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Giraffe - The Facts

Do all giraffe have horns?

Mpenzi, Detroit Zoo (c) Roy LewisGiraffe 'horns' are not actually called horns but 'ossicones' and both female and male giraffe have them. Ossicones are formed from ossified cartilage and are covered in skin.

Giraffe are born with their ossicones, however, they lie flat and are not attached to the skull to avoid injury at birth. They only fuse with the skull later in life.

Both female and male giraffe have a main pair of ossicones, however the females' are thin and tufted, while males' are mostly thicker and bald on top as a result of frequent sparring over time. In some (sub)species males grow a second pair of ossicones behind the first pair.

Ossifications on the head of male giraffe add weight, which often increases with age enabling a bull to deliver ever heavier blows during sparring contests. Fatal combat is rare but does occur.