Updated: May 19, 2020
One of the most common questions that Milo's staff gets from ignorant people is "What are those extra horns? Can you remove them?"
First off, they aren't horns. And second - NO WE WILL NOT REMOVE THEM. Are you kidding?!?
The "horns" you may see under his white unicorn bridle are actually his EARS that are covered in special breathable fabric. That's right, the things he uses to hear out of. Unlike your ears which are rounded, horse and unicorn ears are more pointed in shape with an outer ear called the pinna and the actual inner ear canal.
The pinna is a lot like what you might see on a house cat. It's a specially shaped cartilaginous feature covered in hair that helps to funnel, amplify, and direct sound waves down in to the ear canal where the sound waves can be interpreted by the horse's brain. Horse and unicorn ears are MUCH more developed than human ears and can be moved by the animal 180 degrees by using 10 special muscles to focus on the direction a sound is coming from. In the urban wild this helps horses to hear approaching predators like motorcycles or unwanted inlaws and know to move away.
Besides being able to move their ears better than humans, horses and unicorns can also hear better than a human. Horses can hear a range from 14 Hz to 25 kHz while humans can only hear between 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Milo the Magical Unicorn has particularly sensitive ears with acute distinction on words and sounds.
We care about Milo's quality of life. As a result, we provide him with specific accommodations to make his life more comfortable such as his "hats," commonly called "ear protection" or "fly bonnets."
Fly bonnets serve two main purposes for horses:
They help to hold special horse ear plugs in place.
They provide a barrier of defense against biting flies to the ears.
We care about Milo's quality of life. As a result, we provide him with specific accommodations to make his life more comfortable.
Yes, you heard us right, there are such things as horse ear plugs. If Milo the Unicorn is working in a loud environment the fly bonnet ear cover helps to us keep his special ear plugs in place to protect his hearing from damage due to loud noises. They are similar to the ear plugs you use as a person when doing something like working with power tools, just larger to fit his ears. He can still hear with them in, it just helps him to protect his hearing.
Most parties aren't loud enough to merit wearing ear plugs (although some toddlers can SHRIEK!) so the reason why he normally wears a fly bonnet is to protect him from biting flies. Flies think that unicorns are absolutely delicious and tend to target the thin skin on the ears to bite and draw blood. Once blood is scented, other flies will swarm around an area and try to bite the horse too. That broken skin can lead to painful infection and distraction in the unicorn. To prevent that from happening we use a fly bonnet. The flies can't bite through it so Milo the Unicorn is able to focus and enjoy his day while being comfortable and fly-free.
Would you like to learn more about horse's hearing? Visit a page we researched while working on this post:
T. Mark Neer, Mark T. with Rosenbaum, Michele R. and White, Patricia D. (2019). Ear Structure and Function in Horses. Retrieved June 25, 2019, from https://www.merckvetmanual.com/horse-owners/ear-disorders-of-horses/ear-structure-and-function-in-horses