Büffelhörner or Buffalo Horns are quite common in Scandinavian and German heraldry (called Vesselhorns in Danish), "although virtually unknown in other heraldic traditions", where they usually only pop up in reference back to a Scandinavian or German history or tradition, such as in the coat of arms of the Rothschilds.

I can find plenty of unsourced claims that they represent "Strength and Fortitude", but no serious discussion about their origins and original symbology. Where, when, and why did they originate?

1 Answer 1


An article about the origin of Viking horned helmets has a paragraph about this. It seems that the use of such horns in German and Scandinavian crests became common in the thirteenth century. While there does not seem to be direct evidence of the origin, it had long been believed that a tradition of wearing horns on helmets came first.

Bull- and buffalo-horns are a familiar and much commented upon feature of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century German and Scandinavian heraldic crests. There seems to have been an early scholarly consensus about the existence before the twelfth century of war-helmets bearing actual bull-horns. In 1643 Ole Worm confirmed: "Most of our nobility wear horns on their helmets, the insignia of their distinguished families, now and again picked out in various colours; formerly real horns were taken from animals." [...] Warnecke's Heraldisches Handbuch (Frankfurt a.M., 1882), illustrated in 1879 by Emil Doepler the Younger, proposed that the origin of the helmet crest was to be found in the real bull-horns and eagle-wings worn in ancient times (p. 18).

  • Thanks so much! I had no idea my question would bring to light such an amazing discovery: the name "Ole Worm"!
    – Johan88
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 16:45
  • 1
    Haha, even aside from the name Ole Worm is a really interesting figure.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 18:35

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