Do Sheep Have Horns

Whether you’ve seen them in person or not, most people are acquainted with the distinct look of a ram’s horns. A random passer-by would almost certainly be able to explain the spiral shape the horns create if you asked them what a ramshorn form looked like.

The truth is, however, that due to the elements that influence every aspect of rams’ horns, their horns are a bit more intricate than you might believe. Sheep have horns, which you may already know, but are they all sheep? Is it just males who are affected? What’s the deal with sheep’s horns?

What Are Sheep?

Sheep have thick, woolly coats and are four-legged mammals. While inquiring about sheep having horns, we normally think of domesticated sheep in the genus Ovis when speaking about sheep.

Sheep have been domesticated since at least 5,000 BC, according to evidence. These creatures are thought to have been domesticated from a wild sheep species and utilized for similar objectives as they are now since the beginning of time.

Sheep vary greatly in appearance. Sheep species may vary in size, weight, and looks. Depending on the species, they may grow to be 46 inches tall and weigh anywhere from 80 to 400 pounds. In both the wild and in captivity, most sheep have a 10 to 12-year lifespan.

Sheep are often perceived to be unintelligent due to their behaviors and numerous common misunderstandings. The reality is, quite the contrary! Sheep are indeed clever creatures who may solve difficulties and form emotional connections with one other.

They can also communicate specific emotions to one another via distinct voice patterns. Who knew about it? Sheep also have a fascinating statistic: not all sheep have horns. As a result, why do some sheep have horns and others don’t?

All About Sheep Horns

Let’s explore how sheep horns develop and grow, as well as a few of their unique qualities.

Hollow horns on sheep. They’re comprised of a bony core and a keratin sheath. The sheep’s skull is fastened to the core. Throughout its life, a sheep’s horns will continue to grow. The first two or three years of an animal’s life are when it grows fastest.

A sheep’s horns are covered in blood. Sheep horns spiral and curl, while goat horns grow straight.

Male sheep horns will always be bigger and more spectacular, even in breeds of sheep where both the male and female have horns.

There is a 25% chance that the offspring will have horns if two animals are polled (do not have horns) and each has one dominant and one recessive horn gene. In order for breeders to create sheep qualities that they want, genetic understanding is critical.

The Genetics of Horns

Three genes control the presence of horns in a given individual. For the polled condition, one gene (P) is dominant. For non-polled, one gene (p) is sex-linked. Both ewes and rams have horns as a result of the third gene (p’). If two polled parents are both heterozygous for horns (Pp), there is a 25% chance that you’ll produce horned offspring.

In the same way, wethers will be hornless like ewes in breeds where only the male is horned, while male sex hormones play an essential part in horn development. Rams have bigger and more noticeable horns than ewes.

A few sheep have more than one horn thanks to rare genetics. The Jacob is the most well-known of all breeds with four horns. The Icelandic and Navajo Churro are two other breeds in which some animals have multiple horns.

Do All Sheep Have Horns?

Horns are not found on all sheep. Sheep’s horns are a fascinating topic because they vary greatly from breed to breed. Only rams in certain breeds have horns, but both males and females in other breeds have horns.

Also, horns or no horns aren’t guaranteed to be present in any given breed or gender of sheep. There are certain sheep breeds in which both males and females lack horns, despite the fact that it isn’t typical. Sheep that have no horns are known as “polled,” whereas sheep with horns are known as “non-polled.”

What Determines if Sheep Will Have Horns?

You need a specific set of genes or a mutation to get a non-polled ewe to maturity. The presence of horns is linked to a number of genes. The first is a polled gene that determines dominance, the second is a sex-linked non-polled gene that determines gender, and the third generates non-polled offspring.

There is a 25% chance that non-polled offspring will result when both the ram and ewe are polled, but only carry the dominant polled gene and sex-linked non-polled gene. Male-linked sex hormones may also have an effect on the size and appearance of sheep’s horns.

Beautiful Horns

A sheep’s horns are hollow, with a keratinous sheath protecting a bony base that is fastened to the brain. The most rapid development occurs during the first two to three years of a sheep’s life, with horns growing throughout the lifetime of the animal.

Blood flows through the living horn of a sheep. It will bleed if it is fractured or severed. The inside of the horn will dry up and become hollow when the sheep dies.

Goats horns grow straight out or up, while sheep horns tend to curl and spiral. Certain rams are raised as “trophy” animals because of their beautiful horns. Knife handles, hair combs, powder horns, and horse bits are all examples of horns used for these purposes.

Why do Some Sheep Have Horns and Others don’t?

On Facebook last week, we invited you to ask us questions about agriculture, food, or Sacrewell. The winner would get a family day pass for February, not only because we’d publish the finest question and answer on our website, but also because they’d win. Anna Mary Overall was the one who asked the February question:

Sheep may or may not have horns, depending on their breed, sex, and genetics. All rams had horns at one time.

Sex and breed

Both sexes are horned in certain sheep breeds. Only the rams of other breeds have horns. A horned and polled (non-horned) strain exists in several sheep breeds.

Since rams have larger, more prominent horns than ewes, particularly in breeds in which only the male is horned, the male sex hormone is also important for horn development. The breed is described as polled or naturally hornless when neither sex has horns. Scurs are what you get when a horn is only half-formed.


Three genes are passed on from parent to offspring, and determine whether a sheep has horns or not. A dominant gene will trump a recessive gene in expressing itself. If a dominant gene is present, this implies that the characteristic it encodes will always be expressed.

Long Horn Sheep

Some of the most commonly seen wild sheep in the United States are long horn sheep, also known as bighorn sheep. The distinct horns of these sheep are one of the reasons they are so renowned. Bighorn sheep are found across North America and are well-known for their ability to climb steep rock faces and cliffs. They prefer hilly terrain.

Big horned sheep aren’t the typical domesticated wooly sheep you’re used to. They’re huge, muscular, and quick. They are substantially bigger than domesticated sheep, with mature males weighing more than 300 pounds.

It’s important to understand that both female and male large horned sheep have horns when we ask about sheep horns. Males’ horns may grow in a half-circle shape and be considerably bigger. The horns may curl around the male’s head since they continue to expand throughout his life.

Horns are also present in female big horned sheep, although they are generally significantly shorter and rounder. Wild sheep that are usually a popular sight for four tourists are big horned sheep. Both the meat and horns of the large horned sheep are highly sought after. Big horned sheep horns are occasionally utilized in religious rites or as decorations.

Jacob Sheep

Both male and female Jacob Sheep have horns, which is a kind of sheep. The black, white, and Jacob sheep is a small animal. Ewes weigh between 80 and 120 pounds, while rams of this breed range from 120 to 180 pounds.

They have black patches or spots on their white base color. Brownish or even lilac colors rather than black may be seen on patches or spots.

The polycerate breed of Jacob sheep exists. Multi-horned animals are ones that have multiple horns. The majority of Jacobs have two or four horns. They might have up to six of them! Rams have significantly larger horns than do females, and their horns tend to be rather angular.

During the middle of the twentieth century, this sheep was introduced to North America. Sheep imported in the previous 30 years are descended from the majority of Jacob Sheep on the continent. Not just small flock owners, but also weavers and hand spinners, prefer Jacob sheep.

The majority of fleece selection in North America has been based on fleece characteristics. The fleece of Jacob Sheep is described as open and light, with a medium fleece. It has a four to six-inch staple length.

What Types of Sheep Lack Horns?

In both sexes and sexes, sheep breeds that lack horns are rare. Crossbreeding and mutations may result in non-polled sheep appearing in polled breeds, which is a common occurrence. The polled sheep breeds represented here are not exhaustive.

The Derbyshire Gritstone is a well-known large-size and weatherproof fleece sheep breed that originated in Britain. To expand the size of the Welsh breed, they are frequently crossed with Welsh sheep.

When a ram with a genetic mutation causing him to be polled was born in the 1950s, the Polled Dorset was developed as an American sheep breed. The non-polled British Dorset Horn sheep was bred as an outbred, polled sheep. The Poll Dorset, which is an Australian polled sheep breed, should not be confused with the Polled Dorset.

The polled Devon Longwool sheep is a unique breed. The long, thick fleece of these sheep is most often utilized to create rugs. While this is less usual, they are sometimes reared as mutton sheep.

The Caribbean and coastal Mexico are home to the majority of Pelibüey. In Cuba, they account for over 75% of sheep population. These sheep may be naturally non-polled, despite being predominantly polled. They’re a hair sheep species with a coat that’s more like hair than wool, making them less desirable as wool producers and more desirable as a food source.

Horned vs. Polled

Sheep may have horns or not, depending on their breed, sex, and genetics. All rams originally had horns. Both sexes are horned in several sheep breeds. Only the ram horns are found in some breeds. A horned and polled strain may be found in certain sheep breeds.

The breed is said to be polled or naturally hornless if neither sex has horns. Scurs are horns that are either incomplete or undeveloped. Horns are seldom removed from sheep unless they pose a danger to the animal, despite the fact that horns are sometimes removed from cows or goats for safety and management ease.

Why Many Breeders Select and Raise Polled Sheep

Since there is no need for horned animals in commercial operations, sheep breeders typically choose polled animals.

Horns, on the other hand, make keeping stock more difficult and many breeders believe they serve no purpose when domesticated (beyond providing a beautiful appearance).

The use of horns by only wild sheep is They may use them for protection and rivalry with other sheep.

Sheep with horns that can cause issues may get their skulls wedged in equipment, feeders, and barriers. This may be a problem if the sheep are kept at home or on farms. Sheep can also hurt each other with their horns.

Humans have a hard time (and may even be killed) handling horned sheep.

Shearing a horned sheep’s wool, for example, might be more difficult. Moreover, in their rush to reach their grain or hay, horned sheep congregating around a feeder are prone to hooking the back of your legs.

Horned sheep are becoming increasingly popular among heritage breeders who are committed to maintaining the lineage of horned sheep breeds, and you may occasionally find them in herds on non-commercial hobby farms. When feasible, most commercial enterprises prefer to raise polled animals.

Horns are breed-dependent, as we have seen here. Domestically and agricultural breeders prefer to eliminate horns since they make sheep more difficult to handle. Horns are mostly superfluous for wild sheep since they may be used for self-defense and rivalry.