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Horns

14 May 2013

There is some confusion among many people about the difference between horns and antlers (Afrikaans: horings and geweie). Antlers are a characteristic of ungulates such as the elk, deer and musk deer and they are normally shed annually to re-grow in the next year. However, the various types of musk deer and the Chinese water deer Hydropotes inermis of China and Korea have tusks instead of antlers, while the muntjac species of the genus Muntiacus have small tusks and small antlers. The Chinese water deer is sometimes known as the vampire deer. However, horns occur in the bovid ungulates such as the antelopes and are permanent structures. They also differ from the horns of the rhinoceroses and giraffes.

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Antlers differ totally from horns in their morphology and origin. An antler grows from a pedicle on the skull. While it is still growing an antler is covered with a highly vascular skin which is known as velvet and has been prized for medicinal use and as a nutritional supplement for more than 2000 years in some Asian countries. The velvet supplies oxygen and nutrients to the growing bone core. The 50 kg or so of calcium that is required for a large antler to grow per year is primarily obtained from the rib cage. Once an antler has grown to its full size, it loses its velvet and the bone dies to become a mature antler. Eventually the antler is shed annually in most but not all cervids but because it is rich in calcium it is gnawed by rodents for it. Except for the red deer Cervus elaphus which also occurs naturally in the extreme north-western part of Africa there are no indigenous ungulates with antlers in Africa... (Become a subscriber for more)

 

References:

Anon 2012. Antler. http://www.//en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Antler&oldid=506989162

Anon 2012. Antelope http://www.libraryindex.com/encyclopedia/pages/covwzngbt9/antelope-horns-antelopes-found.html

Anon 2012. Rhinoceros horn use: fact and fiction. Nature. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/rhinoceros/rhino-horn-use-fact-vs-fiction

Anon 2012. Sign of horns. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=sign_of_the_horns&oldid=514271965

Anon 2012. Horned deity. http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Horned_deity

Davis, E B, K A Brakora and A H Lee 2011. Evolution of ruminant headgear. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2011/06/29/rspb20110938.

article by Prof J du P Bothma

 

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