Physical Description

  • A small shark, only growing to 4 feet long.
  • Named for the prominent spines, or “horns”, in front of its dorsal (top) fins.
  • Shades of tan and gray in coloration, with a blunt snout.
  • Prominent ridges over eyes.
  • Prominent black spots over entire body.
  • Have sharp teeth in front for grasping prey, and flat, molar-like teeth in back for crushing shellfish.
  • Adult males are smaller than females.
  • Juveniles look like miniature adults.


  • From central California to Baja California, Mexico.


  • Found in kelp forests and rocky reefs.
  • They hide in caves and recesses during the day and hunt at night.
  • Prefer water less than 40 feet deep.


  • Females mature at 2 feet long, males are smaller and mature at 1.8-2 feet long.
  • Horn sharks lay eggs every 11-14 days from February to April.
  • A female may lay up to 24 eggs per season.
  • These sharks have some of the most unique eggs in the animal kingdom.
  • Their egg cases are spirals, which the females wedge into crevices; the spiral keeps the egg from drifting away.
  • The shark pup inside the egg case will take about 6-9 months to hatch, and hatches at 6-7 inches long.


  • Crustaceans, sea urchins, small fish, mollusks.


  • Other sharks and large fish.

Interesting Facts

  • Horn sharks sometimes crawl in the sand and on rocks on their strong pectoral (front) fins.
  • To crack the shells of their prey, the horn shark generates the highest known bite force relative to its size of any shark.
  • Horn sharks are hunted for their spines, which are turned into jewelry. They are also often caught as bycatch in fisheries. 

Sources: Monterey Bay Aquarium; Huber et al. 2005; Florida Museum

Photo: David R. Andrew

Want to see a live horn shark? Catch one on Birch Aquarium’s Kelp Cam, or visit Birch Aquarium today! You can also hold a horn shark egg at Birch’s touch tank or during their Spring Eggstravaganza