THEY are a stag’s crowning glory, grown purely to attract females and to fight off other males.
But once the rutting season ends their impressive antlers are shed to allow new ones to grow.
From December each year an army of people across Britain and Europe are mobilised to harvest the antlers from parks and moorland to be fashioned into walking sticks, made into furniture or used in Chinese medicine.
Now a Hampshire company is turning hundreds of thousands of the deer antlers into tasty dog chews and business is booming.
Last month a ‘stag-gering’ eight tons of antlers were prepared and dispatched from a warehouse in Southampton to pet shops across the country, keeping up with the growing demand for the latest pooch chews, called Stagbars.
“We recently had an order for 30,000 bars from Pets at Home – they’re in all their stores now”, said Glenn Campbell, 40, who runs Pure Dog with his wife Deborah, 39.
“It all started nearly two years ago. We’re both passionate dog lovers – we’d looked for ideas and wanted to offer something completely different. We knew antler dog chews were popular in America so we decided to be the first to do them in the UK.”
The couple started the business part-time from home, then left their days jobs as things became increasingly busy.
Glenn said they moved into a 1,800 square feet warehouse four months ago but were already starting to run out of space.
They now employ between five and ten people to meet demand.
The antlers are cut into different sized Stagbars for different sized dogs.
The bars are said to last longer than any other dog chew on the market. They wear down slowly with the grinding action of the dog’s teeth and saliva. Eventually, the dry marrow is exposed as a lovely treat.
Glenn said: “I think they’re so popular because they last a long time, are natural and different.”
He said: “The antlers are mainly from red deer, the small ones are best for making into chews although they do vary. We recently had a giant one that weighed 16 kilos – enough for about ten large chews.”
Glenn said about 25 per cent of the antlers come from Scotland and a small number come from Exmoor, others come from distributors supplying the Asian market and the rest mainly come from Spain and Germany.
Glenn said none of the antlers come from farms or culled animals and they can all be traced to where they were harvested.
“We work alongside DEFRA to meet their stringent regulations,” he said.
Stagbars can be bought from many independent pet shops, Pets at Home, Jolleys Pet Superstores and many vets or online from puredog.co.uk.