Have you ever seen a cow in a field and wondered why some have horns and some don’t? Or why, if they do have horns, they’re always different sizes? And what’s with the whole “horned” or “polled” designation anyway? Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of bovine horns to learn a little more about these impressive appendages.
Do Female Cows Have Horns?
In short, the answer is yes. Female cows are like their male counterparts and have horns. However, some breeds of cows, like Holstein, typically have their horns removed when they’re young to prevent injury to other cows or farmers during milking. It’s a common practice in the industry. But, it’s worth noting that not all cow breeds have naturally occurring horns. For example, a few breeds like the polled herefords lack horns. It’s just as well, as some owners prefer cattle without horns to avoid any potential danger and injury.
Horns in cows are an essential physical asset, and they serve a variety of purposes. They can help the cow protect themselves against predators and establish a hierarchal system within the herd. This system determines which cows have the rights to specific grazing areas and who mates with whom. During mating season, males use their horns to compete for dominance over the cow’s social groups, which in turn allows them to mate with partners.
Some breeds of cows are called “dairy breeds,” and they’re bred specifically for their milk products. It’s common for cows in these breeds to have their horns removed to protect workers during the milking process. Removing cow horns is a specific technique called “dehorning,” and it’s performed to remove the horn-producing tissue from under the cow’s skin to prevent further horn growth.
Cows that undergo dehorning can feel discomfort and even pain in the localized area after the procedure. As a result, some farmers prefer to “disbud” (removal of horn buds before the horns grow large) during the cow’s first two weeks, which is a less painful and easier alternative process.
Do All Cows Have Horns?
The short answer is no, not all cows have horns. In fact, it’s estimated that around 30% of cows worldwide are hornless. However, the vast majority of dairy cows in the United States are hornless. Why? Well, there are a few reasons.
First of all, horns can be dangerous—both for the cows and for the people handling them. They can get caught on things and cause injury, so many farmers opt to dehorn their cattle for safety reasons. Dairy cows also tend to be confined to smaller spaces than beef cows, so dehorning helps prevent them from injuring each other. Additionally, it’s much easier to milk a cow that doesn’t have horns getting in the way.
So, How Do Cows Grow Horns?
Horns are made of bone, keratin, and other proteins. They grow from bony cores that protrude from the forehead—one on each side of the head just above the eyes. Calves are born without these bony cores, but they typically start to grow within the first few weeks of life as cartilage is replaced by bone tissue. By around 6-12 months old, most cattle will have fully developed horns.
Are There Any Benefits to Having Horns?
Some people believe that horns contribute to better airflow around the head and help regulate body temperature—sort of like an innate cooling system. Others believe that they play a role in communication, helping cows signal their dominance or aggression to others in the herd. However, there isn’t any scientific evidence to support either of these claims. For most cattle, horns are simply a fact of life.
So there you have it! Now you know a little bit more about those curious cow horns. next time you see a cow in a field, you can impress your friends and family with your knowledge on this topic!