Symbolic horns as a visual shorthand to indicate a man whose wife cheats on him.
Also note that the common word for cuckold in several European languages literally means "horned"; the Italian word "cornuto" is one example.
Anime and Manga
- In the first episode of Adventures Of Mini Goddess, this is used as a joke: Urd is trying to help a small rat get a wife, and sets him up with an appliance of some kind. However, the appliance says that she was in love with another kitchen appliance, and the two run off together, leaving the rat standing by himself, with the shadow of a cow and horns extending from his body.
- Oberon had these in the Sandman story which riffed on A Midsummer Night's Dream, because his wife Titania was cheating on him.
- A comic by Walter Moers has a man (depicted literally wearing horns) s doing a walk and wonders why he always has to leave when his wife's brother is visiting her. In a later scene he wonders why she's wearing sexy underwear for her brother, but not for him. Then he remembers that she has no brother - and still doesn't make the connection, only thinking "women are odd".
- A woman gave birth to a black boy while her husband was away. She writes him:
"My dear. I gave birth to a boy. However, I had lactation problems, so the baby was nursed by an Ethiopian. You won't believe it, but the baby turned black."
- The husband is amazed. He writes to his mum about that. Soon after, he receives a reply:
"Dear son. When you were born, I, likewise, had lactation problems, and you were nursed by a cow, but it wasn't until now that you grew horns."
- Angels & Demons has a paragraph or two where Langdon notes that the symbology of this (keeping in mind who wrote it) means that it's actually a compliment to the one you're bunny ears-ing's virility.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, King Robert's banner is a stag, which leads to multiple puns when it comes out that his queenly wife cheated on him.
- In Max Shulman's novel Rally Round the Flag, Boys!, Harry Bannerman, who feels guilty about his affair with his boss's wife, at one especially nervous moment imagines twelve-foot horns protruding from his boss's forehead.
- The short story My Private Memoirs of the Hoffer Stigmata Pandemic, in which a pandemic makes people's sins externally manifest in the form of various facial deformations, has a variant; Fleshy blood-horns represent adultery, but they appear on the adulterer, not the cuckold.
- Mentioned in Letters To His Son; from letter CLXXXVI: "A prudent cuckold (and there are many such at Paris) pockets his horns when he cannot gore with them; and will not add to the triumph of his maker by only butting with them ineffectually."
- In an episode of How I Met Your Mother that was on this afternoon this is referenced by The Captain when he and his wife are splitting up. He says "I wear the horns of the cuckold" in the belief that she is in love with someone else.
- The "Hook 'Em Horns" gesture beloved among Texas Longhorns fans is a way of invoking the cornuto in Italy, and is a very grave insult in that country, to the point where brawls have broken out over it.
- This was a favorite symbolism of William Shakespeare. In The Merry Wives of Windsor, when Ford, disguised as Master Brook, encourages Falstaff to go after his wife, Falstaff boasts that he will put the cuckold's horns on Ford and later mockingly describes him as a "peaking cornuto." Ford vows revenge on him: "If I have horns to make one mad, let the proverb go with me--I'll be horn mad." The wives con Falstaff into meeting them in Windsor Forest disguised as Herne the Hunter, the Horned Humanoid of myth. When Falstaff has been properly humiliated in his horned disguise, Ford points to the horns and tells him, "Now, sir, who's a cuckold now?"
- In Tennessee Williams' play The Rose Tattoo, after two gossips disclose to Serafina that her late husband had an affair with another women, she angrily and repeatedly denies it, saying that her husband would not have put "the nanny-goat's horns" on her head. There is also an actual goat that is troubling her.
- In Camino Real Casanova has become a Ladykiller in Love, having fallen for Marguerite from La Dame aux Camelias and is crowned "King of the Cuckolds" during the festival. He weeps and shouts "Cornuto!" over and over.
- All the sheep in Catherine have ram horns. Subverted in that not EVERYONE experiencing the nightmares is actually cheating on someone else.
- On The Simpsons, cuckold horns are handed out at a performance of Shakespeare in the Park. When a man puts them on and his date starts kissing the man next to her, he says "It works!"
- When VW launched the sunroof option for the Beetle in Brazil it sold well initially until a joke spread that it was to make room for the driver's horns. Sales tanked, the option was withdrawn and some owners even demanded the sunroof be filled in. Some years later, the Brazilian Ford Maverick's emblems had to be modified to remove the horned cow head of the US model.