Viking drinking horns are no longer a thing of the past. Though most people still reach for regular cups, glasses, or mugs when they need to drink, a lot of people are also interested in using unconventional drinking vessels.
Drinking horns were widely used in ancient times. It supposedly began with the Scythians, who carried on through the Middle Ages. In the Modern Period, there was a decline in its use when glass, metal, and wooden drinking vessels came to be, but now, Viking drinking horns are making a comeback.
If you’re curious to know the process on how drinking horns are made, keep on reading.
Finding the Horn
A Viking drinking horn comes from animal horns. It can be from a cow, ox, or buffalo. Different horns from those different animals each have their own characteristics that make them unique, such as patterns and melting points.
For businesses that sell drinking horns, they can get the horn from the animals if they have a cattle farm, and they’ll be getting their materials from their own resources. However, for those who don’t own cattle farms, they can also get horns from meat stores. The general public doesn’t usually buy the parts that aren’t consumable such as the bones and horns.
Another way, which is a bit more complicated and may even take a lot of time, is to go hunting. Going out in the wild to find a buffalo to hunt is more for the hobbyist drinking horn maker.
Cleaning the Horn
The raw horns you get once cut off from the animal are not hollow. Drinking horn makers remove the marrow to make it suitable for drinking. For those who get their horns from horn stores, it may already be marrowless. But for those who have farms or go hunting, they’ll have to clean it out themselves.
There are two ways to remove the core, which is the marrow, from the outer horn:
- Boiling – Boiling is the quick method to remove the marrow. Boiling softens the core, which will make it easy for the maker to scrape it out. It’s a messy process, but it’ll be clean in no time.
- Drying – If you don’t want to create a huge mess because of the softened marrow, you have the option to leave the horn in a warm and dry spot. The core will naturally separate from the outer horn, but it will take a lot of time.
After removing the core, any remnants of the marrow needs removing, too. Drinking horn makers usually do it by pouring warm water and then scraping it off. They do it repeatedly to make sure that all the fleshy material gets removed.
Styling the Horn
Drinking horns can come in different styles. You are not limited to a single shape or design. But, of course, if you prefer a natural look, you’ll always find those options.
There are drinking horns that retain their natural shape. Makers don’t mold it to form new shapes, so it stays the way it is, which has an opening, a slim and slender body, with a pointed tip. Drinking horns like those that get cut, cleaned, and polished without further embellishments.
If you prefer a modernized drinking horn, there are plenty out there. Makers can mold the horn into a different shape. They do this by heating it and reshaping it when it softens. The process is a bit complicated because, as mentioned, horns have different melting points, and if the maker is not sure how to estimate the right temperature, pressing the horn too early or too late can result in breaking, which will make it useless.
Engraving makes the horn a little more personalized. Some drinking horn makers offer customization by letting you choose what engravings to put on your order. You can have your name or ask for it to have a Game of Thrones theme if you’re a fan, or whatever you might like that they can do.
Again, engraving is another complicated process. Carving too deep may put holes on the horn, which will make it useless as a drinking vessel. However, it can still be excellent home decor. If you work from home and put it on your desk, at least you have something interesting to look at when you need a break.
In ancient times, drinking horns didn’t have coatings. People in the olden days hollow it out, and then use it as it is, without coating the inside. People today may find it repulsive because there could still be a lingering taste or smell of the marrow. It also makes it prone to damage if you use it for dairy or acidic drinks.
To make the drinking horn last long, makers coat it with food-safe finishes so it protects the horn from any damage that some beverages can do. If it has a coating such as beeswax, it can hold any drink without any structural damage.
Drinking horns are starting to gain popularity these days. Unusual things like these catch the interest of people, which could be why there is a rise in the number of drinking horn sellers. Of course, popular culture may have something to do with it, too. Shows like Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings have a historical setting where people use drinking horns. Whatever it may be, drinking horns is fun to have, and the process of its creation is also an interesting part of why they are so fascinating.