Do Female Caribou Have Antlers (Finally Explained!)

Do Female Caribou Have Antlers

Have you ever asked yourself or your friend if female Caribou has antlers? Well, you are at the perfect place to find the answer to such a question.

If you have spotted some Caribou, you might be trying to distinguish the males from the female. When it comes to Caribou, this task can be terribly hard.

Whereas you can typically distinguish males from females by the antlers in other deer species, this doesn’t work for Caribou.

So, do female caribou have antlers? Yes, caribou are the only deer species where both males and females can have antlers. Some females never end up growing antlers, and the ones that do always have antlers smaller than the males.

Keep reading to learn more about female caribou and their antlers. We also explain how to tell the difference between male and female Caribou.

Do Female Caribou Have Antlers?

Identifying male deer from female deer is normally very easy. If the specimen has antlers, it is a male. In comparison, deer without antlers are almost always females. Although this trick works for most deer, it does not work for Caribou.

Caribou are the only deer species where both the male and females can have antlers. Male and female Reindeers, the domesticated form of Caribou, have antlers too.

So, you cannot determine the sex of a Caribou or Reindeer just by looking at the antlers.

Not All Caribou Have Antlers

That being said, not all females end up growing antlers, but many do. It’s not necessarily abnormal to see a female without antlers. Females without antlers are mainly found in areas where food is scarce.

The reason for this is that growing horns expends a lot of energy. If the Caribou does not have a good food source, it won’t grow antlers as a result.

Female vs Male Caribou Antlers

Even so, it’s much more common for females to have antlers, though their antlers are way smaller than the males.

For example, a male’s antlers can be as long as 51 inches. In comparison, female antlers normally only reach 20 inches at most. This is a huge difference in size.

Keep in mind that antlers fall off every year and then grow back. Female Caribou will have their antlers all the way through the winter, and they won’t fall off until the beginning of spring.

Male Caribou end up losing their antlers before winter.

Why Do Female Caribou Have Antlers?

Because most female deer do not have antlers, it’s very interesting that Caribou are the only species that do. Although we can’t know for certain why female Caribou grow antlers when other deer don’t, scientists have some hunches.

Most experts believe female Caribou have antlers so that they can find food in small patches of snow. For female Caribou specifically, their antlers grow all throughout the winter and stay until the spring.

This allows them to forage for food while they are pregnant during the winter.

Of course, male Caribou have antlers for the same reason, it helps them to find food. That being said, males have antlers for other reasons. Males often use their antlers to fight and attract mates. So, female Caribou have antlers for many of the same reasons males do.

Read also: What Are The Names of Santa’s 12 Reindeers? (Answered!)

How Can You Tell The Difference Between Female And Male Caribou?

Because you can’t tell the sex of a Caribou just by looking at antlers, you have to know what else to look for instead.

Here are 4 characteristics you can look for in Caribou to help determine if you are dealing with a male or a female:


Although you cannot sex a Caribou based on the existence of antlers, you can sex the individual based on the size of antlers. If the antlers are ginormous, you are almost guaranteed to be looking at a male. As we learned above, female antlers are at least half the size of a male’s antlers.

You can also pay attention to the season. Most male Caribou will lose their antlers in the winter, but females keep them until the spring. If it’s late in the winter and the Caribou still has antlers, it is a female.

Obviously, thinking about the season doesn’t work if it’s a season when both sexes have their antlers, such as fall.


You can look at the size of the Caribou too. Just like with most other animals, male Caribou are a lot bigger than females.

Mails often weigh between 275 pounds and 660 pounds. Females are a lot smaller, typically weighing between 50 pounds and 300 pounds.

Looking at the size might not be as helpful if the Caribou are young and not their full size. However, a full-grown male standing next to a female is normally easy to distinguish because of the vast difference in size.


During the reproductive season, males will undergo bodily changes to help increase their chances of finding a mate. Long hairs will start growing below their necks, and their bellies will be inward slightly. Their necks will even become larger and broader.

These changes can mostly be seen between October and November.


There are a few behaviors you can look out for. If you ever see one Caribou chasing another, it’s most likely a male chasing a female.

This mainly happens during the mating season. Likewise, male Caribou beat their antlers against shrubs to try to attract females.


Unlike most other deer species, female Caribou have antlers just like males, but remember some individuals might not have antlers.

Females in areas with little access to food, for example, might not grow antlers due to lack of nutrition.

Even though both males and females have antlers, their antlers aren’t identical. Female antlers are a lot smaller, but they stay on the female for a lot longer.

Whereas male antlers fall off before winter, female antlers often stay until spring so that the pregnant female can get enough food through her pregnancy.

Due to the fact that both males and females have antlers, you cannot sex Caribou based on the existence of antlers.

You can look at the size and season of the antlers. You can also look at the size, bodies, and behaviors of the Caribou to determine its sex



Lindsey graduated with an MBA in 2009. Since then, Lindsey has worked in the retail and consumer service industry as a manager, advisor, and marketer. Lindsey is also the head writer and Co-founder of Lindsey is based in Morgantown, West Virginia.

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