This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
Every year in March the deer loses its antlers, and fresh ones immediately begin to grow, which exceed in size those that have just been lost. Few persons probably have been able to watch and observe the habits of the animal after it has lost its antlers. It will, therefore, be of interest to examine the accompanying drawings, by Mr. L. Beckmann, one of them showing a deer while shedding its antlers, and the other as the animal appears after losing them. In the first illustration the animal has just lost one of its antlers, and fright and pain cause it to throw its head upward and become disturbed and uneasy. The remaining antler draws down one side of the head and is very inconvenient for the animal. The remaining antler becomes soon detached from its base, and the deer turns--as if ashamed of having lost its ornament and weapon--lowers its head, and sorrowfully moves to the adjoining thicket, where it hides. A friend once observed a deer losing its antlers, but the circumstances were somewhat different. The animal was jumping over a ditch, and as soon as it touched the further bank it jumped high in the air, arched its back, bent its head to one side in the manner of an animal that has been wounded, and then sadly approached the nearest thicket, in the same manner as the artist has represented in the accompanying picture. Both antlers dropped off and fell into the ditch.
Strong antlers are generally found together, but weak ones are lost at intervals of two or three days. A few days after this loss the stumps upon which the antlers rested are covered with a skin, which grows upward very rapidly, and under which the fresh antlers are formed, so that by the end of July the bucks have new and strong antlers, from which they remove the fine hairy covering by rubbing them against young trees. It is peculiar that the huntsman, who knows everything in regard to deer, and has seventy-two signs by which he can tell whether a male or female deer passes through the woods, does not know at what age the deer gets its first antlers and how the antlers indicate the age of the animal. Prof. Altum, in Eberswalde, has given some valuable information in regard to the relation between the age of the deer and the forms of their antlers, but in some respects he has not expressed himself very clearly, and I think that my observations given in addition to his may be of importance. When the animal is a year old--that is, in June--the burrs of the antlers begin to form, and in July the animal has two protuberances of the size of walnuts, from which the first branches of the antlers rise; these branches having the length of a finger only, or being even shorter, as shown at 1, in diagram, on p. 5481. After the second year more branches are formed, which are considerably longer and much rougher at the lower ends than the first. The third pair of antlers is different from its predecessors, inasmuch as it has "roses," that is, annular ridges around the bases of the horn, which latter are now bent in the shape of a crescent. Either the antler has a single branch (Fig. 3, a), or besides the point it has another short end, which is a most rare shape, and is known as a "fork" (Fig. 3, b), or it has two forks (Fig. 3, c). In the following year the antlers take the form shown in Fig. 4, and then follows the antler shown in Fig. 5, a, which generally has "forks" in place of points, and is known as forked antler in contradistinction to the point antler shown in Fig. 5, b, which retains the shape of the antler, Fig. 4, but has additional or intermediate prongs or branches. The huntsmen designate the antlers by the number of ends or points on the two antlers. For instance, Fig. 4 is a six-ender; Fig. 5 shows an eight-ender, etc.; and antlers have been known to have as many as twenty-two ends. If the two antlers do not have the same number of ends the number of ends on the larger antler is multiplied by two and the word "odd" is placed before the word designating the number of ends. For instance, if one antler has three ends and the other four, the antler would be termed an "odd" eight-ender. The sixth antler shown in Fig. 6 is a ten-ender, and appears in two different forms, either with a fork at the upper end, as shown in Fig. 6, a, or with a crown, as shown in Fig. 6, b. In Fig. 7 an antler is shown which the animal carries from its seventh year until the month of March of its eighth year. From that time on the crowns only increase and change. The increase in the number of points is not always as regular as I have described it, for in years when food is scarce and poor the antlers are weak and small, and when food is plentiful and rich the antlers grow exceedingly large, and sometimes skip an entire year's growth.--Karl Brandt, in Leipziger lllustrirte Zeitung.