Goats use their horns for various reasons, including defending their territory, displaying dominance, and even communicating with other goats.
A goat also loses extra body heat through its horns, so they help the animal regulate its body temperature.
Both male and female goats grow horns consisting of bone covered by a layer of keratin.
The bone is living and has a blood supply, whereas the keratin does not.
Occasionally, a goat might injure its horns during a fight, causing chips, cracks, or breakage.
So, what do you do if your goat breaks a horn?
If your goat breaks a horn, the injury will range from superficial to life-threatening, depending on where the break occurs. A shallow crack or chip will not require medical attention, but if the horn is completely broken, there will be a lot of bleeding, and you need to seek veterinary care.
Once the bleeding stops, the horn may need to be reshaped or removed completely.
It is vital to keep the wound clean to avoid infection and promote healing.
Keep reading to learn more about what to do if your goat breaks a horn and how to treat several types of injuries.
How To Treat a Goat Horn Injury
The treatment for a broken goat horn depends on the severity of the injury and where it happened along the horn structure.
The oldest part of the horn is the tip, and it is completely made of keratin.
It is connected to the skull at the horn base and opens into the sinus cavity.
In this section, we look at some different types of goat horn injuries and their treatment.
Breaks or Cracks in the Tip of the Horn
If the horns break or crack at the tip where all of the keratin is, it will not bleed, and veterinary care is unnecessary.
Any damaged areas in the keratin region will need to be removed, and the rough parts of the horn need to be sanded smooth.
None of these procedures cause pain for the goat because there is no sensation in the keratin part of the horn.
Breaks in the Vascularized Area
If the goat horn breaks down to the blood vessel in the bone, there will be a large amount of blood loss, and you will need to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
A horn break in this area is very painful for a goat, so pain-relieving medications are usually administered.
The break in the horn may be partial or complete, or the horn may have completely ruptured from the skull.
You may either let the area clot and heal for a partially broken horn until the broken tip falls off, or you may cut the horn to remove the damaged area.
It is vital to control bleeding, and if the blood flow does not stop, you will need to use a blood stop powder and a bandage wrap for protection.
The area may need to be cauterized with a disbudding iron.
A goat horn broken at the base of the skull is a medical emergency, and the healing process is long and difficult.
This type of injury is especially dangerous because the horn attachment connects to the frontal sinus cavity.
Degloving, when the keratin layer is stripped from the bone, may also occur and cause severe issues.
A degloved horn will bleed very easily, and it will need to be protected from flies and infection while it heals.
The keratin layer will not likely grow back, leaving the bone exposed, so many owners choose to have the goat surgically dehorned.
Do Goat Horns Grow Back?
Goat horns will grow back over time if they are cut off or broken.
However, if the goat has been properly disbudded, the horns will not regrow.
If the horn has broken off, it will start regrowing from the ossicones at the skull base.
When the keratin layer is broken at the tip of the horn, it will not grow back together because the ossicones control horn growth on the skull.
Goats are usually dehorned at a very young age before the horn buds have entirely emerged from the skull.
When dehorning is appropriately done, the horns will not grow back.
If dehorning is not performed correctly, not only will the horns grow back, but the goat may get brain damage from the procedure.
Read more in our articles on if goat horns stop growing.
Do Goat Horns Shed?
Goats do not shed their horns like deer.
Goat horns are entirely different from deer antlers because the horns contain blood vessels, but antlers do not.
If a goat’s horns become fractured, they will grow back, but they may not look exactly like the original horn.
If a blunt force caused the horn to break, the area would heal quickly, but the horn will be shorter than the original horn.
A goat’s horns may peel if the animal is not receiving essential nutrients.
Young goats are more likely to have peeling horns when they go through growth spurts, which is normal.
If left untreated, the peeling horns may become infected and uncomfortable for a goat.
It is best to seek veterinary care to determine the cause of horn peeling, so the proper treatment is prescribed.
Are Goat Horns Dangerous?
Goat horns are typically not a danger to humans unless you have a very aggressive goat who will likely attack you.
An aggressive goat may be a threat to anyone who comes near it.
However, you will often encounter more docile goats, and they usually do not actively go after humans.
The horns are effective against small animals and other goats when the animal needs to defend its territory.
The extent of the injuries a goat can inflict with its horns depends on how large they are.
What Are Scurs?
A scur is a small, abnormal horn growth on a goat’s head.
Scurs will usually grow where a horn has broken off, and they will grow back if they are damaged.
If a goat is not properly dehorned, scurs will grow where the horns used to be.
Most of the time, scurs are removed for the goat’s appearance or to prevent injury to goats and other animals when they are fighting.