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How to Polish Bull Horns

Polish your cattle horns so that they look perfect.
David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

Bull horns can be used for decoration and also function as a powder horn or other container. A smooth, luxurious finish on the horn is desired regardless of what it is being used for. The method by which you polish a bull horn depends largely on whether the horn is fresh or old; older bull horns have developed a patina, a thin film caused by oxidation from exposure to the air. As the patina protects the horn from more severe oxidation and gives it an antiqued beauty, you must take care not to remove the patina from older horns when trying to restore a beautiful polish.

New Horn

Scrape the bull horn lightly with a razor blade to remove any rough spots from the horn. Do not apply downward force while doing this; lay the blade on its side, and allow it to move lightly over the surface of the horn.

Rub the horn down lightly with a steel wool pad to buff any rough areas that the razor blade missed. Do not apply excess pressure to the horn with the steel wool.

Begin buffing the horn with sandpaper. Start with a rough grade, move to a medium grade and finish with a fine grade. Do not apply excess pressure to the horn, but increase the pressure slightly with each change in grade. Wet the bull horn, and wipe it dry with a clean cotton or canvas cloth in between grades.

Apply a paste floor, surfboard, or automotive wax to polish the bull horn, using a clean cotton cloth to buff the wax to a shine.

Antique Horn

Mix a mild detergent or soap with warm water. Using a sponge, use the water to lightly wet the bull horn. Make sure that the horn is thoroughly damp but is not exceedingly wet.

Wipe the horn with the sponge to remove any excess dirt that may be clinging to the bull horn. Place the sponge back into the water, and wring it out to clean it; then re-wet the sponge, and wipe the horn down again.

Place toothpaste on a cloth, and wipe down the horn. Toothpaste contains a very mild abrasive that is gentle enough to not damage teeth, so it can remove additional dirt or oils while lightly buffing the surface of the horn.

Use the sponge and water once again to clean the bull horn and remove any toothpaste that might remain on its surface. Wet and wring the sponge again, then re-wet it to complete one last cleaning of the horn.

Wipe the horn dry with a clean cotton or canvas cloth. Apply moderate force when wiping so as to further buff the natural shine of the horn and its patina.

Use lanolin or a paste floor wax to add additional shine to the horn if desired, making sure that you rub the horn well to remove any excess wax or lanolin after you have applied it.

Things You'll Need:

  • New Horn:
  • Razor blade
  • Course sandpaper
  • Mid-grade sandpaper
  • Fine-grade sandpaper
  • Cotton or canvas cloth
  • Paste wax
  • Old or Antique Horn:
  • Mild detergent or dishwashing soap
  • Toothpaste
  • Cotton or canvas cloth
  • Paste wax


  • Many antique bull horns have been scraped so that the horn material is thin; use care when rubbing or buffing them so as not to damage or crack the horn.
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