Stag Antlers - Deer Species of the UK and around the world

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The Red Deer

Red Deer

Where do they come from?   The Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) is distributed throughout Europe, with a British sub-species native to the UK.  Highest population density in Scotland, but also present in the Lake District and other parts of England.

Antler size:   Large and impressive, Red Deer antlers are the kind usually seen in Scottish sporting lodges and country hotels.  The average antler length is between 31” and 34”.  The spread (measured inside the antler beams at the widest place) ranges from 27” to 31” in Scotland and 29” to 34” elsewhere in the UK.

What else should I know?    Red Deer antlers are dark brown, with polished white tips to the tines.  A Royal Stag has 12 points or tines;  an Imperial Stag has 14 points;  and a Monarch has 16 points.  While Red Deer antlers from English parks may be bigger, wild Scottish Red Deer antlers are prized for their place of origin.

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- Jane Doe

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- John Doe

Where can I buy Red Deer antlers?

To see a wide selection of deer antlers for sale, from exotic species right through to impressive Red Deer stag antlers, visit the UK Taxidermy website.

 

More information:

Background information . . .

P1100933-2The Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) is Britain’s largest land mammal.  It has a reddish-brown coat which darkens in winter, and the adult males or stags carry large, highly branched antlers.

Widespread throughout Europe, the Red Deer has several sub-species.  These include Cervus elaphus scoticus, found in Scotland;  Cervus elaphus elaphus in Western Europe; and Cervus elaphus hippelaphus in Eastern Europe.  It is the only native deer species present in Ireland.

A native British species, the Red Deer first migrated here from Europe 11,000 years ago.  Mesolithic people hunted Red Deer for food, using their hides for clothing and their antlers for tools.  As the forests were cleared to make way for agriculture, the Red Deer population became confined to the Scottish Highlands, south-west England, and a few other areas.

Today, the Red Deer is distributed widely across the UK, its population boosted by animals that have escaped from deer parks.  It is a herbivore, grazing on a wide variety of plants such as heather, grasses, shrubs and trees.  The Red Deer’s natural predators – bears and wolves – are extinct from Britain, but vulnerable calves are sometimes killed by eagles and foxes.

Red Deer stags range in weight from 90 to 190 kg, measuring between 107 and 137 cm at the shoulder.  The hinds (females) can weigh between 63 and 120 kg, and measure up to 122 cm at the shoulder. In general, the Red Deer that roam the open mountains of Scotland are smaller in size than those found in lowland parts of England.

The lifespan of a Red Deer can be as long as 18 years, but among young deer there is a high mortality rate, especially in Scotland where many calves are lost shortly after birth or during their first winter.

A Red Deer stag is also known as a hart, an old English word which specifically describes a male Red Deer that is more than five years old.

 

How Red Deer antlers grow . . .

Red Deer have always been prized for their antlers, which are collected by deer stalkers to commemorate a successful day on the mountain.  Traditionally, fine sets of Red Deer antlers are mounted on a shield to decorate the walls of a shooting lodge or country house.

A Red Deer’s antlers start growing in the spring from the age of 10 months, and they are shed or cast when testosterone levels fall in mid-March and April. Each successive year sees the Red Deer stag’s antlers become longer and wider, with more points or ‘tines’.

Antlers are made of bone, and can grow at the rate of an inch per day.  While they are growing, the antlers are covered with ‘velvet’ which is a soft, blood-filled, bone-forming tissue and is very sensitive.  In July, the Red Deer’s antlers have stopped growing and the velvet is shed by rubbing against trees and posts.

 

Technical terms . . .

Each antler grows from an attachment on the skull called a pedicle, which develops in the first year.  The beam is the central stalk or trunk of the antler.  Pearling refers to the antler surface, where small rounded beads or ‘pearls’ sometimes form in parallel lines;  and the burr is the ring around the base of the beam.

Young Red Deer with their first set of short, simple, unbranched antlers are referred to as brockets;  thereafter the antlers continue to grow in length, weight and number of tines until the seventh to the ninth year, when the full classical head of antlers should be developed.

The tines on a Red Deer’s antlers have special names. Working up from the pedicle, these are called the brow, bey, trey, sur-royal and crown, which may consist of a number of tines at the top.  If there are two tines at the top, it’s called a fork;  if there are three or more, it’s called a palm.

A Red Deer stag in his prime may carry up to 16 points on his antlers. The following terms are given to Red Deer antlers to denote the number of tines on the head:

  • Royal Stag – 12 points
  • Monarch – 13 points or more
  • Imperial Stag – 14 points

Red Deer Stag,From the age of about 10 years, the number of tines on a Red Deer stag’s antlers starts to decline, and the animal is considered to be in the stage of ‘going back’. On a managed estate, a Red Deer stag in this condition would be removed through stalking or culling to ensure that a good breeding herd of deer is left on the mountain.

 

 

Choosing Red Deer antlers . . .

Size:   The average antler length for a mature Scottish Red Deer is between 31” and 34”, but antlers as long as 45” have been recorded.  English Red Deer antlers may be some two or three inches longer.

It has been proven that the size and number of tines of Red Deer antlers is influenced by quality of feeding, weather and health;  care should therefore be taken in comparing two sets of antlers from Red Deer of a similar age, especially if one has lived in the Scottish highlands and the other in an English deer park.

Although size is important to some collectors, others prefer a particular origin – for example, the antlers of Scottish Red Deer are highly prized, even though they might be slightly smaller.

Colour:   The colour should be dark brown varying to dark brownish-grey, ideally with white polished tips to the tines.

Source:    You may wish to know how the antlers were obtained. Shed antlers (or cast antlers) have been shed naturally by the deer at the end of the winter season.  Cut antlers are removed from live animals for practical reasons, for example when they are being transported.  If you are looking for antlers with a skull but you would prefer the deer to have died naturally, make sure that you look for the word ‘fatality’ or ‘winter fatality’ in the description.  You can find out more about the different sources of antlers and skull cuts here.

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