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Horns on Horses
 By Winniefield Park   •   13th Nov 2018   •   284 views   •   1 comments


Well, we’ve discussed the possibility of unicorns before, right? We’ve looked at some plausible ideas as to where the idea of a horned horse came from. And, we’ve likely decided that unicorns are a mythological creature. And most of us know that horses don’t have horns, even though their closest non-equid relative is the rhinoceros which has one or two formidable horns growing from the front of their face.

It seems that in the scientific community there is some agreement that the reason horses never evolved with horns is that they didn’t need them. They instead developed long legs and hard hooves and hair-trigger reactions to outrun predators. That makes me wonder why some animals that can run fast—like antelope and wildebeests also have sharp pointy things growing from their head. In fact, many of these horned or antlered animals run faster than horses. But, they also lack the hard hooves and large teeth that horses can use in defense when attacked. So perhaps, everything does balance out. But the bottom line is, horses don’t have horns.

Or do they? Turns out, there is an exception to every rule and the myth of the horned horse, while it may not be a unicorn, may be true. It turns out, throughout history, there have been reports of horses with horns. Alexander the Great’s horse was said to have horns. The horns aren’t necessarily the single twisted ones we attribute to unicorns, but pairs, similar to cattle horns.

In one case, a photo included in a document archived by the American Museum of Natural History, written by an S. Harmsted Chubb, shows the plaster cast of the forehead of a four-year-old Thoroughbred. To each side of the center of the forehead appear to be two ‘bumps’ but they are covered thickly in hair. The author explains these ‘horns’ are about one inch high. And he offers some explanation as to how they developed and it had nothing to do with either evolution or de-evolution. Some suggest that the growths are simply calcium deposits. Others suggest a deformity of the skull.

The ‘horns’ in the article from the AMNH describes ‘horns’ that are really small bumps, but there are other reports of even larger horns. An explorer in South America claims that he was told a horse had horns like a bull, about four inches long and pointed. Another document by physician J.E. Miller of Tennessee describes a filly with 3.5 inch horns just below her ears. In this case, it almost sounds like a dentigerous cyst, but the material it’s made up is described as hoof-like.

Nevertheless, there are horses that seem to carry the inclination to develop these horn-like protuberances from their foreheads, also called ‘bosses’. The Moyle Horse breed, developed by Rex Moyle of Utah, is known as the ‘horned’ horse. The Carthusian Andalusian from Spain, and Datong horse of China also have this trait. There is some speculation that the Moyle horse, which has the American Mustang in its pedigree, may have inherited the trait through Spanish horses. But, whatever the reason, all of these horses have a double protuberance just above the eyes, as if horns were developing beneath.

So there probably are still no unicorns, there may be horned horses. I know I’m going to be looking at horses’ foreheads a lot more closely now.
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