Definitions of Horn


In some of the literature, there is some question regarding the definition of "Horn", in some cases referring to "Cow horns", and in some others, "Deer Horns" and "Buck Horns". Therefore, for the purposes of this document, I will be using the definition of Horn that is more prevalently used in the source material, that is a hard keratinous substance, as opposed to a soft keratinous substance or a bony one, specifically the non-deciduous sheath surrounding a bony core emerging from the forehead of cattle, sheep, goats, antelopes, and similar mammals. Similar substances include claws, nails, hooves, hair and feathers.

The other sort of "Horn" is, more correctly, "Antler", and, as a form of bone, will be dealt with in more detail in the section discussing Bone.

Horn consists of three distinct parts: a short inner bony frame, a membrane and the outer horn. It is the outer horn that is used. This outer portion is made up of little "tubules" or "granules" of keratohyalin imbedded in a solid plastic-like matrix. These tubules are the reason that horn appears to be made of very fine hairs, running lengthwise.

Modern horns are, as a rule, smaller than their historical counterparts. This is due, primarily, to the practices of the Cattle Industry who, through breeding, hormones, and so forth, are ever trying to keep cattle from harming one another, and damaging the product they are producing. There is a further discouragement to horn growth in that horn production takes energy from the animal that might be used in meat production. Therefore, the early dehorning and early slaughter of the animals, which results from this dininclination to grow horns has resulted in far smaller horns for us to work with today.

The origin of horns to be worked needs to be considered as well. As with most things grown on a living being, such as hair, horn's quality will vary with the quality of the animal's care and feeding. Cattle that have poor feeding, for example cattle raised under drought conditions, are more likely to have weak or brittle horns.

Finally, there is a question of species to take into account. Although I work primarily in cattle horns, cattle are by no means the only group of horn-bearing animals that are about.

Buffalo (by which most authors are referring to Water Buffalo) is a very useful sort of horn, being used for manufacturing things, as door handles, gun butts, and other large heavy objects. It is inappropriate to use for lanthorn leaves, as it is too thick and heavy to delaminate properly, and otherwise far too dark for the purpose. Buffalo resembles Cattle Horn greatly, but is generally all black (often with grey tinted ridges), and is far more rectangular than its more common cousin.

Ram's Horn, including Big Horned Sheep, are often used by stick-dressers, shoforot makers, goldclub craftsmen and other similar paraphernalia makers.

Rhinoceros horn is a solid mass of kerotin, with no core, and as such might be well have been an utter joy to carve. However, as this creature is nearly extinct due to hunting it is nearly impossible (as well as of dubious propriety) to obtain.

Cow horn is thicker in nature, while Steer horn is thinner.

While cattle horn can be nearly any color, it is generally a light creamy color, sometimes streaked with white, brown or black patches. Buffalo horn is nearly always entirely black.


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Using and working with Horn - Definitions of Horn. Copyright 1996, 2001 I. Marc Carlson
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