Do Female Cows Have Horns? What Types?

Paintings, cartoons, and even stuffed animals usually depict cows with horns.

But when many people see horned cattle, they assume the gender of the animal is male, and I did too.

It shocked me to learn this isn’t always the case! 

It is common for many breeds of cattle to be born with horns, including females. However, most females are dehorned when they are young for the safety of both the cow and the farmer. Since the female cows usually have their horns removed, it is very unlikely to see one on a farm.

Keep reading for more information on which female cows have horns and why the horns are removed.

do female cows have horns

Types Of Cattle Born With Horns

Most dairy breeds of cattle are born with horns.

These breeds include:

  • Holstein
  • Jersey
  • Brown Swiss
  • Brahma
  • White Park
  • Danish Red
  • Texas Longhorn

Texas Longhorns are the most well-known horned breed of dairy cattle due to their extremely large horns.

The longest horns on record belong to a Texas Longhorn, with horns measuring 129.5″ inches from tip to tip.

Even female Texas Longhorns can grow large horns if given the opportunity.

However, this horn growth is unlikely, as most female cows have their horns removed at a very young age.

Dehorning dairy is very common, so you will probably never see a dairy cow with horns.

Do not rely on the appearance of horns to determine if a cow is male or female.

Is Dehorning The Female Cow Necessary?

Dehorning a dairy cow is not an enjoyable activity for a farmer, but it must be done for the health and safety of both the cow and the farmer.

Cows with horns are more likely to injure each other if they start fighting.

It is a cow’s instinct to fight, and their horns are their only weapons.

The cows may even injure each other fatally, so farmers prevent this from happening by dehorning their cattle.

Cow horns are also dangerous to other animals because they may cause the cow to become stuck in fences, feed gates, or hedges.

If a cow becomes stuck, it may start to panic and thrash around, causing injury to the animal.

Due to the narrow spaces in dairy barns, horn removal is also essential for the farmer’s safety.

Cow horns may inflict a lot of damage to the human body, and it may be very difficult for a farmer to avoid them.

Dehorning the dairy cows also allows the farmer to control the herd more easily.

Hornless cattle are also more profitable for the farmer because they cost more at auction than cows with horns.

Is Dehorning Painful?

Dehorning is a very painful process for the cow, and every effort is undertaken to reduce the procedure’s pain.

The most critical aspect of dehorning is to do it while the calf is very young.

Farmers usually disbud cows when they are less than two months old.

Calves have small horn buds that are not completely attached to their bodies through bone or connective tissue.

Removing the horn buds while the calf is still very young helps to minimize the pain.

In addition to dehorning while the calf is young, long-lasting pain medication is usually administered to the animal about an hour before the procedure.

A topical ointment, such as Lidocaine, is also used to numb the area immediately.

Pain management is essential for the cow’s well-being, and it helps to minimize the stress to the animal.

Pain management is also required by the FARM Program, which ensures humane animal care on dairy farms.

Because of the Protection of Animal Act, dehorning is not allowed in the European Union or Switzerland.

How Do You Dehorn A Calf?

The first step in removing horn buds from a calf is to provide the animal with long-term pain medicine and topical medication to numb the area.

Horn removal is usually done when the calf is less than two months old, and it is also known as “disbudding.”

Disbudding is usually done by cauterizing the horn bud tissue to keep it from growing.

This is usually done with either a butane dehorner or a caustic paste.

The caustic paste cauterizes the area without using heat.

If the horns have grown enough to be attached to the bone, dehorning will require cutting through the bone and connective tissue.

This practice is very uncommon because it is much more painful for the calf and carries more risks during the healing period.

The cows need to be closely monitored after dehorning to ensure no infection.

After dehorning, the horn bud will form a scab and itch.

The cow will likely rub its head on various surfaces to relieve the intense itching associated with the healing process.

All these words like calf, cow, cattle are confusing.

Figure out the difference between cow and cattle and all those other terms in our guide.

Are There Cows Born Without Horns?

To avoid the pain and distress associated with dehorning cows, it may be best to choose a type of cow with polled genetics instead.

A polled cow does not have the gene causing the growth of horns in a calf.

Thanks to advances in genetic engineering, several breeds of cattle have been modified to no longer grow horns.

Some of these hornless cattle breeds include:

  • Angus
  • Red Angus
  • Hereford
  • Shorthorn
  • Limousin
  • Charolais
  • Gelbreigh

Cows possessing these polled genes can pass the hornless trait to their offspring.

It is possible to have an entire herd of hornless cattle over time by breeding cows with polled genetics.

Removing the arduous task of dehorning relieves stress to the farmer, as it is not a procedure they look forward to doing.

It also prevents calves from having to endure the painful dehorning process and any risks of infection during the healing process.

Understanding Polled Genetics in Cattle

Polledness is a genetic trait in cattle with a very low level of mutation.

For instance, only one calf will be born without horns for every 20,000 calves born to a horned cow and a horned bull.

Because of this low level of mutation, it usually takes a prolonged period for the polled gene to naturally occur and progress throughout a given breed.

One way to speed up the process is to cross-breed a horned cow with a naturally polled dairy breed of cattle such as the Angus or Hereford.

Horn development is controlled by two forms of the polled gene, with one being dominant and the other recessive.

A “P” represents the dominant form of the polled gene, and the recessive form is shown as a “p” on genetic charts.

Each cow has two copies of these genes, and calves will receive one copy from the mother and one from the father.

To further complicate polled genetics, some polled calves may develop scurs.

Scurs are small growths, which are very similar to horns, but they stay very short throughout the cow’s life.

Scurs tend to develop more often in males than females because males require only one form of the dominant gene, which causes scurring, while females require two dominant scurring genes.

Table Illustrating Polled Genetics

The two copies of the polling gene, which combine in the offspring, are known as the genotype.

The physical appearance of the cow is known as the phenotype.

There may be three possible genotypes created in polling genetics, but only two phenotypes.

The following table illustrates the genetic traits of the offspring produced by cows with different combinations of the polling genotypes when bred with horned cattle.

GenotypePhenotypeAppearance of Offspring (when mated to horned cattle)
PPNo hornsNo horns; Calves may have scurs.
PpNo horns50% with horns, 50% without
ppHorns100% with horns

DNA testing, while costly, is the only way to determine if a cow has dominant or recessive polling genes.

In addition to genetic testing, several other factors need to be considered for polled breeding to be successful.

To minimize unwanted effects from inbreeding, several polled breeding lines are required.

The pedigrees and records of horns and scurs also need to be thoroughly documented.

Since polled breeding is more successful in larger numbers, it greatly benefits breeders to work together and share information and breeding lines.

Why Do Female Cows Have Horns?

Wild cattle are prey animals, and they are susceptible to being attacked by predatory animals such as bears, coyotes, dogs, and wolves.

Cows cannot run quickly, and their kicks are not very powerful, so the horns on cattle are their only means of defense.

This means predators are only able to successfully kill the weakest or smallest calves in the herd.

Like domestic animals, predators are no longer a threat to the cattle on farms, so their horns are unnecessary.

However, even domestic cow herds have a hierarchy where the weaker animals are often bullied.

Cows can do a lot of damage with their horns, sometimes resulting in fatal injuries.

To keep the cows from fighting among each other, farmers choose to have them dehorned, or they only acquire polled stock.

Farmers also prefer hornless cattle for their safety, as the close contact with their herd puts them at significant risk of being injured.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?



Growing up amidst the sprawling farms of the South, Wesley developed a profound connection with farm animals from a young age. His childhood experiences instilled in him a deep respect for sustainable and humane farming practices. Today, through, Wesley shares his rich knowledge, aiming to inspire and educate others about the joys and intricacies of rural life.

Advertiser Disclosure

We are reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. To be 100% clear, you should assume that we will earn a commission on any product you purchase after clicking on links or images on this website.

Our affiliate partners include but are not limited to

In addition, we generate revenue through advertisements within the body of the articles you read on our site.

Although we only recommend products that we feel are of the best quality (which we may or may not have personal experience with) and represent value for money, you should be aware that our opinions can differ.

A product we like and recommend may not be suitable for your unique goals. So always be sure to do your due diligence on any product before you purchase it.