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Removing Horns From A Very Old Ram

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by thatonewhitetail, Jun 13, 2020.

  1. thatonewhitetail

    thatonewhitetail New Member

    Just bought a partial ram skull from an antique store, and antique it is. The whole skull is the braincase, the (very large, spiraling) horns, and partial orbital bones, and it looks like it was picked up from a field. I don't see any flesh on it and there's no brain.

    I found an older topic to figure out how to remove the horns, but after an hour's soak in warm water like was suggested, the bone felt soft like it was going to give. Every time I tried to get the horns off, it felt like the skull was about to break. It also has a slight odor to it after the soak.

    The darker parts of the horn, including around the base, are from where it soaked.

    I'm worried that if I soak it longer, or try to force them off with a mallet or drop it on concrete, the old bone will fall apart.

    Is it possible for bone to weaken in water enough to be damaged, or am I just paranoid? What would be the best way to remove the horns? Is it even worth trying to keep the skull part?
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2020
  2. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    First question, why are you trying to remove the horns? If you want just the horns alone, does it matter if the skull is destroyed in the process? Can't tell from the picture but you can't rule out that the horns might have even been glued on. As for soaking, it's going to take a lot longer than an hour. To try and loosen something this dried out is going to take at least a week for them to even wiggle. You will have to pull them off following the curve of the core inside, unwinding them. The bone of the skull is also probably compromised and you will probably break it trying to remove them. Using a mallet works but you don't have the complete skull or good bone to hold up to the impact. If you want to keep it as is, scrub the dickens out of it with a good brush and detergent. A soak in peroxide will whiten the bone as well as lighten the color of the horns a bit. Let it all dry out again. If you want, make a mix of 50/50 turpentine and linseed oil and rub that into the horns (not the skull). It will bring out any color and improve the appearance.

  3. thatonewhitetail

    thatonewhitetail New Member

    My main concern is insects. There were a few bug corpses inside the skull when I washed the dirt off it, so I want to get the horns off to really clean them out and bug proof the insides before I bring it anywhere near my mounts. It's also difficult to work with as one piece. I figure the degrease/whitening will be a lot easier if the horns are off, since then I could use a lidded bucket instead of a tote.

    I want to keep as much of the skull intact as I can, but if we're in agreement that the bone is compromised, might as well just keep the horns.
  4. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    What you could try to do is soak one half at a time if you can get the whole horn into a bucket. If you already have a tote that it will fit into, you could use that. It's just going to take at least a week of soaking to soften anything up enough to move. If you want, drill a couple of smaller holes (1/4 inch) into the back of the horn where you cant see them spaced several inches apart and make sure you drill halfway into the thickness of the horn. This will help allow water to get into the inside hollows of the horn cores. Put it in the tote and cover it with hot water that you have added a good 4 cups of ammonia to. Let it just sit in this for at least a week. The ammonia will help loosen any dirt, will soften tissues inside the horn and make it easier for you to try and get them off.