Do Cows Have Horns? 7 Facts to Know

Cow horns are the most discussed organ of the cattle as they are fascinating and disturbing at the same time. These horns are no less than a weapon for the cows. They use it to fight fellow herd members and occasionally their owners.

What you read about cow horns online can often be misleading, so, you end up with wrong information about whether cows have horns and their purpose. 

In most species, horns are attributed as male characteristics, which begs the question do female cows have horns? You may have observed that a group of cows in field settings have no horns and in another group, you could see horned cows. So, it leaves the onlooker confused as to which one to believe. 

Do Cows have horns? Are they naturally born with it? Why do some cows have horns but others do not? And why do cows have horns? Well, most cow lovers and owners are curious to know more about the cow horns, well, read on for some valuable information.

Do Cows Have Horns?

Horns are not attributed to bulls only rather it is a genetic characteristic for both male and female cows to have horns. Horns in female cows are comparatively smaller than the bulls.

Most cow breeds have horns, however, a handful of selectively bred breeds do not grow horns at all. 

On the basis of whether cows have horns or not, they are divided into three categories

  • Horned – As the name implies, it includes all cows with horns.
  • Naturally Polled – This includes cows born without horns.
  • Genetically Polled – Due to human intervention and selective breeding, these cows have no horns.

Do Female Cows Have Horns?

Horns on cows is not a gender attribute that only bulls can have. Both male and female cows have horns, however, it is the stereotypical image that makes people believe otherwise.

In horned cattle breeds, all male and female cows are naturally born with horns that grow to be bigger with age. 

Do Dairy Cows Have Horns?

Most dairy cow breeds are naturally born with horns with the exception of a few breeds. For safety reasons and comfort of the cows, they are removed at a young age. It is important to remove the horns of a dairy cow, so, that they can not harm the calf.

Do Baby Cows Have Horns?

Horns start to appear and grow within a few days after the birth. According to the University of Adelaide, Little calves are not born with horns but they start to become visible after a couple of weeks. You will first observe small bumps on the calf’s head where the horns will soon begin to grow. 

The horns will become completely fused with the skull after about two months which makes the disbudding process extremely difficult and painful. If the farmer intends to remove the horns, it should be done in the first few weeks before the horns fuse. 

cow-horns

Why Do Some Cows Have Horns But Others Do Not?

Besides a few breeds, all cows have horns but they are often removed when the calf is young. The process is referred to as disbudding when farmers remove the horns to prevent injuries. Cows can be quite aggressive and with horns, they can cause a lot of destruction.  

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Why Do Cows Have Horns?

Now that you know that most cattle breeds have horns, the next important question would be why do cows have horns? Well, they are not just there for no reason instead have a number of uses.

They are more important than you believe and not just there for the beauty.

Self-Defense

Cow horns are inherited from their buffalo ancestors. Back in the day, it was a vital weapon to defend themselves against predators.

Modern domesticated cows do not have to deal with predators, so, they are often removed at an early age. Cows can be defenseless and an easy target without horns.

Communication

Cows use horns to interact and communicate with their fellow herd members. They use it to establish a social pecking order and fight for access to the best females and foraging grounds.

Temperature Regulation

Cow horns are full of soft tissues and linked to the sinuses. Like ear lobes in human beings, they provide thermal regulation. When cows overheat, during summer, more blood is pumped into the horn to make them cooler faster. 

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Why Some Cow Breeds Do Not Have Horns?

There are some rare cow breeds that do not grow horns at all. Here’s why

Selective Breeding

Even in horned cattle breeds, some cows are born with a genetic mutation resulting in a polled cow. This could be life-threatening in the wild, however, it is a desirable mutation in farmed livestock.

Due to selective breeding, some cows do not have horns. Descendants of the naturally polled cows are also hornless.

Disbudding

The cow is dehorned when the horns are still in a development phase, usually after the first few weeks.

It is undoubtedly a painful process and is usually carried out with anesthetics and painkillers. It is done so to improve the safety of the farmworkers and animals as well as for the cow’s comfort.

Dehorned cows do not pose a threat to farmers and other herd members and can easily fit into farm machinery like milking parlors and cattle transport.

Famous Cow Breeds With Horns

Cow horns are found in both gender, however, not all cow breeds grow horns. Some are naturally polled which means they do not have horns. Some of the cows with horns are Guernsey, Holstein-Friesian, Jersey, Santa Gertrudis, Shorthorn, and Ayrshire. 

Putting it all together, cow’s horns are its prized feature and a deadly weapon. With the exception of a few polled and genetically polled breeds, most cows and bulls have horns.

Horned cattle in a field setting can be a threat to farmworkers and other animals.

Therefore, the horns are removed to reduce and prevent the risk of injury. A genetic mutation called polledness prevents some cows from growing horns at all.

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  • Hi, I am Talon Juper, a passionate farmer, and Livestock Expert. I have done my graduation in Agriculture and Animal breeding. Relevant to Farm Desire as a research writer and data recorder.

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