As of February 2016, after 416 posts, and over six and a half years of blogging, I'm taking a break.
I've explained why here. There's plenty of past posts to read, though - hope you enjoy them !
Looking for a brilliant present for a young naturalist ? Buy my book ! Available from Amazon UK,
Amazon US and worldwide but buy from a local bookshop if you can.

Strange bones #10 - what is this ?


This is something that is a real mystery - can you help ?

I found this about three weeks ago at the Gleneagles wood (which I wrote about going deer stalking in). We found it under a tree at south east corner of the wood, just by a clearing. When I first saw it I thought it was just a piece of wood and not worth bringing home but dad thought it might be interesting. It's been at home for three weeks now and we still don't know what it is !

It is 11 cm long at the longest point, and 4cm wide across the widest part of the bottom. At the bottom it has a honeycomb texture where it's not really solid. It has almost like rings at the edges but not like the rings of wood.

This is it closer up:

It is cone or spike shaped. There are holes in it which seem to go lengthways but some run through the middle of it. It feels strong and I can't break it with my hands.

This is the texture near the spike part close up. It looks honeycomby again.

This the texture near the bottom. It is smoother with lots of tiny dots. This is really really close up.


Could it be an antler ?

Dad thought it might be a misformed antler. Here it is with some of my other antlers:

The first three antlers in the picture above are red deer antlers, and the one at the bottom is from a roe deer. In the picture below, it is mystery object, young red deer, adult red deer, roe deer, adult red deer. It is bigger than almost all of them apart from the final one.

The texture of the mystery thing is different and it doesn't bulge at the bottom like the others.

This is the texture of the red deer antler which is almost the same, but not quite.

If it was an antler, then it hasn't grown properly, and maybe got broken while the deer was in velvet. It is too big to be from a roe deer, so if it is antler it must have come from a red deer, which the only other deer around here.

Could it be a sheep core ?

A sheep core is the bone that that the horn grows around. It is part of the skull and doesn't fall off every year like antlers do. 

This can't be a sheep core though, because it's the wrong shape, too big and not hollow.

Could it just be a piece of wood ?

I think it might just be a piece of wood. I think it feels like wood but dad doesn't. I found it under a pine tree, and pine branches aren't as thick as this, and they grow out horizontal, not at an angle.

Can you help me solve this mystery ?

PS. If you like bone puzzles, you should check out Zygoma where there is a new puzzle every week !

Enjoy this post ? Share it !


Psydrache said...

I think thats a "horn bone" or horn core (?), because I have a coat skull without the horns and the bone part, which is under the horn, looks similar like your bone here. At the moment I'm at work, but when I'm at home I will check out my horn bone again. But I'm pretty sure that I'm right.

Psydrache said...

Or maybe it is a bone core from a cow. Not sure, but it is a bone core.

Ric Morris said...

I agree with Psy, I think it's got to be a horn core. I did think about goat, but I doubt goats would be found in the area you discovered this item. Maybe it is from a bovine. If there were no other bones in the immediate area you found this, then perhaps it had been carried there by a scavenger.

michael fox said...

Hi Jake, just saw this and it is definately a horn core, not sure what it is off maybe a small bull but you dont tend to come across these in the woods :) unless there are cattle in the area that is. will have a look in my collection see if i can find something about the same size and get back to you. mike

osteoarch said...

Hi Jake,
This is a piece of 'horn core' which is the inside part of the antler/horn. Antlers & horns have a sheath covering and this 'horn core' is the material inside of it.

Nice find!

Best wishes

Jake said...

Thanks everyone ! If it's a core, how did it come off the skull. Isn't it hard to break off ?

ossamenta said...

Shape and size-wise, it's a cattle horn core, and the surface indicates that it's a juvenile animal (therefore much to big to be sheep or goat). Admittedly I'm not 100% sure at what actual age cattle ends being juvenile and becomes sub-adult/adult when it comes to horn core development, so I'm deliberately not mentioning any years or months here.

> If it's a core, how did it come off the skull. Isn't it hard to break off ?
If you look at the second picture, you can see two smooth planes at the end of the bone, indicating that it had been chopped off the skull. Perhaps someone wanted to use the horn sheath for something and didn't need to keep the whole skull?

Ric Morris said...

A lot of farmers do de-horn their cattle. I've never seen it done but I doubt this is done once the horn begins to grow. I suspect it's something they do to the horn bud when the animal is young. I could find out for you....

Jack N said...

I think it's a cow horn core;it looks like the horns on my cow skull.

Abnoba said...

I saw one just like that before. And yes, it is a chopped off horn core of a juvenile cattle. Mine was inside a cave that some farmers used to throw away the corpses of sick animals and,apparently, the horns of de-horned cows.
Sorry about the grammar mistakes, English is not my mother language

Jake said...

Thanks everyone !

Ric Morris said...

Hi Jake
I spoke to a colleague at work who knows about such things and he told me that most humane dehorning is done with a special tool prior to the calf being 2 weeks old. On certain occasions when it is left later that the first weeks of the animal's life then, yes, the horn and horn core does have to be hacked or sawn off (hopefully under some sort of sedation or local anasthetic!) and maybe that is what you have here.
All the best

Kaitlyn Kruzicki said...

The first think that popped into my head when I saw that was a cattle horn.

Free counters!