The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library

Cornu Cutaneum (Human Horn)

About This Item

Title

Cornu Cutaneum (Human Horn)

Subject

Epithelial Cells
Cornu Cutaneum

Description

This dried specimen from the Mütter Museum collection was removed from a 70-year-old woman. It was her second horn growth, and she had it for seven years before it was removed. It is 20 centimeters (about 8 inches) long and was donated to the Museum in the 1940s.

Cornu cutaneum growths, or cutaneuous horns, look similar to animal horns, but they have a different composition. They are compacted keratin protrusions of lesions that most often occur on areas of the body commonly exposed to the sun, like the face, hands, and forearms. About 60% of the reported cases of cutaneous horns lesions are benign. Women over 50 years of age who have had long-term sun exposure and sunburns are more likely to have these growths than men.

The earliest well-documented case of a human cutaneous horn dates to 1588 and was that of Margaret Gryffith, an elderly Welsh woman. Another famous case is that of 17th-century Englishwoman Mary Davis, an aging widow who had horns on the back of her scalp. She was exhibited in London as a natural wonder. The Mütter’s own well-known wax model of Madame Dimanche, sculpted from life, shows the face of an elderly woman with a large horn protruding from the top of her forehead and hanging down in front of her face. Her horn measured nearly 25 centimeters (10 inches) long.

Human and horns share a twisted history. In mythology and folklore, horned humans represent devils, demons, and other nefarious creatures. It is easy to imagine that the strange sight of horns on a human could inspire such stories.

Publisher

Digitized by the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Date

1940s

Type

StillImage

Identifier

6002.1

Coverage

20th Century

Original Format

Cornu cutaneum, brass, wood mount

Citation

“Cornu Cutaneum (Human Horn),” The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library, accessed May 16, 2021, https://www.cppdigitallibrary.org/items/show/2619.