Tricerotops is one of the best known dinosaur species, beloved by children and adults worldwide, even featuring in such films as Jurassic Park. The Tricerotops is even the official state fossil of South Dakota, and the official state dinosaur of Wyoming.

It’s name comes from the Greek words “tri” meaning three, “kéras” meaning horn and “ops” which means face, so it’s name means “Three-horned face”. It hails from the Late Cretaceous Period, and roamed our Earth 65 to 68 million years ago in North America.

Tricerotops has extremely recognisable features, not just the three horns but also its large frill growing up to a metre in length, and bird-like beak. Comparable in size to our modern-day elephants, they measured up to 9metres in length and weighing 5000-7000kg, it was by no means a small dinosaur. Its frill could have been to help regulate temperature, and may have also been used to attract mates – but also may have been to help protect its neck. Specimens have been found with bite marks on its frill, and marks that match the shape and size of the Tyrannosaurus’ teeth have been found on Tricerotops fossils, some even puncturing through the frill, so it seems like this protection may not have always sufficed.

Their horns seemed to have been used for mating purposes, as well as fending off their main predator, Tyrannosaurus Rex. A Tricerotops has been found with one of its horns bitten off by a T-Rex. The wound showed signs of healing, so clearly the Tricerotops survived its encounter with the massive predator. Findings of juveniles Tricerotops show their horns being curved backwards, it seems their horns would straighten out as they matured.

They were herbivores, and their diet would have consisted of shrubs, ferns and other plant life, and their beak like mouth was well suited for plucking out their food. Their teeth were constantly being renewed throughout their lives. Most herbivores and horned dinosaurs moved in herds, we can tell this from finding multiple fossils of the same species in the same location. Tricerotops was unusual in this aspect because they appear to have been solitary creatures. Even for a herbivore, they seemed to have sufficient protection enough to mostly protect them from predators, and enough not to need the safety of numbers. They laid eggs, which were the size of a cantaloupe melon.

Tricerotops had one of the largest heads found among all land animals, about a third of its body length, the largest skull found being an estimated 2.5m 8.2 feet in length. Their limbs, which are thought to be upright like an elephant’s, and not bowed like a lizards, were very strong, which they would need to be to support their massive weight. The front legs were shorter than the rear, and had three hooves each, the back legs had four hooves on each foot. It is estimated that due to their size and the length of their legs that their top speed was only 15mph.

In 1887, the famous palaeontologist Orthniel C. Marsh, described the Tricerotops as a common Bison, which didn’t evolve until 10 million years later, after he examined a partial skull complete with horns. Today, it is one of the most popular and recognisable dinosaur species to date.