Good optics allow you to distinguish real antlers from other objects that can easily be mistaken for antlers. As a result, you’ll potentially save yourself from covering miles you don’t need to cover.
Trustworthy Weather App
It’s so important to stay two steps ahead of the weather when you’re out in a wildness area. This is especially true if you’re covering an area where the weather is known to turn violent or severe at the drop of a hat. Knowing what’s coming in the minutes or hours ahead allows you to make more informed decisions regarding when you should stop or keep going.
Good Topographical Map
It’s also a good idea to hunt down a good topographical map when you’re looking for a weather app. Plotting ahead of time using a map may help you to cover routes that are more likely to have antlers because you can anticipate where bucks might tread in search of food or shelter. In addition, you’ll be able to let others know about your route ahead of time to ensure a safer searching scenario.
The bottom line on gear is that being able to pack light can feel like a breath of fresh air for people who are used to lugging around traditional gear on journeys. However, it’s still so important to ensure that your safety, warmth and comfort are being taken into consideration. Lastly, don’t forget that it’s important to have a special pack for comfortably transporting any antlers that you find!
When Should I Go Shed Hunting?
Prime shed-hunting season typically lasts from February through March. The period for elk specifically lasts from March through April. Some states have restrictions in place that require you to wait until much later in the spring. Of course, post-season scouting does provide plenty of opportunities to pick up some antlers.
Where Is the Best Place to Find Elk Horns?
Antlers are commonly dropped at bedding areas. This means thickets, timber pockets and areas with tall grass when we’re talking about big game like elk. Feeding areas can also be hot spots for hunting elk horns. This can include fields, orchards, oak ridges and ravine heads.
Generally, lower feeding spots that are shielded by winds tend to be favored by large game. One of the biggest advantages when searching for elk horns is to become familiar with the travel routes of elk in the area where you’re searching. Being able to follow along the same paths as elk will cut down your searching for finding elk horns time significantly in most cases.
You’ll obviously want to focus on searching for elk horns in states with abundant elk populations. Currently, Colorado has the largest elk population in the United States. In addition, the states of Arizona, Utah, Montana, New Mexico and Nevada are home to relatively robust elk populations. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, elk can currently be found in at least portions of more than 20 states.