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Morphology of Horns and Fighting Behavior in the Family Bovidae

Barbara Lundrigan
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1382822 462-475 First published online: 17 May 1996


Horns of bovids are remarkably diverse. This diversity may reflect functional differences associated with the use of horns as intraspecific weapons. I use measurements from museum specimens and behavioral data from the literature to examine the relationship between morphology of horns of males and fighting behavior in 21 species of bovids, representing 11 of the 12 bovid tribes. A high correlation between morphology of horns and fighting behavior was found. In particular, a short horn reach and undeveloped catching arch is associated with stabbing behavior; a long horn reach, with wrestling and fencing behavior; a well-developed catching arch, with wrestling behavior; and robust, recurved horns, with ramming behavior. A phylogeny of bovid tribes suggests that these features of morphology of horns and fighting behavior are rapidly evolving and frequently convergent.

Key words
  • Bovidae
  • horns
  • morphology
  • fighting behavior