Horned boxfish

(Lactoria cornuta)


Horned boxfish IUCN NOT EVALUATED (NE)


Facts about this animal

The horned boxfish is one of the larger trunkfish, reaching a length of over 45 cm. As its name implies, it has very long horns on the forehead. It also hs a long tail which increases proportionally with age.

The horned boxfish has no dorsal or anal spines but 8-9 dorsal and 8-9 anal soft rays, pectoral fins with 10-11, and caudal fin with 9-10 soft rays. The colour ranges from green and olive to orange with blue spots.

Cowfish are slow swimmers. Their rigid body is propelled primarily by the large, undulating dorsal fin, and the two pectoral fins. The tail and tail fin are used for steering. Like a helicopter, they are able to swim backwards.

Adult longhorns are solitary, juveniles often form small groups, which may be found on protected shallow mudflats.

Adult and juvenile horned boxfish feed on benthic invertebrates, mainly custaceans, by blowing away the sand. Wrasse often follow them around, looking for an easy meal. Tuna fish predate on long-horned boxfish.

Did you know?
that cowfish have a hard carapace that acts as both a skeleton and armour? When threatened, they also can release toxin to ward off potential predators. This "ostracitoxin" is exuded through the skin from almost all areas of the body, but primarily from the flanks or sides.


Name (Scientific) Lactoria cornuta
Name (English) Horned boxfish
Name (French) Poisson-vache
Name (German) Kuhfisch, Langhorn-Kofferfisch
Name (Spanish) Pez vaca
Local names Afrikaaans: Langhoring-koeivis
Bahasa Indonesia: Sapi sapi
Bahasa Malaysia: Buntal tanduk, Buntal kotak, Buntal batu
Tagalog: Baka-baka
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Willfried Wittkowsky



Range South-east Atlantic; Tropical Indo-Pacific from the coast of Africa to the Central Pacific islands, north to southern Japan, south to Lord Howe Island; Red Sea
Habitat Lives in brackish or salt water from tidal pools to a depth of more than 50 m. Still bays, harbours and estuaries, reefs or rocks.
Wild population Unknown
Zoo population Considering that most public aquaria are not part of the WAZA system and do not register their collections with ISIS, available ISIS data are not significant.

In the Zoo

How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 51 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.

Fish must be unpacked carefully and under low illumination.


Find this animal on ZooLex

Why do zoos keep this animal

Horned boxfish are not an endangered species but their habitats, coral reefs, are threatened in many places. They are thus presented by zoos and aquariums as an ambassador species for reef protection.