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What a Reindeer Looks Like Without His Antlers
Trainee hoofstock keeper Marc Enderby holds up the antlers shed by male reindeer Lenni at Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park.
Credit: Edinburgh Zoo

Each year after the breeding season ends, male reindeer shed their impressive, branching antlers that they grow. Lenni, the six-year-old European forest reindeer at Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park, shed quite a set of antlers this year.

Lenni's antlers weighed in at a combined 23 pounds (10.5 kilograms), about the same as a 1-year-old child, the park noted in a release. Each antler was 37 inches (94 centimeters) tall and 31.5 inches (80 cm) wide.

"The shed antlers are quite striking and are the largest ones from the three males in the Park this year," said Douglas Richardson, the park's animal collection manager.

Male reindeer, called bulls, grow their antlers each year from bony stubs on their heads called pedicles. The antlers are made of bone covered by a furry skin, called velvet, that has blood vessels that provide oxygen to the growing bone.

Antlers can grow up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) a day. When they are fully grown, they shed the velvety skin, revealing the bone beneath, according to the statement.

Antlers grow bigger each year as a bull matures, though their size can also depend on the health of the animal. The antlers signal the male's robustness to prospective mates.

Bulls use their antlers to fight each other during the breeding season.

"They are a sign of maturity and strength," Richardson said in the statement.

Lenni is part of a breeding program for his species, which is the only forest reindeer in the United Kingdom, the park statement said.

This story was provided by OurAmazingPlanet, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook and Google+.