The female Red Deer is called a ‘Hind’ and the young are called ‘calves’. The male Red Deer is known as the ‘Stag’. The Stag has antlers, but they don’t start to branch out until the third year.
In its first year a male calf begins to develop two ‘pedicles’ on the top of its head. Antlers eventually grow from these pedicles. The first pair of antlers of the male calf takes the form of two small knobs (or buttons). The knobs fall off and the first pair of ‘real’ antlers begins to grow.
This first pair of ‘real’ antlers only has single spikes which are about ten centimetres long. They fall off and are replaced in the third year by a set of antlers which branch off into three or four points. Antlers continue to grow in length, weight and points.
Stags shed their antlers in April or May and new antlers start to grow within a week. Antlers can grow up to two and half centimetres a day. When new antlers begin to emerge, they are covered in ‘velvet’. The velvet looks like a thin layer of furry skin. It carries the blood vessels and nerves when the antlers are growing. The antlers are very sensitive during this stage so Stags try to avoid fighting each other with their antlers. Instead they ‘box’ each other by using their front feet!
Antlers reach their full-grown size within three months and then the velvet begins to shed. Sometimes it doesn’t shed, but hangs in strips from the antlers. To get rid of the velvet, Stags rub their antlers against trees. This action is called ‘fraying’.