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Dinosaur Predator With Horns – The Surprising Horned Carnivore

When you think of dinosaurs, the first thing you would feel is fear, for they are indeed huge and can swallow you in one go. No one ever expected dinosaurs to be cute, no that can’t be, until I came with this species called Carnotaurus. They have long legs and tails, fierce eyes, wide jaws ready to attack. But short horns and small adorable hands, well, we all didn’t see it coming!


What is the dinosaur predator with horns? The Carnotaurus is a genus of theropod dinosaurs that lived in South America during the late Cretaceous period. It was discovered by Lose Bonaparte, an Argentinian paleontologist in 1984, in the province of Chubut, Argentina. It is well-known for its distinct short horn and small hands.

In this article, I will discuss the origin and discovery of the Carnotaurus and its unique characteristics. I will also talk about its horns and other body parts and their uses. Lastly, you will learn how these species use their distinct features for hunting for food and combat other predators in the wild. 

Carnotaurus: The Carnivorous Bull

The discovery of Carnotaurus made a record as the only dinosaur in the theropod genus with two horns above its eyes. Scientists later made studies that prove that these horns have great uses together with other unique body parts of the Carnotaurus. Let us dig some more information like how these paleontologists did when finding fossils before. 

The Discovery of a Horned Theropod in the 1980s

The Carnotaurus dinosaur lived in South America during the late Cretaceous period, about 70 million years ago. It was first discovered by Jose Bonaparte, an Argentinian paleontologist, in 1984, at Chubut Province, Argentina. The fossils were found in the rocks of the La Colonia Formation. The skeleton is said to be well-formed and almost complete. Only one skeleton of Carnotaurus is discovered up to this day, the fossil specimen – MACN-CH 894. (Source)

Jose Bonaparte names the discovered dinosaur fossils as Carnotaurus, from its species name Carnotaurus sastrei. This name translates to meat-eating bull, from the Latin word carni (meaning flesh) and taurus (meaning bull). The Carnotaurus is said to be a dangerous dinosaur that uses its body parts well in hunting for food. The animal also has a unique pair of bull-like horns that are not very common in its group. (Source)

The Carnotaurus is described to have a small head and a short skull. But don’t be fooled, for its jaws can open very widely to swallow prey for dinner. This dinosaur’s other striking features are its pair of horns, small eyes, and insanely short hands. You would think that Carnotaurus is rather cute than fearsome for its small body, but the strength and unique abilities of these parts will make you think twice. 

This dinosaur’s developed neck and shoulder blades, combined with its long and powerful legs, earned them the title of one of the fastest dinosaurs to attack smaller prey. 

It’s Unique Characteristics: What Sets Carnotaurus Apart

Now let us understand more about what a Carnotaurus can do. Each of its body parts possesses unique characteristics that have scientists thinking about how each part is used in its body. 

The reptile has extremely small hands and forelimbs, and you would automatically think they just hang there being useless. Paleontologists believe they are vestigial structures. Furthermore, Phil Senter recognized that the Carnotaurus has stout upper arm bones, much shorter lower arm bones, and an immobile elbow joint. The reduced number of fused fingers and lack of claws makes the reptile unable to clasp onto anything, making them useless arms for prey capture.

Persons and Currie found evidence that Carnotaurus was much faster than other dinosaurs. The legs are well-suited for short sprints, while the tail has a pair of large muscles along its sides known as caudofemoralis. This muscle is attached to the thigh bone and powers a forceful sprint. 

The reptile is probably one of the fastest large theropods on the planet. It is around 30 feet in length and has a top speed of 48-56 kilometers per hour. Carnotaurus legs are built for a runner. Its thigh bones can withstand bending in the course of its running, and its long hind limbs were indeed made for speed. (Source)

Carnotaurus had powerful jaws. Experts suggest that the dinosaur did quick but powerful bites. Recently it has been found that the reptile has twice the bite strength of an alligator. Speed and jaw strength helps Carnotaurus catch large prey like sauropods. Moreover, the reptile has rough, bumpy skin. The body is covered in tiny scales with hints of bony lumps called “osteoderms,” which means skin bones. 

The Powerful Functions of Carnotaurus Horns

The horns are short and may seem blunt. However, these theories made by known scientists and paleontologists prove that these horns are not just for display. They are a real team player in finding food for Carnotaurus.

Theories About the Carnotaurus Horns and Its Uses

That pair of bony horns situated just above the eyes got the scientists thinking about its real purpose in the dinosaur’s body. According to some studies, the short dull horn might be used for different purposes. 

For one, it might be used as a display for mating. As birds do, and because of them being related, horns are used to attract mates. Gerardo Mazzetta and colleagues in1998 suggested that these horns could be used for ramming as male Carnotaurus fight against their rivals during courtship. 

Other studies suggest that the horns distribute impact during head blows and can prevent brain damage during fights. It is also an additional tool to injure or kill prey, having the jaw and teeth as the primary weapon and the horns as the support.

Carnotaurus Horn and its Connection to the Skull and Other Body Parts

Carnotaurus horns function with the support of other body parts. The frontal bones form the horns which protrude above the eyes. The somewhat vertically flattened horn measures around 15 centimeters or 5.9 inches, is thick, cone-shaped, and is internally solid.

The skull size of this reptile is different from other theropods of the same size. Carnotaurus’ skull is deeper and shorter than other large carnivorous dinosaurs, measuring only 59.6 centimeters (23.5 in) in length. Because of its size, the reptile can execute quick head movements.

Despite its small size, the Carnotarus has strong head support. The neck has strong muscles, and the spinal column is firm and well built. Together with the horns, these parts protect the creature against shock and possible neck and head injuries.

Lastly, although small, the creature’s small eye orbital have binocular vision with more depth perception to spot their prey accurately. These eyes also help them catch and avoid terrible jabs from their opponent.

Carnotaurus Classification and Phylogeny

Let us go over the roots of the Carnotaurus and see common traits they have with some of the most known predatory dinosaurs ever recorded. 

The Carnotaurus Family Roots

Carnotaurus is the most famous member of the Abelisaurids, a group of theropods that occupied the sizeable predatory niche of Gondwana during the late Cretaceous period. The reptile belongs to the group of large predatory dinosaurs, a clade of short-snouted forms in South America. 

The so-called meat-eating bull is under the species type Carnotaurus sastrei with an estimated life span of more than 20 years and 24 to 30 feet on average. Furthermore, this dinosaur weighs 1.5 tons or more with an estimated 25 miles per hour.

Carnotaurus: Comparison with Other Similar Predator

When compared to other similar predators, you can find several striking differences and similarities in them. For one, Carnotaurus is the only example of a horned carnivore with a pair of stout frontal horns. Some theropods are known to have bony skull structures like the longitudinal structure of the Dilophosaurus Welles and Syntarsus Raath and the single nasal horn of Ceratosaurus Marsh and Proceratosaurus Huene.

The most common dinosaur compared to Carnotaurus is the Tyrannosaurus Rex (commonly known as T-rex), although they do not live during the same era. The two both have small arms, strong skulls, and powerful bites. Their life span is also pretty close to each other as both lived for more than 20 years. (Source)

When it comes to hunting, Carnotaurus uses speed and surprise attacks in killing their prey while a T-rex uses its strength, size, and powerful bite. Their diet is also pretty close as both dinosaurs are carnivores. However, a Carnotaurus has a smaller prey selection compared to T-rex, which specializes in larger prey. Lastly, both creatures have strong legs, but Carnotaurus have much faster reflexes considering its runner-built legs. 


Dinosaurs are indeed one-of-a-kind creatures. Although we do not live simultaneously, we can still learn and analyze their existence starting from their origins as to why they have such features, for instance, the horns of Carnotaurus. The learning will also make us realize that dinosaurs can be fun to study, as scary as they seem. I sometimes wish I could have an encounter with them, even just for once!