Throw Up The Horns

It is time to write about evolutionary biology. It is time to write about rock and roll.

This is the Saola:

Also called the Vu Quang ox. Found in the forests of Vietnam, it was unknown to science until 1992, making it the most recently “discovered” large mammal. One reason it was unknown for so long is its rarity; only eleven individuals are known to exist. Another reason is its stealth. The native Hmong call it saht-supahp, meaning “The Polite Animal.”

This is the Corna:

Also called the Mano Cornuto. Found in heavy metal concerts worldwide, it was unknown to rock and roll until 1979, when it was “discovered” by Dio (pictured above, R.I.P.) while fronting Black Sabbath. Dio learned it from his Italian grandmother; the sign has long been used in Italy to ward off evil. Rock and rollers today refer to it as The Sign of the Devil, to indicate everything that isn’t polite.

I’ve always had a fascination for the wide diversity of horns in the bovine world. They exist primarily for defense, but have evolved to become weapons of sexual aggression as much as survival, a way for competing males to settle internal disputes over mating rights. Short horns, such as these on the miniscule dik-dik, are meant as stabbing weapons:

Whereas the broad horns of a musk-ox are for ramming:

The more complex the horn, the more likely it’s used in wrestling competition. The kudu’s horns, both spiral-shaped and ridged to prevent slippage, are used to overturn its opponents:

All of these are members of the Bovidae family of cattle, goats, and antelopes. The goat, in particular, has always had an association with the Devil, who’s often portrayed with horns. Why is that? The best answer I can find is that early church officials wished to demonize the pagan idols of their conquered nations… and they started with Pan. The goat-horned, goat-legged god was a male fertility symbol in Southern Europe the way the wide-hipped, buxom Earth Mother was for female fertility. But still… why Pan? If you want to associate old gods with Evil Incarnate, why not pick on Zeus or Odin? Why goats?

It’s important to consider that horns, like most weapons, are meant to be deterrents, a peace-keeping measure. Males of any bovine species size up each others’ horns before picking a fight, and usually only throw down with males of equal horn size. Horns are displays of external power, both physical and sexual, which are inseparable in the bovine world. And in this new religion, Christianity, with its emphasis on secret, internal, spiritual power, overt sexuality was and is considered taboo. What was Pan known for besides his horns? Oh yeah, his enormous schlong. And chasing nymph tail. And pandemonium. Panic. And, oh yeah, music.

Some kind of flute, I believe.

So rock and roll is really Pre-Satanic; it is pagan, with roots in evolutionary biology. Unlike “polite” music, it is external, and thus physical, sexual, and of the Earth. We wear outrageous costumes to show off our relative strength. We grow our hair long, or stand it up high, as a sexual display for females and a physical threat to males. And yes, sometimes we butt heads. But on the whole, the loud, brash external power of rock and roll is used like the antelope family uses their horns: to keep the peace, to keep order on the plains of the beer hall. And when we throw up the horns, we’re not really invoking Satan; we’re gathering the herd together.


About quantumbiologist

Christian Drake, AKA The Quantum Biologist, is a naturalist and poet formerly of Albuquerque, NM and currently living deep in the backwoods of the Connecticut Berkshires. He has worked in aquariums and planetariums, national parks and urban forests. When not birding or turning over rocks to find weird bugs, he enjoys rockabilly music, gourmet cooking, playing harmonica and writing dirty haiku. View all posts by quantumbiologist

3 responses to “Throw Up The Horns

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