Antler is shed every year, whereas horn is permanent growth that the animals retain throughout their life-span. Moose begin to lose their antlers about the first week in December.
After losing the antler, moose immediately begin to grow new antler, which can grow one inch per day. While the antler grows it is covered with a short hair called velvet. In this stage the antler is used for its primary purpose, a radiator system, not defense. Like the fins on a motor, the antler tines and short hairs enhance the cooling effect. Because of the animal’s heavy dark hair they must have a method of losing heat. By circulating body fluids through the antlers, heat is lost and an even body temperature is maintained. While circulating fluids, the antler fills up with sediment in the form of calcium and limestone making it solid like ivory and ideal for carving.
As fall approaches and temperatures cool, the velvet is scraped off by rubbing the antler on trees and willows. Then the antler is full of sediment, covered with pitch, and used in bull fights during the rut to compete for the cows.
The cured fall grasses provide the highest mineral content to the animals diet and help an abscission layer form on their head, like on a leaf. The antlers fall off, like a leaf, allowing the animal to conserve heat and energy.