Esittelyssä sarvitorvi

Introduction to Blowing Horns

What is a blowing horn?
A shepherd's horn, ergo blowing horn or horn trumpet, is an ancient primitive instrument made of animal horn. It is a kind of precursor to the trumpet, but it does not have a separate mouthpiece, instead the mouthpiece is carved into the horn itself. Horns have been used, for example, to call or move livestock, to scare beasts or as a village horn to call people to social gatherings. The most talented players have even been able to use horns to play dance music. Horn trumpets are made from cow, bull or goat horns. They can have up to four or five finger holes but it is not necessary to have finger holes at all.

History of blowing horns

Bukkehorn, pukinsarvitorvi

Buckhorn with fingerholes, Finnish National Museum, picture from

Of the horn trumpets, the bull horn has been very common throughout Europe, while there is only little information about cow horns. Buckhorns, on the other hand, have been an instrument used mostly in Fennoscandia and the Baltics, which has no counterpart anywhere else in Europe. In Germany, the use of horns can be dated to the times when the aurochs (Bos Primigenius) still roamed Europe. It has been assumed that horn instruments were already known in Finland in pre-Christian times, and there are indications of this, for example, in Kalevanpoika's poem, the ingredients of which were already known in Finland in prehistoric times. Buckhorns are, however, a much younger instrument in Finland than cow horns, and information about them only starts to be found from the 17th century. When they appeared in Finnish regions, buckhorn horns quickly replaced cowhorns and also spread to a much wider range of use. Their popularity is also indicated by the fact that many horns are engraved with their owner's wood sign, year or other decorations.


In the past, horns were associated with all kinds of beliefs. For example, it might have been thought that the horn could cause evil, summon evil creatures or enchant a herd of cattle. In the poems of Finland, Karelia and Ingria, a shepherd made a horn and turned the sheep into wolves and cows into bears or fed the cattle to bears and drove the bears home. In these poems the narrative description of the trumpet making is remarkable which has somehow remained the same regardless of the region.

The blowing technique

blowing technique

The technique of playing the horns is a bit challenging at first, but everyone can learn it. The sound is produced, as in a modern trumpet, by pressing the mouthpiece against the lips and blowing, so the mouthpiece is not placed inside the mouth. You can practice without an instrument by putting your lips tightly together and lightly buzzing your lips. It is precisely the vibration of the lips inside the mouthpiece that produces the sound of the instrument.

When blowing, keep your cheeks tight so that the air doesn't run out too quickly, and also make sure that the air doesn't escape between the mouthpiece and the skin. The horn should also be held in hand in a way that it points upwards, so that it resonates better.
Back to blog