There is nothing like the magnificent sight of a herd of cattle grazing peacefully in a field of lush grass. It is way too easy to take these beautiful bovines for granted without taking a second glance. But look closely. Look at their horns! Do all cows have horns? Or is it just certain types or breeds of cattle that have horns?
In this cow and cattle guide, we’ll answer that question and dive much deeper into the world of horned cattle. And hornless cattle!
- Do Cows Have Horns?
- 5 Cows With No Horns
- Conclusion – Do Cows Have Horns? Or Not?!
Do Cows Have Horns?
Yes. But not always! Both male and female cows can have horns, but not all dairy or beef cows have horns. Some cows have their horns removed when they are young to prevent them from injuring other cows. Other cows get naturally polled. In other words, they are a breed that does not have horns.
Do All Cows Grow Horns?
All cows can potentially grow horns unless specifically bred not to have them.
The size and shape of cow horns will vary widely, and on some breeds of cattle, they are so small that you barely notice them!
Other breeds of cattle, such as the magnificent Highland Cow, have such tremendously-sized horns that they protrude more than twice the width of the cow’s head.
Why Do Some Cows Have Horns and Some Don’t?
There are two reasons why some cows have horns and others don’t. While horns are a natural part of the animal, cows with large horns can be troublesome for the farmer. A prominent set of horns can injure other cows in the herd, or the cow may injure itself if it catches the horns on a fence or gate.
The potential for injury means that farmers tend to prefer cows without horns. Traditionally cattle horns were removed when they were young – a process called disbudding.
However, recent genetic advances mean that certain types of cows can get bred that are born without horns at all. Cattle getting born without horns is achieved by selecting hornless bulls and crossing them with female cows, resulting in a high chance that the offspring will also not have horns.
Do Female Cattle Have Horns or Just Bulls?
A commonly held misconception is that cattle with horns are always bulls, and female cows don’t have horns. However, whether a cow is male or female does not determine whether it will have horns.
So you could get a bull or a cow with or without horns, as gender is immaterial here!
What Are Cows Called With Horns?
When cows have horns, they get referred to as horned cattle. Cows that have had their horns removed are then known as dehorned cattle.
Cows that are born without any horns at all are called polled cattle. These hornless cows occur because of a selective breeding program that pairs naturally hornless bulls with breeding cows. The result? Polled calves.
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Do Cows Have Horns When They Are Born?
If a cow is a breed or type that naturally has horns, it will not be born with horns. Think about it – it would be shockingly painful for the momma cow if she had to give birth to a baby with horns!
The horns of a cow start to develop when the calf is around three months old and can take several years to reach its full size.
How Do You Tell if a Calf Will Have Horns?
Genetically, it can be relatively easy to tell if a calf will likely have horns depending on its parents. This determination has led to an increase in polled cattle breeds, which many farmers prefer to the unpleasant task of dehorning.
The gene in cows with horns is recessive and can get overridden by the dominant gene that creates a polled cow. Breeders tend to use a bull that is homozygous for the polled condition. This breeding process produces two copies of the polled gene and results in polled calves even if the cows it gets bred with are horned.
Once a calf has been born, a close examination will tell you if it will have horns. Calves with horns will get born with two little bumps on their heads called horn buds. These fuse to the calf’s skull during the first three months of life and then grow into horns.
Why Are Cow Horns Removed?
Horned cows will often have their horns removed for safety reasons. The least painful way to do this is to remove the horn buds when the calf is young. Dehorning the cow at a later stage is more painful and carries higher risks.
Cows are large animals, and those with horns come with two potential weapons attached to their heads! They often do not mean to cause harm but can accidentally bruise or lacerate other cattle or their human caretakers with their horns.
Another problem with horns is that they can become damaged if the cow catches them on fencing. A broken or damaged horn can result in a severe hemorrhage. Or infection.
5 Cows With No Horns
Removing the horn buds from a calf is a traditional practice that many modern-day farmers try to avoid. While sometimes it is not a problem to rear cows with horns, another popular option is to select a naturally-polled cow breed instead.
Here are some of our favorite polled cattle breeds!
1. Belted Galloway
The Belted Galloway cow originates from Galloway in southwest Scotland. This polled cow is ideally adapted to living on upland pastures and windswept moorlands and gets prized for its high-quality beef. However, the feature it is most famous for is the distinctive white belt around its dark-colored body – leading to it getting called the Oreo Cow!
2. Murray Grey
This Australian polled cattle breed originates from the Murray River valley bordering Victoria and New South Wales. It is renowned for its ability to produce large quantities of milk, even in harsher environments.
3. Red Poll
The Red Poll is a dual-purpose cow that produces reasonable amounts of milk. Red Polls also offer good quality beef suckler calves. Red Polls were one of the first naturally-polled cattle breeds, originating in England over 150 years ago.
Angus is one of the most popular beef cattle on the planet. They originate from Scotland and are also famously polled – so they don’t have horns. They’re known for their black coat, thick body, and excellent meat. They got introduced to America in 1873 and have since been a favored meat breed.
5. Lowline Cattle
Lowline cattle are a polled beef breed hailing from Australia. You’ll notice that they always lack horns. They’re usually black or red and sometimes have white spots around their undersides. They’re famous for their short (yet well-proportioned) statures and excellent temperaments.
Here’s our momma, Pancake, with her baby, Syrup. Lowline cattle were the best choice for us. Not only are they the perfect size for the smaller homestead, they are also hardy and self-sufficient. They remain fat without hard feed, are exceptional mommas, and their friendliness is second-to-none.
Another consideration for us is the excellent quality of the meat – probably due to their calmness and bone-to-meat ratio. They also experience little problems when giving birth – another major plus!
Conclusion – Do Cows Have Horns? Or Not?!
As you can see, determining if cows have horns is more complex than most people realize! Some cows have horns, others get theirs removed, and polled cows are born with no horns!
A cow with horns can be a beautiful and majestic sight, and many of us are fans of horned cattle. However, choosing to keep cows with horns is not a decision that should get taken lightly, and for many homesteaders, a polled cow would be a safer and more trouble-free option.