Animal Health & Disease Management

Horn Cancer

Horn Cancer

This disease is a cancer of the base of the horn of Zebu cattle, mainly in castrated adult males, and occasionally in cows and bulls. The disease primarily affects short-horned Hariana cattle of India, and the disease is largely confined to India, but the condition has been reported in other Zebu breeds in other parts of the world. A similar condition occurs in Sudanese cattle. The exact cause of horn cancer is not known, but may be partly hormonal due to its high prevalence in adult castrates. 

Affected animals commonly have a previous history of injury to the horn, or persistent rubbing of the tissues round the base of the horn from head ropes or from paring or polishing the external layers of horn. It is not an infection, but castrated males get it more often.

The type of cancer is a Squamous Cell Carcinoma.


Signs of Horn Cancer

  • The earliest sign is a slight drooping of the horn at its base. This deformity increases until the horn bends downwards and becomes loose. It then becomes detached from the skin at the base, exposing the horn core 
  • A grey/yellow lump can be seen at the base of the horn. It is covered with blood and mucus; it smells bad and is often infected 
  • The cancer has cauliflower-like growths covered in foul-smelling blood -stained discharge 
  • It may invade the frontal sinuses causing discharges with pus from the nose 
  • Often there is involvement of the eye, with cloudiness of the eye 
  • The cancer may spread inside the animal to other parts of the body. If left untreated, the animal becomes distressed and unhealthy
  • Bacterial infection or Blowfly Strike may be complications


Control and treatment

  • Early cases may respond to surgical removal provided there has been no invasion of internal organs 
  • Irrigation of the frontal sinus with acid-pepsin solution may be advantageous 
  • Dehorning of young long-horned animals, particularly those with a familial history of horn cancer, is probably the most reliable measures

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