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Horns on a male Impala
An antlered gazelle and a horned rhinoceros. Art by Marc "Schirm" Schirmeister.

A horn is a pointed projection of skin on the head of various animals consisting of a covering of keratin and other proteins surrounding a core of living bone.

In the wild, horns are most commonly found on ungulates. They are mostly used by males to compete with other males; females often lack horns for this reason.

Horns are commonly made of keratin, a hard natural substance from which fur and claws are also made. Most animals, grow continuously through an animal's life, sometimes in a continuous curve or curl, and are not shed. They also commonly occur in pairs.

Other animals, such as the rhinoceros, possess one or two horns (depending on the species) on the upper surface of the snout. However, these horns are not true horns and lack a bony core and grow back if cut.

Bony horns are rare or unknown in the wild, but are commonly featured on dragons, which may have one or more pairs.

The ear-tufts of owls are sometimes called horns, but these are merely clumps of feathers that happen to be located on the top of the head.

In fursuits, horns are often made out of plastic.

Styles of horns[edit]

  • Straight: a simple, uncurved spike, seen in the unicorn.
  • Curved: a horn with a small curvature in one direction. Seen in gazelles and goats.
  • Curled or Spiral: horns with strong curvature, such that they circle in a helix. Seen in sheep, in which the horns curl round at the sides of the head to provide a hard, curved area to butt with; also in impala, which grow the horns upward and outward in a long spiral.

Hornlike structures[edit]

  • Antlers - A pair of bony, branching growths on the heads of deer. They are structurally dissimilar to horns, but their function is the same. Unlike horns, they are shed every year and regrown completely. The pronghorn is unique in that it has horns, but sheds the horny sheath each year, leaving a bony prong.
  • Tusks - Elongated teeth which resemble horns. The most well-known animal with tusks is the elephant, but it occurs in other animals, including pigs, walruses, some deer, and the narwhal.

See also[edit]

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