Triceratops was the first horned dinosaur ever found, which is why it is so famous. The first fossil of Triceratops was discovered in Colorado in 1887. It consisted of a pair of horns that, at first, were thought to belong to an extinct species of bison. More complete material was unearthed in Wyoming and Montana in the late 1980s and they were recognized as a new type of dinosaur. Today, Triceratops is known from many fantastic skulls and nearly complete skeletons.
Triceratops is a horned dinosaur, more properly known as a ceratopsian. The name Triceratops means ‘three-horned face’ in reference to its three horns. Triceratops’ huge brow horns could reach up to 3.2 feet long in large adult individuals – the height of a human child. These pointed bones are cores that supported a horny sheath, so the horns may have been even longer in life. They may have been used as weapons to protect themselves against predators, or were possibly used for fighting between rival males. The solid bony frill may have been colorful for display, and may have been used as a shield to protect its neck.
Ceratopsians are sometimes referred to as the ‘buffalo of the Cretaceous’ because they lived in large herds. The evidence for this includes footprints of herds of dinosaurs all walking in the same direction, and fossils of multiple ceratopsian skeletons have been found preserved together.
Many species of Triceratops have been named over the years, but today only two species are considered valid: T. horridus and T. prorsus. Triceratops lived alongside the mighty T. rex in North America during the Late Cretaceous, 65 million years ago. So, Triceratops probably kept a wary eye on the horizon at all times.