Challenge: Can you identify this skull?

What creature does this skull belong to? Ask anyone who knows anything about this kind of thing, take a look at these pictures and see if you can make a guess.

I have had it for years in my room, having found it near some rapids in New Zealand, surrounded by fields inhabited primarily by sheep. But this certainly doesn’t look like a sheep skull, and has no visible evidence of ever having a jaw/teeth. Quite large eye sockets, the skull has a strange snout-like thing with a gaping hole in the middle.

I have also sent it off to the Identification forum of the Natural History Museum.

4 responses

  1. The gaping hole seems to be where the front of the skull used to be. The rounded hole at the back is likely the foramen magnum, where the spinal cord leaves the head. The smooth bone on either side of it is where the vertebrae articulate with the skull, allowing for head movement. The curved broken bones coming out of each side of the skull are either cheek bones or eye sockets.

    Hopefully that can help you orientate the skull a bit better because these pictures are from all kinds of weird angles that make it difficult to identify. My bet would be on either a dog or sheep skull.

    • Thank you, yes I took every angle as it is a broken skull so quite difficult to navigate which way is which.

      In the end I asked the National History museum Identification team and they said definitely a sheep, so your guess was correct. Thanks for pointing out which parts of the skull are which, that definitely helps me build a picture of what it would look like were it whole. I had thought sheep but when searching for images they looked nothing like this broken up one

      • Well I’m glad to have been some help at least. I did a course in faunal archaeology last year and I did enjoy trying to identify the various bones, felt like being a bit of a detective. If it weren’t for the fact I found pretty much every other aspect of the subject rather droll I would be seriously considering doing more of it.

        Photos aren’t really the best way to identify bones normally, there’s nothing quite like being able to pick it up and inspect it. Especially when there are other samples to compare it to. I reckon if you had a complete sheep skull to hand then you could probably spot the similarities a lot easier.

        It might just be you actually have a goat skull there. The two species are really similar and it is almost impossible to tell them apart so most they are typically referred to as “sheep/goats” when being identified. Paints the picture of someone training a goat to herd sheep, no?

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