Background: Antlers are lined by soft velvet tissue during antler growth. Later, the velvet is shed before rut onset. There are no detailed histological descriptions of the growing velvet, nor whether the velvet changes according to stag age. Our aims were to: 1) describe the basic histology of pampas deer antler velvet from adult and yearling males; and 2) determine the influence of age and time of antler growth on velvet’s tissues morphometry.
Materials and methods: Samples were collected from 10 stags allocated in two groups, either adult (3–5 years old, n = 5) or yearling males (2 years old, n = 5). The day of antler cast was recorded for each animal. In spring, the stags were anaesthetised and velvet samples were collected from the third tine’s distal end. Samples were described qualitatively and a restricted morphometrical analysis of the antler velvet was performed.
Results: The number of keratinocyte layers and the thicknesses of: total epidermis, corneum, intermediate and basale epidermal strata, total dermis, superficial and deep dermis were determined. Age and days after antler casting positively influenced in conjunction epidermal thickness (p = 0.037), and tended to influence both stratum intermedium (p = 0.076) and stratum corneum (p = 0.1) thicknesses. Age influenced stratum corneum thickness (p = 0.04). The pampas deer antler velvet lacked both sweat glands and arrector pili muscles.
Conclusions: The deep dermis was densely irrigated but displayed abundant and well developed collagen bundles. Both total epidermal and stratum corneum thicknesses related positively to the age of the animals but were not to the time since antler cast.