Why Do Deer Shed Their Velvet? Is It Painfull?

By: Mario

The tale of velvet shedding starts deep within the rutting season.

Deer shedding velvet

I’m sure at one point or another we have all marveled at the magnificent male deer’s antlers, right?

They really are an absolute wonder to behold. Well, there’s more to them than you probably know. 

When it comes to rutting, which is essentially mating season, ruts will quite literally butt heads with each other to assert their dominance and decide who will win the doe.

To do this, they need a pretty impressively strong pair of antlers which is why their antlers are so hard during rutting.

So you really don’t want to mess with them at this time.  

But how do they create these super strong antlers, you ask? Thanks to velvet.

The velvet grown on their antlers helps them grow big and strong and then once they are ready it rather gruesomely sheds. 

Want to learn more about this unique process? Then keep reading. 

What Is Deer Velvet? 

So, before we talk about why deer shed their velvet. Let’s take a closer look at what deer velvet actually is. 

Deer velvet is this very soft and slightly fuzzy layer that covers a buck’s antlers.

This only happens once a year for a very short time just before the rutting season begins.

And I must say that it is absolutely stunning to see. However, don’t be fooled by its appealing appearance, it does a whole lot more than just look pretty. 

Did you know that technically speaking, this velvet is actually a super concentrated network of nerves and blood vessels?

Yep! For a while, a lot of people were under the impression that its role was actually a weatherproofing function, but this isn’t true. 

Its actual purpose is much more important.

The velvet acts as a protective layer to keep the antlers, which are continuously becoming harder by the second, nice and safe.

It ensures that each male deer’s antlers reach their ultimate potential so that they have that fighting chance of being victorious and winning that coveted doe. 

Deer antlers are the fastest growing tissue of any mammal in the world and they have this velvet nourishing protective layer to thank.

Want to know just how fast they grow? In just a week deer antlers can reach the same growth level that would take human hair a whole six months

What Is Deer Velvet Shedding? 

Okay, so now that we know a whole lot more about deer velvet, we can move on to the shedding process. 

While we might all adore the look of that soft and silky velvet on antlers, it has to go at some point to make way for those rock-solid antlers that it’s protecting.

And this is done by shedding. 

And let me tell you this much, it is not a pretty sight.

Not by any means. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it is one of the most gruesome and grotesque sights that you’ll see out in nature. 

I mentioned earlier that the velvet was essentially just a coating of nerves and blood vessels, right?

Well, to shed the velvet these blood vessels have to burst or explode. This causes the velvet to fall in red bloody rags from the deer’s antlers. 

Once the deer have shed their velvet ‘skin’ from their antlers, they are then ready to wander out in the wild, compete, and butt head against other males for the prize of a doe.

The mating process can officially begin. 

Let the best man (or deer) win!

How Long Does It Take A Buck To Shed? 

As I mentioned above, deer shedding their velvet isn’t the nicest thing to witness.

It’s actually pretty stomach-churning to see bloody strips of peeling-off velvet hanging from their antlers.

If you do happen to witness it, or even just see a picture, one of your first questions may be how long do they have to go through that? 

And there’s no definitive answer because it’ll vary from buck to buck.

Related: When Do Fawns Lose Their Spots?

Some bucks can be pretty lucky and the whole thing can be over and done within a matter of hours. For some, it’ll take a good few days. 

Once the buck starts to notice the peeling process has begun, they may try to exponentiate the ordeal.

They’ll do this by rubbing their antlers against trees or in some cases they’ll even try to bite and rip the velvet off themselves. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Shedding Velvet Hurt The Deer? 

While it certainly looks like it, you’ll be happy to know it does not cause the deer any pain.

It may be a little uncomfortable or itchy but that’s as bad as it’ll get for them. 

What Time Of Year Do Deer Shed Their Velvet? 

It’ll usually take place through the later end of August into the early beginning of September.

Why Do Some Deer Not Lose Their Velvet? 

There are some cases where certain whitetail bucks will not shed their velvet. This is usually due to a birth defect called Cryptorchidism.  

Final Thoughts

So, why do deer shed their velvet? They shed their velvet so that they can expose the strong and powerful antlers that the velvet has helped to grow.

And they do this so that they can fight amongst other bucks to compete for does during the mating season. 

But we’ve also learned so much more about the process along the way too.

We know that deer velvet is essentially a layer of nerves and blood vessels that feed nutrition to the antlers and also protect them as they are growing.

We’ve also learned that it’s the fastest-growing tissue of any mammal on the planet! 

We’ve also learned about the gruesome way in which these blood vessels essentially explode to start peeling away the velvet which hangs in bloody strips from their antlers.

And we’ve also learned about just how long it takes for this process to be over. 

That’s quite a lot to have learned together!

You should now know absolutely everything there is to know about deer velvet shedding – you’re basically a pro!