Fun Longhorn Cowfish Facts For Kids

Joan Agie
Apr 25, 2023 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Shreya Yadav
Longhorn cowfish facts about its unique facial structure

The longhorn cowfish are scientifically known as Lactoria cornuta (Linnaeus, 1758). It got the colloquial name cowfish, as it has a hornlike structure that is similar to a cow or a bull.

These fishes are found in the saltwater regions of the Indo-pacific. They belong to the Ostraciidi family (around 25 species known).

These fishes are interesting and comical due to their boxlike figure and plain-looking appearance consisting of two horns. They grow up to 45-48 cm and are found in coral reefs and seaweed reefs. They have a unique mating season as they mate only after sunset during spring.

They are also known for their lousy swimming skills. Here are a few interesting facts about them that make you want to have one yourself due to their interesting and beautiful characteristics.

For more fishy facts, check out our articles on codfish and skate fish.

Longhorn Cowfish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Longhorn cowfish?

The Longhorn cowfish, as its name states, is a fish that looks like a cow or a bull. They are yellow and salty-looking creatures. Longhorn cowfish Lactoria cornuta look plain due to their box-shaped structure with horns.

What class of animal does a Longhorn cowfish belong to?

The longhorn fish belongs to the class Actinopterygii. This class includes ray-finned fishes that are very bony in structure. These fishes have horny skin and fins that make them look well-built.

How many Longhorn cowfish are there in the world?

There are about 25 species of longhorn cowfish in the world to date. These species belong to the Ostraciidi family. There isn’t a specific count as to how many longhorn cowfish are there in the world.

Where does a Longhorn cowfish live?

The longhorn cowfish live in the southern hemisphere. They are naturally found in the Indo-pacific and the red sea. Due to their rich nutritious value, they are added to a variety of foods by the natives.

What is a Longhorn cowfish's habitat?

The longhorn cowfish primarily live in the coral reefs in lagoons, on reef flats, and on protected seaward reefs in the southern hemisphere. The depth can range from 3.3–148 ft (1–45m, perhaps up to 100m).

Who do Longhorn cowfish live with?

Adult longhorn cowfish are solitary and territorial, and as such, they usually live around coral reefs. The younger ones often move in groups around Acropora corals, near river mouths, shallow mudflats, and in brackish water.

How long does a Longhorn cowfish live?

The longhorn cowfish are often solitary and territorial and are usually found within 1-45m depth in seas but they can sometimes be found up to 100m deep inside the water, though this is uncommon. Due to the structure of their gills, they cannot survive for long in deep waters.

How do they reproduce?

The longhorn cowfish is an oviparous fish that breeds during spring when the temperature of the water rises. The mating process occurs when a male attracts one female by showcasing his bright colors and going along with her to the surface.

What is their conservation status?

Longhorn cowfish, scientifically known as Lactoria cornuta, is reported to have ciguatera poisoning and has not been evaluated regarding their IUCN Red List Status.

Longhorn Cowfish Fun Facts

What do Longhorn cowfish look like?

The longhorn cowfish are not very appealing to the eyes and are considered plain-looking. They have a horn-like protrusion which makes them look like a cow or a bull. They got their name from the long horns that protrude from their head.

Longhorn cowfish is a truly exotic creature.

How cute are they?

Though longhorn cowfish are plain-looking, they fall on the cute side of appearance evaluation. Especially during the mating season, the male longhorn cowfish look different and unique in an act to attract the female fish.

How do they communicate?

The longhorn cowfish communicate through their body language and changes in color as seen in the males during mating.

How big is a Longhorn cowfish?

It’s common to see a 20 in Longhorn cowfish but mostly they grow up to 16 in.

How fast can a Longhorn cowfish swim?

The longhorn cowfish have a very unique way of swimming with the help of their pectoral fins, which makes it look like they’re hovering rather than swimming. They have no pelvic skeletons, so they lack pelvic fins.

The longhorn cowfish are also known to be slow or lousy swimmers which makes it difficult for them to escape from their predators. They are very similar to other fishes having their fins fused with their skin, which makes them strong yet slow in swimming.

How much does a Longhorn cowfish weigh?

Due to its small size, the longhorn cowfish weighs less than a kilo, around 2.2 lb. They are commonly small-looking creatures in their natural habitat, but look great in a saltwater aquarium!

What are their male and female names of the species?

Longhorn cowfish has different names such as Longhorn Boxfish, Yellow Boxfish, and Ostracion cornutus but shows no visible difference between a male and a female.

What would you call a baby Longhorn cowfish?

The baby or young longhorn cowfish are called juveniles and have different personalities compared to the shy and solitary nature of adult fishes. These juveniles have longer horns compared to the adult or older longhorn cowfish.

What do they eat?

The longhorn cowfish are not very agile in hunting and usually feed on benthic algae, crustaceans, and marine invertebrates by blowing jets of water, and while in captivity they eat fleshy marine algae. They are known for blowing jets of water to uncover the delectable worms present in the sand underwater.

Are they poisonous?

The cowfish longhorn is prone to be stressed out when they come across bright lights or sounds. Longhorn cowfish poison (ostracitoxin) is a very potent weapon that they release when under attack. When they are stressed, they release a toxic substance i.e. ostracitoxin, into the water which helps them fight when attacked by predators.

Would they make a good pet?

According to recent research, people consider longhorn cowfish to be a popular pet or an aquarium fish. It would seem that their long horns are strange but cute at the same time!

Its appearance is simple but ironically attracts many pet owners. Longhorns also tend to look bigger in an aquarium or tank differing from how they look in their natural habitat. They are such slow swimmers that they can be easily caught by hand which is handy.

Did you know...

The longhorn cowfish can protect itself through the release of toxic substances. When they are stressed, they secrete a poisonous substance that can kill not only themselves but also everything around them. If kept in an aquarium, then, they can kill the entire aquarium. Their skin is also considered poisonous.  

The mouth of the longhorn cowfish is located under the lower side of its head making it look weird. As their common color is yellow, they are easily spotted and are very popular in saltwater aquariums.

They are also present in colors like olive green, white, and blue with white spots on the skin which glow in the dark. Some longhorn cowfish also have white-blue stripes.

The eyes of a longhorn cowfish look like a galaxy with deep blue-colored pupils and a shiny substance around it. This feature of the longhorn cowfish results in many eye problems like frequent tissue damage.

Scientists say that the longhorn cowfish should never be held captive due to its poisonous nature. Even still, their box-shaped body makes them very popular among saltwater keepers.  

The longhorn cowfish possesses the ability to grow back its horns if broken or damaged. These horns grow shorter as they age. This feature also indicates the main function of the horns which is to help them prey which reduces as they grow.

Like yellow boxfish, longhorn cowfish are slow swimmers and can easily be caught by hand. The horns on their head and their tail make it hard for the predators to swallow them. Due to their protective features, they are not preferred by many predators. The longhorn cowfish lack gill covers and have slits or holes instead.

Longhorn cowfish can be found in the southern hemisphere including southern Japan, south of Australia, and East Africa amongst various other regions including the Red Sea. But they are most abundant in the waters around southern Japan.

Having Your Longhorn Cowfish

An average longhorn cowfish costs around $149 according to the size of the fish, which is quite similar to that of a boxfish. You can buy this fish online at Blue Zoo Aquatics or in your nearby pet shop. Since these fish need a lot of maintenance, they might be difficult to find in several pet shops.

Longhorn Cowfish Care

As the longhorn cowfish in captivity live less than that in the wild, caring becomes tedious. They feed on fleshy marine algae and require a tank that can hold 100 gallons of water.

The water must be cleaned regularly as they tend to secrete poison and poison-like substances. They must also have a strict diet as aggressive feeding can lead to complex problems with the longhorn cowfish and other fish in the aquarium.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish including sucker fish, or milkfish.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Longhorn Cowfish coloring pages.

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Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

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Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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Fact-checked by Shreya Yadav

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Psychology

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Shreya YadavBachelor of Arts specializing in Psychology

Shreya has developed a diverse set of skills through her experience in client servicing, email marketing, content and e-commerce management, digital marketing, and creative content writing. Her educational background includes a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Indira Gandhi National Open University, Delhi. Shreya's passion for ongoing learning and development is a testament to her commitment to excellence.

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