Friday, December 15, 2023

Cutaneous Horn

 Author: Jax Davis

Unicorns. What are unicorns? They are mythical creatures. But what’s significant about them? They’re horns. Unicorns have horns.

Virgin and Unicorn

Unicorns are supposed to be mythical. Meaning fake. If you thought that I would be telling you that they are real, I’m sorry to inform you that you are wrong. But there are humans who have unicorn horns. There’s a condition called the Cutaneous Horn. The cutaneous horn is a medical condition in which a person grows a horn anywhere on their body. More specifically, anywhere that is exalted to the sun. Not saying that if you are exposed to the sun, you will get a horn, but the sun does cause this condition. According to a published article by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) a cutaneous horn can also be caused by “…actinic radiation or burns.” The horn is a dense lesion made out of keratin and as the NLM puts it “…can be treated surgically, medically, or via laser ablation.” It’s a very interesting and unattractive condition. On the rarer side of the spectrum of diseases and conditions to get. It is said that the horn is common in elderly ages sixty to seventy and there are some peculiar cases on people who had the condition.

Cutaneous horn on right ear

Caption: Cutaneous Horn…Explained by a Dermatopathologist

To start off we have Madame Dimanche, otherwise known as Widow Sunday, was a French woman at the age of 76, who lived in Paris in the 19th century, who grew a cutaneous horn. It grew from her forehead at 24.9 cm (approximately 9.8 inches) in length before it was surgically removed. This case is so famous that there is even a wax figure of her in the Mütter Museum. Next, we have 101 years old Zhang Ruifang growing her cutaneous horns. Yes, horns, as in plural. One grew to be at least 2.4 inches long. And the other was just starting out. It was said that she was very happy to have her horns.

Lastly, we have a man named Wang. Wang was a Manchurian farmer who had a 13 inch horn coming out the back of his head. One day a Russian banker took a picture of Wang and sent it to a man named Robert Ripley. Ripley was a entrepreneur and at the time had a newspaper column where he talked about Wang. Ripley, most likely wanting to get an exclusive interview with this man, tried to track down Wang, spent years doing so, but never succeeded. It was almost like he never existed.

Cutaneous horns aren’t just grown on people. Rabbits have a condition where they can grow one too. It is called cottontail rabbit papillomavirus. Rabbits, specifically cottontail rabbits, have the affinity to get lesion sites that develop into cutaneous horns. Imagine seeing a rabbit with horns coming about of its face in all directions. Talk about creepy. Its honestly saddening though. To know those poor creatures have to deal with that, and that they don’t have the access nor ability to get help like humans do.

Cutaneous horns can be dangerous. They have the ability to be premalignant, benign, or malignant. So, if you ever get to the ages of sixty to seventy and get a random patch of skin on your body that discolored, please get it checked out. Because you could wake up with one day with the greatest Halloween costume of a unicorn ever seen. 

Works Cited:
Cladel, Nancy M., Peng, Xuwen, Christensen, Neil, Hu, Jiafen. “The rabbit papillomavirus model: a valuable tool to study viral–host interactions.” 2019, NLM,

Copcu, Eray, Sivrioglu, Nazan, Culhaci, Nil. “Cutaneous horns: are these lesions as innocent as they seem to be?” 2004, NLM,,benign%20or%20malignant%20epidermal%20lesions.

Cutaneous horm on right ear. Photograph. Wikipedia Commons,

Cutaneous horn. Photograph. DermNetNZ,

Hartzman, Marc. “A Brief and Rather Unpleasant History of Human Horns.” 2016, Weird Historian,

Domenichino. Virgin and unicorn. Photograph. Circa 1602, Wikipedia Commons,

Nickson, Chris. “Echo of the widow Dimanche.” 2019, Life In The Fastlane, 

Gardner, Jerad. “Cutaneous Horn…Explained by a Dermatopathologist.” YouTube, 29 August

Theirs, Bruce H., Strat, Nicholas, Snyder, Alan N., Zito, Patrick M.. “Cutaneous Horn.” 2023,

Links for further research:
Mail Foreign Service. “The goat woman: Chinese grandmother, 101, grows mystery horn on
This discusses Zhang Ruifang and her cutaneous horn.

Tian, Tina. “Cutaneous horn.” 2013, DermNetNZ,

Fransis, Sabine; Politis, Christophe; Schepers, Serge; Thonnart, François; Verquin, Michaël. “A
rare case report of graft-versus-host disease–related cutaneous horns of the lower lip.” 2022,

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