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Horns and Scurs In Cattle

In my opinion or what I think I have learned about what causes cattle to have horns, scurs, or to be polled? This opinion has been formed through much research and many years of cattle breeding.

The polled or hornless condition is dominant over the horned condition in cattle. The scurred condition is the result of incomplete dominance. Although scurs look like horns, they are attached to the skin, not to the skull of the animal.

In most breeds of cattle, horns are produced by a recessive gene, and the polled gene is dominant.

If you breed two animals with horns, the offspring will have horns; but if you breed two polled animals, the offspring could be horned or polled.

The horned calf out of two polled animals is a case of dominant genes (polled) masking a recessive gene (horns). Both the polled and horned genes were present, but only the results from the dominant polled gene was visible. This is known as a heterozygous gene arrangement for a trait.

When both parents are heterozygous, one-fourth of the offspring should express the recessive (horns) gene. If the parents carried only dominant genes (two polled genes), then all resulting offspring would be polled.

There is no way to look at an animal and determine if it is homozygous or heterozygous polled. This genetic makeup has to be determined by tracing the animal's ancestry for a generation or two. Even then it is sometimes only a good guess. If he/she is homozygous-recessive and has horns, then horns will be present in all offspring.

Another unknown can occasionally appear because a mutation can occur in some animals, which causes the polled condition, such as with Polled Herefords.

Horns or the polled condition are easy to explain, but scurs are more difficult to understand.

An animal with scurs is neither polled nor horned. While horns are attached to the skull, scurs are attached to skin. Scurs are a case of incomplete dominance. Most of the time a scurred animal reproduces its scurs as horns. This condition is seen many times in Polled Hereford, Brahman-crossbred cattle, and mysteriously in Angus cattle that are homozygous polled. There has been some suspicion that a few, less-than-honest producers may have introduced other horned breeds into a particular breed in an effort to get them bigger. This may account for some of these mysterious scurs. Even in purebred Angus cows, crossing with a Brahman can produce a scur. This is an example of incomplete dominance.

Scurs are horny growths that are loosely attached on the skin. They may become large in some individuals and remain small in others. Scurs usually do not cause any problems, but some producers consider them to be unattractive. They are easily removed by normal dehorning techniques. Generally scurs are not a concern to cattle feeders. Since scurs are not attached to the skull, unlike horns, they would cause little if any damage to confinement cattle.

Registered breeders beware if you have an animal that exhibits scurs, do not remove them as most breed associations will consider an animal horned if it has had the scurs removed.

Morris Halliburton is a cattle breeder with many years experience in breeding registered beef cattle. Morris believes your number one goal in Beef Cattle Raising should be to try for at least a small profit every year. If you are a wannabe farmer or just happen to own a little land and would like to raise a few animals Morris recommends you start your homework with Beef Cattle Marketing and Sales.

Beef Cattle Marketing, How To Establish A Profitable Marketing & Sales Plan For Registered Beef Cattle Producers is available HERE. It is a comprehensive guide to managing for profit and also includes a complete section on "How To Hold Your Own Registered Cattle Auction" on your Farm or Ranch.

Copyright 2007 - Morris Halliburton. This article is copyrighted and you may publish it at your website, in your newsletter, blogs or send it to a friend as long as do not alter the content and you retain the authorís resource box and keep all links original.