Last Updated on March 4, 2022 by Allison Price
We’ve already discussed the possibility that unicorns exist. There are many plausible explanations for why the idea of a horse with horns was first proposed. We’ve probably concluded that unicorns are mythological creatures. Most people know that horses don’t have horns despite the fact that their closest non-equid cousin is the rhinoceros, which has one or two formidable hairs on their front.
According to scientists, there seems to be some agreement that horses didn’t evolve with horns because they didn’t need them. Instead, they developed long legs, hard hooves, and hair-trigger reactions in order to outrun predators. It makes me wonder why animals like wildebeests and antelope can run so fast, but also have sharp pointed things growing from the top of their heads. Many of these horned and antlered animals can run faster than horses. They lack the large teeth and hard hooves that horses have to defend themselves against attack. Maybe everything works out in the end. The bottom line is that horses don’t need horns.
They do. It turns out that there are exceptions to every rule. The myth of the horned horses, while not a unicorn, may actually be true. There have been many reports about horses sporting horns throughout history. Alexander the Great’s horse was reported to have horns. These horns are not the single, twisted ones that we attribute to unicorns. They are pairs of horns similar to cattle horns.
One case shows the plaster cast of the forehead of an old four-year-old Thoroughbred. It was taken by S. Harmsted Chubb and included in a document archived at the American Museum of Natural History. The forehead appears to have two bumps, but the hair is thickly covered. These ‘horns’ measure about an inch in height, according to the author. He also explains how they came to be, and that it was not due to evolution or de-evolution. Some believe that the growths could be simply calcium deposits. Some others suggest that the growths are simply calcium deposits.
According to the AMNH, the ‘horns’ described in the article are small bumps. However, there have been other reports of larger horns. According to an explorer from South America, he was told that a horse with horns the size of a bull had four inches in length and pointed horns. J.E. also provided another document. Miller in Tennessee describes a filly that has 3.5-inch horns below her ears. It almost sounds like a dentigerous cyst. However, the material that it is made from is described as hooflike.
However, some horses have horn-like protrusions on their foreheads. These are also known as ‘bosses’. Rex Moyle, a Utah-based breeder of the Moyle Horse, created the “horned” horse. This trait is also found in the Andalusian Carthusian Carthusian of Spain and the Datong horse from China. Some believe that the Moyle horse, which is related to the American Mustang, may have acquired this trait from Spanish horses. Whatever the reason, these horses all have a double protuberance above their eyes that looks like horns are developing underneath.
While unicorns are unlikely to exist, it is possible that there are horned horses. I am going to be paying more attention to horses’ foreheads now that I know.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!