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The Reason Why Horses Don’t Have Horns? And If Some Do!

Last updated: February 16, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

For years, many individuals have tried to figure out why horses don’t have horns like some of the other fellow members of the Equidae family. Oddly enough, there have been many reports on horses having horns throughout history, and while this may sound absurd, can it be possible?

Horses don’t have horns because they evolved and survived without needing them. The secret to the horse’s success is its ability to evade predators with a heightened sense of awareness and an amazing, quick-moving body. With these qualities on their side, horses don’t need horns!

If you’re anything like me, the idea of a horse with horns brings to mind another majestic creature: The unicorn! But you might be surprised to learn that some horse breeds develop horns, though not in the traditional sense. To learn more about this strange phenomenon, keep reading.

Picture of a horses' head showing no horns,

Do any horses have horns?

Certain horse breeds have protrusions on their foreheads, which can easily be mistaken for horns if you don’t know the difference! Practically, horses do not have horns, but some breeds develop small, bony growths on the front of their skull.

Scientists speculate these bony growths are possibly the remnants of evolutionary horns. Although they’re not the usual single twisted horn that we know from the mythical unicorns, these are more similar to the horns of cattle, which come in pairs.

Ungulates, hoofed animals, are sectioned into two groups; the Artiodactyls and the Perissodactyls. The Artiodactyls are animals with horns, such as deers, giraffes, and antelopes, whereas the Perissodactyls members, such as horses, zebras, and tapirs, are hornless.

Some horse breeds may have horns.

Horses are a diverse species, so it’s no surprise that they come in many different shapes and sizes. For example, some breeds of this animal have horns on their heads! What are these horned horses like? Read on to find out more about the most common types of horses with horns.

Moyle horse

There’s a specific breed of horse called the Moyle horse, known for its peculiar forehead, which resembles little horns. This rare breed of horses is one of the few to grow these “horns,” another thing that’s amazing about them is that they can outrun most other breeds with their incredible endurance.

The Moyle breeds came to the United States of America with the help of Rex Moyle, which is how they got their intriguing name. They traveled from Utah to Idaho, and soon this breed gained popularity amongst everyone that crossed paths with them for their surprising strength and larger size compared to their fellow equines.

This rare breed has larger ribcages than other horses, and its visceral organs are grander than most breeds. According to DNA studies done in the 1990s, they share common ancestry with the Spanish horse breeds, and they are known for the unusual freedom of movement of their shoulders.

The position of their forelegs is also a bit farther forward compared to other breeds. Surprisingly enough, two other breeds of horses also have these so-called “horns.”

Datong horse breed

The Datong breed is native to China and dates back roughly 4000 years. This breed’s physical connection with the Dragon Horse has made intriguing minds want to learn more about this remarkable species.

Dragon Horses are known for their incredible powers of endurance and the two bony projections on their foreheads, which resemble “horns.” In Chinese mythology, they describe them as winged horses with scales that resemble those of Dragons.

Picture of Carthusian colts, and I don't notice horns.
Fresco Tours, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Carthusian horse breed

The last member of the horned horse is the Carthusian Horses which originate from Spain. They are one of Spain’s most prestigious lines of Spanish Horses and are known for their characteristics of “horns” on their bodies.

They are known to be the purest remaining strain left of the old Spanish Horses and are known for their graceful looks, agility, and overall flawless characteristics.

The difference between this breed from the rest is that the “horns” on these horses can vary in location and develop calcium-like deposits on their temples to appear behind their ears.

Is a Unicorn a Horse?

For centuries, many individuals have speculated on Unicorns being this pure, mythical creatures with a single spiraling horn that projects from their foreheads, known to resemble horses and goats by their similar features.

But in reality, Unicorns are sadly not the same thing as Horses, and here’s why:

  • Horses exist and are part of the Equidae family.
  • Unicorns are legendary creatures that have been known by many as mythical with cloven hooves.

We usually think of unicorns as these giant, white creatures that symbolize purity and grace. Other famous characteristics would be their wings, the apparent single horn, cloven hooves, and a beard that resembles one typically seen on a goat.

However, remember that every culture and religion has its own beliefs and legends about this magical creature. For example, in European Folklore, Unicorns held magical properties such as rendering poisoned water potable and healing those in sickness.

Whereas in Renaissance and the Middle Ages, they labeled them as wild woodland creatures that virgins could only capture. They also believed that the unicorn’s horns held magical and medicinal properties. In places like Scotland, they thought that Unicorns were the natural enemy of the Lion.

Since then, they have adopted the symbol of Unicorns in their royal insignias. They also made gold coins named “Unicorns,” which had an image of the mythical creature on both sides of the coin.

People worldwide, including famous Luminaries such as Marco Polo and Aristotle, discussed whether they existed as more individuals started reading the Old Testament of the Bible, which mentioned these creatures with similar features.

That said, we can all agree that unicorns and horses are pretty distinct, Horses being domesticated animals, and unicorns being a legend and a myth that’s been around for centuries!

What is the closest thing to a Unicorn?

While we may not have real Unicorns with magical powers roaming the planet, certain animals have similar characteristics that come close to these whimsical beings!

Here are some of the many animals that are the closest thing to Unicorns:

  • Narwhals
  • Unicornfish
  • Unicorn Shrimp
  • Texas Unicorn Mantis
  • Arabian Oryx

The Narwhal is called the unicorn of the sea for its unique sensory powers in its tusk. These tusks can grow up to 9 feet long, growing up to half as long as their bodies. And while it may look like they have a similar “horn” as Unicorns do, their tusk is quite the contrary.

It is surprisingly an overgrown canine tooth that grows counter-clockwise on the left side of their mouths. According to scientists who analyzed the tooth, water flows through to the nerve endings, allowing them to sense the water temperature and distinguish how salty the sea is.

Others, such as the Unicornfish, resemble Unicorns for their horn-like knobs that grow on their head. The only difference is that these can vary from being fleshy bumps to growing into their full bony “horn,” which can reach anywhere up to 2.5 inches depending on Unicornfish species.

And while they don’t have the same mythical properties, they still hold that mystery as to why they grow this “horn” since scientists have not discovered its true purpose.

The Unicorn shrimp gets its name from its extended horn-like features that elongate to the front of its eyes. Unlike Unicorns, its “horn” is, on the contrary, small set of teeth that resemble a serrated spear between its two white antennas.

Sea animals aren’t the only ones who come close to our folkloric beasts. The Texas Unicorn Mantis grow a similar horn-like feature between their antennas, just like the Unicorn shrimp mentioned above.

And, if you look closely at its “horn,” you’ll see that they consist of two separate body parts that grow side by side, and yet they do not fuse. That in itself sounds magical, just as our beloved Unicorns!

Out of all these animals that I have mentioned, the Arabian Oryx is the closest animal that you can compare to a Unicorn. They are known for their many similarities, and some describe them as the “Prototype” of these beasts.

They grow two horns extending up to 75cm(29in) long, white with a dark tail, and have cloven hooves. They may not have magical powers in their “horns,” but they can sense rainfall and migrate towards it, which can be mythical to many individuals.

To summarize, we gained some needed insight as to whether or not horses and unicorns are related. We learned some amazing facts about many animals that roam the world who have gotten their peculiar name thanks to the legends that we passed down from generation to generation.


Do donkeys have horns?

Donkeys don’t have horns. They can run from predators that try to attack them or turn and kick them! Donkeys evolved into good “guard dogs,” signaling danger with their loud and distinct bray, and they not only protect themselves and the other animals they’re grouped with.

Why don’t horses have a gallbladder?

Horses lack a gallbladder because their liver constantly secretes bile, which helps to digest fats. Horses have a unique anatomy and digestive system that allows them to consume large amounts of roughage and extract nutrients efficiently without needing a gallbladder to store bile.