Art Biology Strange

Do People Ever Grow Horns? Yes and No

Today TrueStrange looks at human horns. Before we get to the real ones, did you know a movie called “Horns” was released in 2014? In it the actor made famous by his role in Harry Potter becomes a sort of devil. Trailer:

Daniel Radcliffe, going from everyones favorite British wand-waving Griffindor wizard to a American speaking snake charming devil. … He looks like the ‘what if’ dark version of Harry Potter if he was sorted into Slytherin.

The characterization of people with horns as devils or as evil is, of course, unfounded.

Real People with Horns

There have been many real people with different types of growths which appear to be horns. Are any of them true horns?

The answer depends on your definition. Biologically speaking, true horns have a living core of bone surrounded by a layer of horn (keratin), in turn covered by keratinized epidermis.

Not Horns

By this strict zoological definition, the antlers of deer (bone without the keratin layer which are shed each year) are not true horns.

Also ruled out is the “horn” of a rhinoceros. Made of fused, heavily keratinized hairlike epidermis, a rhino “horn” is almost 100% keratin, thick bundles of protein fibers with no bone. As it is not part of the boney skull, it is not a true horn.

Other horn-like non-horns are the ossicones of a giraffe.

Ossicones are similar to the horns of antelopes and cattle, except that they are derived from ossified cartilage rather than living bone, and that the ossicones remain covered in skin and fur, rather than horny keratin.

The “horns” of a Texas horned lizard are also not horns, they are actually specialized body scales and they do not contain bone.

You would be technically correct to say that neither lizards, nor giraffes, nor rhinoceroses, nor deer have horns, but they do all have horn-like outgrowths which most people call horns.

A Horn is a Horn

Why quibble? Practically speaking and by common use of the term, a horn is any hard outgrowth from the head of an animal, a protuberance, often curved and pointed.
The World Journal of Surgical Oncology, does not even limit the term horn to the head.

Cutaneous horns (cornu cutaneum) are uncommon lesions consisting of keratotic material resembling that of an animal horn. Cutaneous horn may arise from a wide range of the epidermal lesions, which may be benign, premalignant or malignant. … Cutaneous horn is a clinical diagnosis that refers to a conical projection above the surface of the skin. The lesions typically occurs in sun exposed areas, particularly the face, ear, nose, forearms, and dorsum of hands. Even though our 60% of the cutaneous horns are benign possibility of skin cancer should always be kept in mind.

So, while rare, people can grow conical projections above the skin of various sizes and compositions.

Human Horns in History

The first documented case of a human horn appears in the 1500s.

The earliest reliable account can be found in the report of German surgeon Fabricius Hildanus. In the late 1500’s he encountered a man with horns protruding from his forehead.
Several other cases have been well documented by noted naturalists and medical experts.
… Dutch naturalist Bartholinus mentions a patient with a horn measuring 12 inches and in 1696 there was a well know case involving an old woman in France who had her amputated 12 inch horn presented to the King.
There is also an account from around the same time regarding the extirpation of a horn nearly ten inches in length from the forehead of a woman of eighty-two.
Finally, in 1886 (a) famous dermatologist … presented before the Academie de Medecine a twisted horn from the head of a woman. That horn was ten inches long.
Via humanmarvels

Images of Human Horns

The following images (except the last, which is a body modification) appear to be real human horns.

Horns as a Body Modification

Some people, for artistic, spiritual or other reasons, choose to have artificial horns, or horn-like lumps, added on purpose. Here are a few examples.

If you or someone you know starts to grow one or more horns, do not hesitate to consult a qualified physician. Look for a doctor of skin diseases, as there is currently no such thing as a hornicologist.

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