Horned gopher
A restoration of Ceratogaulus hatcheri
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Mylagaulidae
Subfamily: Mylagaulinae
Genus: Ceratogaulus
Matthew, 1902
Referred species
  • Ceratogaulus anecdotus
  • Ceratogaulus hatcheri
  • Ceratogaulus minor
  • Ceratogaulus rhinocerus
  • Epigaulus

Horned gophers are extinct rodents from the genus Ceratogaulus, a member of the extinct fossorial family Mylagaulidae. Ceratogaulus is the only known rodent genus with horns, and is the smallest known horned mammal. Ceratogaulus lived from the late Miocene to the early Pleistocene epoch.


The horned gopher had two horns; these were large (in comparison to body size), paired, and originated from the nose. Horned gophers are the smallest known mammals to ever have horns, and the only known species of horned rodents, and apart from one fossil species of armadillo, Peltephilus, the only known fossorial horned mammals.[1] They were native to what is now the Great Plains of North America, most concentrated in Nebraska.

The role of the horns of Ceratogaulus is subject to much speculation. Possibilities include digging (although this has largely been ruled out by the horns' position and orientation; see below for a more detailed analysis), mating displays or combat, and defense from predators. Because the horns were not sexually dimorphic, their role in defense seems most likely.

In most other respects, the animals resembled modern marmots. They were approximately 30 centimetres (0.98 ft) long, and had paddle-like forepaws with powerful claws adapted for digging. They also had small eyes, and probably had poor eyesight, similar to that of a mole. These features suggest that they were likely to be burrowing animals.

In the Media[]

Milo, Lyddia, & Plower

Lydia, Plower, and Milo; three Ceratogaulus.

  • Ceratogaulus appear in the 17th episode of the television series The Land Before Time. They are shown to live in fear of a Microceratus they call the Great Hideous Beast, which terrorizes them because of their small size. They believe that a hero will come from the Mysterious Above--the world above ground--to rescue them. This prophecy is fulfilled in the episode by Spike, who falls into their burrow and is taken to be their mythological hero. He does end up driving away the Beast, as he is far larger than it (it is not a very large dinosaur despite being big enough to terrorize the Ceratogaulus). They are some of the few Cenozoic animals from The Land Before Time, along with the Megalochelys.