Why did animal horns develop different shapes

Horn - the megaphone of antiquity

There are two completely different hunting horn traditions that exist and develop independently of one another. On the one hand the French and on the other hand the German / Austrian / Bohemian developments.

The French trompe de chasse had its heyday in
17th century at the court of the Sun King Louis XIV.
In the eighties of the
The parforce horn was also introduced in Bohemia in the 17th century.

The German tradition of blowing hunting horns basically begins in the 19th century with the development and spread of the Fürst-Pless horn and the "German hunting signals". When the tradition of aristocratic culture began to decline, the original form of parforce hunting music fell into oblivion.
Only after World War II
hunting horn blowing lived its renaissance in hunting circles.

This is also the case in Switzerland. A large part of the hunting horn wind groups active in our region was founded between 1960 and 1981.

Blowing a hunting horn as a signal when hunting is certainly almost as old as hunting itself. It has become a central part of hunting culture. The name horn indicates the origin of this instrument. At first it was animal horns. Today there are different forms of hunting horns.

They were animal horns that were used as megaphones from an early age. Later, with a suitable shape of the narrow end, the first tones were created on it. The connection with the hunt had a double meaning. Surely it was about getting rich booty, but there was another background. Nature should be sworn not to take revenge on man for his interventions.

The natural material was gradually replaced by other materials. The Oliphant (= ivory bugle) from the Roland saga is historically interesting. This smaller shape of the horn was often used in the 12th - 14th centuries: as a short lower horn for hunters, as a bugle for guards and as a simple horn for shepherds. Gradual enlargement of this horn lead to the curling of the tube in the 14th century. The twisted hunter's horn with the tones was created
c´, g´, c´´, e´´, g´´.

Around 1680, larger circular pipes, the Parforce horns, were already being built in France and England. These horns gained great importance in the 17th and 18th centuries, starting from the French royal court, where they were not only lavishly built and made music, but also lavishly hunted.

The Bohemian Count Franz Anton von Sporck (1662-1738) got to know the instrument to his enthusiasm in France and imported it to Germany. After 1848 this horn was only blown on the now rarer state hunts of the great princes.

In contrast, the smaller, wrapped, round hunting horn gained great importance in the 19th century. Duke Heinrich von Pless (1833-1909), as the emperor's chief hunter, had been in charge of court hunts since 1878 and always carried a small hunting horn with him in high society, which he knew how to blow and which he used to give signals during the hunt. The emperor's political and social position contributed to the fact that everything around him, including hunting, was admired and imitated as exemplary. The signals and the Fürst-Pless-Horn were adopted throughout Prussia and later also in the other German countries.

Signals are simple signs of communication at a distance. This applies to sound signals as they are still used today in hunting, as well as to signals in the military and postal service of the past. The main signaling instruments used are horns, trombones, trumpets, drums and bells. The history of the hunting horn, natural horn and French horn in Europe shows that hunting is an inseparable part of our cultural history and exerted a decisive influence on music, literature and the visual arts. The history of the hunting and natural horn is a story of increasing musical demands, from a simple hunting signal to a virtuoso horn concert.

We can divide horns used for hunting and hunting music into two main groups:

  • Hunter's horns: Made from shells, cattle horn or brass, such hunter horns have been blown as a means of communication during the hunt since the 17th century without additional improvements.

  • Hunting horns: Developed at the end of the 17th century with a larger range and with additional improvements. This means that the hunting horns are not only suitable for communication on the hunt, but also for actually making music. These include the crescent moon and the single to multiple wind hunting horn (e.g. the Sauerland crescent moon, the French trompes de chasse, the German parforce horns in Bb / Es, as well as
    Fürst-Pless-Horn).

It was only in the Middle Ages that more precise references to horn signals appeared in the literature as acoustic signals of communication for hunters. Later, the signals developed into real "hunting music", from simple fanfares and songs to virtuoso performance pieces. In our time, the hunting horn blowers can rely on an extensive musical literature.

The cantonal hunting and game protection associations support their hunting horn groups in one way or another and hold courses for beginners and advanced players, especially in the canton of Aargau. However, many wind players are not affiliated with any of the estimated 150 hunting horn wind groups, which have an average of around 12 active members. There are 9 hunting horn groups in the canton of Aargau. During the autumn hunt it can easily happen that a couple of hunters spontaneously take out their Fürst-Pless and Parforce horns and give the signals "Welcome" and "Departure for the hunt". Today, the hunting horn is just as indispensable as an instrument in hunting music and as an instrument for public relations work for the hunters. In addition, it has been able to maintain its permanent position as a communication tool. The hunters, with their keen sense of tradition and the observance of ethical manners and customs of the hunt, will always tend to use the tried and tested hunting horn and to cultivate the ritual when hunting.


(Source: Werner Flachs: "The hunting horn, its history from the Stone Age to the present" Verlag Kalt-Zehnder, Zug ISBN 3-85761-254-1)


In their original use, hunting horns are used for signals on the hunt. They are also used as musical instruments. These are variants of the natural trumpet, which means that no keys or valves are built in and that the range is limited accordingly.