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Amuk Murugul 25th March 2008 07:58 PM

Definitive Test for Rhino Horn Please
Hullo everybody,

Will someone please tell me a definitive way to distinguish rhino horn from other types of horn?
I've researched the topic a lot, but every time I think I'm on top of it, along comes something which confuses me. :confused:
I am now well-read and WELL-CONFUSED!!


spiral 25th March 2008 08:09 PM

Each fibrous structure at magnification on end grain looks like a circle with a dot in the middle, rather like orange skin to look at.

Other than that I dont know of any test.

Much buffalo, goat & antelope horns can also be fiberous & often sold by unscroupolous dealers as Rhino horn. Especialy if of unusual coloring.

But magnification of end grain when visible reveals the truth.

I read lots but to be able to truly "see" it I had to handle authentic examples first.


Tim Simmons 25th March 2008 08:11 PM

It should burn in the same that your fingernail cuttings burn. A sort of melting burn unlike charring of wood. I have two African staffs which I believe are Rhino horn. The ends are carved as people and holes have been made for the eyes, set with stone in one and glass beads in the other. These holes have been made by something hot poked into the material, when you look close with magnification you can see the edges are a melted burn like burning fingernails. I hope that helps, the trouble is finding a place to make a test?

Just realised all? horn is keratin. If it is solid and 1m long it not so difficult. Rhinos can grow horn up to 2m. That would look huge as a stick in your hands. Stick it on the bonnet of a small range rover motor car and it will look a lot more modest.

This mention stuff about length if you read carefully.

katana 25th March 2008 08:51 PM

3 Attachment(s)
Hi Amuk,

perhaps these pictures will also help....

Regards David


spiral 25th March 2008 09:42 PM

Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
It should burn in the same that your fingernail cuttings burn.
Just realised all? horn is keratin. ]

Yep all horn contains keratin Tim, when burnt or if had boiling water poured over it most buffalo horn smells like an old farmyard full of manure & burnt hair. The same is true of rhino.

Thats a great picture Katana, shows the "orange peel" end grain structure well.

Sadley the fiberous side structure appearance is found on many horns that arnt rhino. I find one has to find where the grain runs out to get a true identyfying piece. But as Rhino is solid it never needs a buttcap on the handle anyway.

It would be great to find a quick & reliable test!


asomotif 26th March 2008 08:49 AM

It should burn in the same that your fingernail cuttings burn.

I have not yet requested this at the auctionhouse yet, but I assume they will have a problem with me setting their unsold item on fire :D :D :D

Personally I am not very fond of rhino, indeed because it is not always easy to recognize. But also I am more inpressed by craftmenship of the carver, wheter it is in rhino, buffalo, ivory or wood.
The pieces I have seen where complete horns decorated by the chinese, and on those pieces you can indeed easily see the grain/hair structure.


Tim Simmons 26th March 2008 04:45 PM

Willem, I agree wholeheartedly with you that the quality art and artistic expression does not depend on the intrinsic value put on the material it is made from. Market forces are not always influenced by subtleties. This can be to your advantage sometimes.

katana 26th March 2008 08:13 PM

A definitive test ....but unfortunately too expensive and slightly distructive.
It relies on DNA analysis, if it was practical you would not only know that your hilt is definately Rhino .....but also the species, the type of food it ate and the region where your 'horn hilt' roamed ;)

Regards David

spiral 26th March 2008 09:27 PM

Great stuff katana!

Apparently all Rhino horn post 1945 is also recognisable by the microscopic radation isotopes of plutoniam & uranium that dont show up in the true pre.1945 vases & handles.{So it must be incoprated in the horn through foodstuffs rather than just existance.]

But Aldermston charge a few pennys to run such a test I suspect! :D

I presume its a true age test for anything organic from post 1945?


spiral 26th March 2008 11:18 PM

I Agree Tim, Asomotif , Craftmanship is most important, but the qualities of rhino to take fine carving and stand without splitting for centurys leave buffalo , goat & cow fast behind,

Also of course its practical qualitys of grip & its historical significance in many cultures.

It becanme rare & valuable because it was great material. Not the other way round. ;)

i guess the Chinese pharmascists must have goo tests, unless they can also just "see" it due to handling the real stuff.

I guess to some people Rhino horn is also a power motif? rather like Tiger teeth & human skulls?

But without doubt it is the soundest horn there is. :D


Amuk Murugul 27th March 2008 02:39 AM

Thank You All!
Hullo everybody,

Thank you all for your input. I hope I become the wiser for it.
The reason for my post is that lately, there have been many sellers claiming the handles on their edged weapons being rhino horn. In some cases, these sellers are online, providing (sometimes blurry) photos.(How one can tell from photos, I don't know).
Normally, it wouldn't bother me what the handle material was, as I'm more interested in the blade.
However, in a couple of cases, during price negotiations, the seller kept citing 'rhino horn' as the reason for the 'high' asking price. Needless to say, not being an expert on rhino horn, I had to break off the negotiations. (A shame not being able to get a blade that I want, just because of a bit of rhino horn :( )

Once again, thank you all.

Tim Simmons 28th March 2008 08:21 PM

1 Attachment(s)
This pic is from this site suggesting thier specimen is the last big Rhino horn even though this is really only a small one it has to be at least 1m.

This site may explain why other colours are seen, the outer pats of a big horn may be more course and even lighter in colour?

spiral 29th March 2008 05:08 PM

Thanks Tim, I doubt if there many wild rhino with horns like that out in the jungles savanas today unfortuanatly!

That article helps explains the black core found very well, ive found {admitadly from a minute selection of samples.] the black rhino horn [colour not species.] is much heaveir & harder than the lighter coloured areas.


Tim Simmons 19th May 2008 06:32 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Found this picture today. The kind a staff would be made from? Interesting to say the least :cool:

ariel 19th May 2008 08:08 PM

If there is a rhinoceros attached to the handle of the dagger, you got the ultimate proof :D

Lew 1st January 2009 11:23 PM

2 Attachment(s)
I am updating the thread because some forumites were asking questions in another thread so I wanted to clearify what one should look for to look in real rhino horn. Below is a close up of my rhino horned jambiya hilt please notice the bundle fibers at the end of the hilt which has an orange peel effect. Not all rhino is translucent some as is this one is dark brown and is hard to see light through. I am posting a pic of a lighter color rhino jambiya hilt that would show translucencey when held up to a light source.


migueldiaz 2nd January 2009 12:14 AM

Originally Posted by ariel
If there is a rhinoceros attached to the handle of the dagger, you got the ultimate proof :D

Amen! :D

cpkaway2 29th February 2016 05:12 AM

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This photo illustrates the point made in message #4. I found it on the website with the caption: If you can find an end, the end grain may look like this. Rhino horn is in fact a mass of hair bonded together.

Battara 2nd March 2016 12:11 AM

Very nice example, thank you!

harrywagner 2nd March 2016 12:59 AM

Originally Posted by cpkaway2
This photo illustrates the point made in message #4. I found it on the website with the caption: If you can find an end, the end grain may look like this. Rhino horn is in fact a mass of hair bonded together.

Many thanks!

mrcjgscott 2nd March 2016 03:47 PM

Another very useful thread, thanks all!

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