On my homestead, I’m a big fan of letting nature take the wheel as much as possible, but one of the toughest subjects I’ve faced so far is dehorning and disbudding (dehorning the early, or budding horns). While I’m still weighing the pros and cons of dehorning goats, I was wondering–can goat horns grow back? Here’s what I found.
Once goats are dehorned or disbudded their horns won’t grow back. However, there are times when goats can grow scurs (or small bumps) in place of their removed horns. This is usually due to genetics and if the goats are dehorned late or the job is done poorly.
But what do goats use their horns for in the first place? What about if the dehorning isn’t done well or a horn breaks off? Will the goat’s horns grow back? Let’s take a further look.
What Do Goats Use Their Horns For?
Goats use horns for fighting and to help regulate their body temperature. With its many blood vessels and poor insulation, a goat’s horns are a great way for the goat to lose excess body heat. Research has shown the horns help with body temperature because they’re similar to bare extremities.
Just like our arms and legs, a goat’s horns aren’t well insulated and can expend a lot of body heat. There’s a big difference when comparing their horn’s insulation to the rest of their body tucked away under their thick cashmere fleece.
So, if you’re keeping goats in a hot climate, know that their horns are helpful with managing temperatures. Especially if they’re a breed that has thicker fleeces.
While the debate about whether to dehorn or not is still going on, it’s important to know that goats use their horns for more than just fighting.
Do Goat Horns Regrow?
Whether you’re dehorning (removing a mature goat’s horns) or disbudding (removing the budding horns from a kid), is there a chance they’ll regrow? Here’s what I found.
A goat’s horns won’t grow back after dehorning or disbudding. This is because the horn is severed from the skull, and the skin is cauterized. Without a connection to the skull or blood supply, horns will not grow back. However, sometimes scurs will grow in the horn’s place and can repeatedly be shed.
Normally, a goat’s horns won’t grow back after dehorning or disbudding. But what can grow back are small nubs called scurs. These scurs can fall off or be removed as they’re usually not attached to the skull and are simply held within the skin. Sometimes goats will rub their heads on trees or fence posts to remove their scurs.
Goats that are dehorned poorly or too late have a higher likelihood of developing scurs, but genetics also has a role to play in scur regrowth. Overall, scurs are a fairly normal occurrence after dehorning and disbudding and goats usually won’t have them for very long.
Can Goat Horns Fall Off?
A goat’s horns will not fall off naturally. They’ll only fall off is if you are dehorning or disbudding the goat. In this case, when dehorning, the horn’s blood supply gets cut off and the horns fall off in the process.
However, after goats have been dehorned or disbudded, scurs can continually fall or break off. A good way to tell scurs are not attached to the skull is if they wiggle. They can also be easily trimmed down since they’re often attached in the skin and have little to no blood vessels.
So, fully grown horns won’t fall off on their own. The only exception to this is if they break.
What Happens if a Goat’s Horn Breaks Off?
It’s not likely that a goat’s horn will break. However, horns have been known to break if the goats are fighting or playing aggressively, or get their horns stuck on something. So, what happens if a goat’s horn breaks off?
A goat’s horns contain many blood vessels, so if more than half an inch breaks off, there will be a lot of bleeding. Goats can survive this, but they need medical assistance. If this happens, stop the bleeding and protect the horns from infection. Continue to monitor their behavior and the site for infection.
If their horn breaks, there’s also a chance that the goat can go into shock, potentially leading to sickness or a lack of appetite. If the horn site seems like it’s getting infected, consider giving them antibiotics or taking them to the vet.
However, this doesn’t apply to goats with scurs that are attached to the skin (and not the bone). While scurs can bleed when removed, it’s not nearly as serious as fully-grown horns breaking.
How Fast Do Goat Horns Grow?
A kid’s horns will grow as soon as they’re born. The horns are just buds, but in a week, they’ll start showing through their hair. Disbudding is normally done before the kids are one month old. If they’re not removed, a goat’s horns will continue growing throughout their life until the horns are about 8-12 inches long.
When the buds develop into horns, they’ll have larger blood vessels and will be harder to remove. Compared to disbudding, dehorning is considered to be far more dangerous. Since the procedure can be more complex and bloodier, some veterinarians offer dehorning services.
What Are Goat Horns Made Out Of?
Goat horns are made of the same material as fingernails, claws, hair, and hooves. This material is a protein called keratin. These keratin horns are grown out of the goat’s skull and have large blood vessels running through them. This is why horns bleed profusely when broken.
Some goats can be born hornless (also called polled goats). While it might be more appealing to get goat breeds that are genetically polled, they can also tend to have other genetic issues like infertility.
Because horns are made of a strong protein and fused into the bone, they can cause major damage to their handlers and other goats. Even if they’re dehorned, bucks can severely injure each other (as well as does and kids), which is why it’s suggested not to keep bucks together or with does or kids. Consider keeping your bucks in a different or individual pens, unless it’s breeding time.
Even though a goat’s horns will help cool them down in hot weather, many owners choose to disbud their goats. While this practice is controversial, it can also be safer for other livestock as well as children.
A goat’s horns will typically not grow back after dehorning or breaking unless it grows back as scurs. These scurs are perfectly normal and can fall off over time, as the goat rubs its head on trees or posts.
For more information on disbudding, including how to perform it, check out this guide and the video below.