Dear Mr. Dooley, My officemates and I are having a disagreement of a scientific nature. There's a guy who says that horns are actually made of hair. Is this true? If so, it seems to bring up a litany of questions, to wit: 1) Is horn hair? 2) Is rhino horn bone? 3) Is tusk tooth? 4) Is hoof nail? 5) Is turtle shell skin?
We are gambling illegally on the outcome of your answers, and would appreciate a prompt response.
Nancy Bilger, Rose City Mutual Life Insurance Agency
Disagreements of a scientific nature are what I live for. In fact, I've created a few of my own. The scientific study of these creatures and their physiology takes years of education to sort out the details, but I will do my best to simplify them into game show style indicators to help answer your insipid questions. No wonder people think all insurance agents do is take advantage of the superstitious, and lounge on piles of money while sipping Absolut Citron from the mouths of the underclass.
First, allow me to offer a bit of flat information to get your teeth (enamel) gnashing thoroughly (unless of course, some of you have bear tusks, which are made of ivory). Most animals with horns are Bovids, and their horns are constructed of keratin, the same stuff as hair, fingernails, and toenails. Hooves are also made of keratin. However, certain animals, such as Giraffes, are not Bovids, even though they have hooves. They are Cervids. The difference? Their horns are bony outgrowths of their skull. Hopefully, the following will help further confuse the issue; they both fall into the same category as being Artiodactyla, which means they could crush your child to death in an instant while you ran away naked through the zoo.
Rhinos, horses and tapirs are members of the Perissodactyla, a group of hoofed animals whose legs are centered over the middle toe. Obviously, Rhinos keep their horns on their noses, and horses and tapirs keep theirs in a special drawer near the bed. Rhino horns are like Bovids' horns in two ways: they are made of keratin and they grow continuously. But unlike antelope horns for instance, which are solid keratin throughout, Rhino horns are comprised of solid keratin hair-like fibers, which form the horn.
Turtle shells are not made from skin, hair, nail, bone, enamel, ivory, or cartilage. They are made from green recycled plastic cola bottles.