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Two pachycephalosaurians of the genus Stegoceras about to headbutt each other.
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Pachycephalosaurid dinosaurs (sometimes colloquially referred to as a pachys), of which the famous Pachycephalosaurus is a member, are typically shown headbutting each other much like you would see in rams, goats and oxen. They even been shown to headbutt other things with a devastating amount of force without sustaining any major injury. This was popularized by the story "A Gun For A Dinosaur", of the Rivers Of Time series by L. Sprague de Camp. However, evidence suggests that, while their domed heads were weaponsnote , their ability and use with them has been greatly exaggerated.

Evidence for this can of course be found in the skulls of numerous members of the Pachycephalosauria family. A good example of this is how two Pachycephalosaurusnote  were to ram each other head on at top speed they would have knocked each other out. This of course would have been a evolutionary drawback leaving them incredibly vulnerable for an extended period of time. The same problem would also of course exist if they rammed various objects like large trees, boulders and metal. The dinosaur's neck and back, though strong, are believed to be unsuited for head-on head blows. Instead, many scientists believe that the dinosaurs either pressed their heads together and pushed each other, or that they butted each other in the side.

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Another issue has to do with the shape of pachycephalosaurid skulls; as their domes were rounded and relatively smooth, they wouldn't have been suited for head-on impacts, as they would have simply slid past each other on contact. The horns of creatures that do headbutt each other in the modern day, such as rams, typically have flat front-facing surfaces to avoid this exact problem.

Pachycephalosaurs in fiction, naturally, don't have these problems. They will often be shown charging at top speed into everything in sight, be it other members of their own species, bigger dinosaurs, or time machines with people inside. They're also likely to be depicted as aggressive and violent, in a departure from the usual depiction of plant-eating dinosaurs in fiction (though there's speculation that Pachycephalosaurus may have been an omnivore rather than an herbivore based on its tooth morphology, but this is almost never mentioned in fiction).

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Naturally this is a subtrope of Artistic License – Paleontology, due to it being about the unrealistic portrayal of a prehistoric animal, and of Use Your Head. It's also a subtrope of Animal Stereotypes, in a rare case where the stereotype belongs to a long-extinct species. It also doubles as a form of Beastly Bloodsports when they're ramming each other for territory or for a mate.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

  • Daikyouryu no Jidai: A pair of of Pachycephalosaurus are shown to be headbutting each other so hard that it not only gets the attention of other dinosaurs, but scares them too. Not the Tyrannosaurus rex though, he came for dinner.
  • Doraemon:
    • Nobita's Dinosaur 2006 briefly showed a pair of male Pachycephalosaurus head-butting each other to win over a female. Later, one Pachycephalosaurus rams the ship of some time-travelling poachers as the other captive dinosaurs are breaking out.
    • One episode of the 2005 anime made in the 2010s had Nobita getting chased by a Pachycephalosaurus which tries to smash him with its head. Amusingly, this is subverted when Doraemon comes to his rescue and accidentally head-butts the Pachycephalosaurus on its domed head, knocking it out.

Card Games

  • Magic: The Gathering: Territorial Hammerskull, a pachycephalosaur-like dinosaur shown lifting a much larger predator off its feet with a headlong charge.
    From the eyes up, it's solid bone and stubbornness.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has the similarly-named "Hyper Hammerhead", a Dinosaur-type monster resembling a Pachycephalosaurus with a head shaped like a literal hammer.

Films — Animated

  • Averted in Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs where Pachycephalosaurus are never shown head-butting anything. However, this is played straight in the tie-in video game where Buck must ride on a Pachycephalosaurus and get it to break through rock walls by head-ramming them.
  • The Land Before Time: In the first film a group of Pachycephalosaurus are seen ramming their heads together and into the ground in an attempt to attack Cera, all without any injury.
  • Speckles: The Tarbosaurus: Ironically shown with a bit of Truth in Television the losing Pachycephalosaurus ending up knocked out, which as stated above in the description could easily end up being a death sentence for an animal.

Films — Live-Action

  • Jurassic Park makes use of this alongside a wide variety of other stereotypical — and generally inaccurate — dinosaur traits. Justified In-Universe due to the dinosaurs having been created to have audience-pleasing traits such as increased strength and aggressiveness, and having been designed to align with what audiences wanted to see rather than with scientific accuracy.

Literature

  • The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure: When the protagonists visit the Cretaceous period, they observe two male Pachycephalosaurus engaging in head-butting combat over a harem of females.
  • The Magic School Bus: In the Time of the Dinosaurs mentions that pachycephalosaurids "may have butted heads like rams", which normally wouldn't be a problem since it's stated as a theory instead of fact, but then proceeds to illustrate two ramming each other head on in the background.
  • Rivers Of Time: As stated above, the story "A Gun For A Dinosaur" popularized the idea of Pachycephalosaurus violently ramming things with their domes, making it the Trope Codifier.

Live-Action TV

  • Power Rangers Dino Charge: Justified due to being a Mecha, the pachy Zord naturally headbutts enemies.
  • Super Sentai: Justified, as the Pachycephalosaurus are Mecha:
    • Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger has Bachycelo, a Bakuryu whose thick skull can then be weaponized as a Power Fist for the giant mechas.
    • Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger: Zigzagged, one of the Zyudenryu, Bunpachy, can headbutt enemies like a stereotypical pachycephalosaurus, but its main power is swinging its mace on its tail. Curiously, the mace is attached to its head before activation. Its Ranger partner has also used a headbutt technique on occasion.
  • Primeval: New World: A Pachycephalosaurus goes on a rampage through the city of Vancouver, smashing storefronts with its head after mistaking its reflection for a rival.
  • In Dino Dan, two Stygimoloch are shown head-butting each other like battering rams.

Tabletop Game

  • Pathfinder: Pachycephalosaurus is an otherwise relatively unremarkable herbivorous animal distinguished chiefly by its ability to make powerful headlong charges against its foes.
  • Weird N Wild Creatures: The fact card for the Pachycephalosaurus mentions that they use their heads as battering rams for head-on collisions. Interestingly earlier it mentions that they could have used their heads to slam into the side of their rival which would be a aversion of this trope since they'd be targeting a far softer area.

Video Games

  • ARK: Survival Evolved: For the most part the game seems to avert this trope, with any combat excused to this for easily being Justified due to the limited Game Mechanics, and then you discover that Pachycephalosaurus leniproelia can knock trees over by ramming them.
  • Carnivores: The game's instruction manual mentions that Pachycephalosaurus use their thick skull rimmed with knobby spikes as a battering ram against other dinosaurs for defense. Ironically this isn't seen in the game and their neck is a target for hunters.
  • Fossil Fighters: Several different species of Pachycephalosauria are present and all have skills that have the word "Headbutt" and/or "Ram" in them, implying this trope.
  • LEGO Jurassic World: In the story mode there is a show that has a Pachycephalosaurus ram three pillars of solid rock.
  • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl: Cranidos and its evolution Rampardos are both based on pachycephalosaurs, and both are routinely shown performing headbutting attacks such as Heabutt, Take Down, Zen Headbutt and Skull Smash. Their Pokédex entries also focus almost entirely on their propensity for headbutting things, mentioning how their skulls were hard as iron and used for smashing inconveniently placed trees and taking down prey. Rampardos' entries claim it to have a foot-thick skull that shields it from any harm its headbutting may cause, although it also stifles the growth of its brain, and that a cloned specimen destroyed a skyscraper by headbutting it.

Web Animation

  • Pink Fong: The Dinosaur series of the Web Animation has a Pachycephalosaurus that sings about being the "king of head-butting" and using this against predators like Tyrannosaurus rex by charging, which would have in most cases have actually caused them more harm than good.
  • One episode of Mighty Magiswords has Prohyas and Vambre going up against one of King Rexxtopher's minions which is a Pachycephalosaurus, who headbutts Vambre and later No Sells a pogo stick attack on the head from the duo.

Western Animation

  • Dino-Riders: The Valorians/Dino-Riders use Pachycephalosaurus to smash large rocks with their domed heads. They're also mentioned to be used for clearing rubble, presumably the same way. Both actions would have likely have caused the dinosaurs harm.
  • Dink, the Little Dinosaur: The episode "The Reluctant Head-Banger" had Shyler befriending a Pachycephalosaurus named Nobbie who lacks confidence challenging his herd members in head-butting contests. At one point, Dink mentions "dome-heads" cannot feel a thing when they ram heads since her skulls are "really solid". Eventually, Nobbie gets over his fear when he saves the kids from a rockslide by smashing the rocks with his head.
  • Averted in Dinosaur Train where pachycephalosaurs are correctly described using their domed heads to ram the sides of their opponents.
  • Gigantosaurus averts this with Patchy the Pachycephalosaurus who never head-butts anything. In fact, his A Day in the Limelight episode has the main cast showing concern for him hitting his head due to his poor eyesight.

Real Life

  • The Drayton Manor Theme Park's Dino Trail attraction features two Pachycephalosaurus about to headbutt each other.
  • Numerous animatronic displays used in natural history museums have featured a pair of Pachycephalosaurus butting their heads together.

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