Wyoming State Dinosaur

Horned Dinosaur

Wyoming State Dinosaur - Horned Dinosaur


Adopted on March 18, 1994.

The Horned Dinosaur, (Triceratops,) was named the state's official dinosaur in June 1994 following legislation providing for a contest and election by Wyoming elementary school children. It was chosen over three other candidates.

Wyoming State Dinosaur: Horned Dinosaur

Wyoming State Dinosaur - Horned Dinosaur

One of the most common dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period, the Triceratops is known for the three prominent horns on its head.

Roamed throughout Wyoming and North America about 75 million years ago. Named for its three large facial horns (Triceratops means literally "three-horned face"), Triceratops was a plant-eating dinosaur that may have traveled in herds, feeding on the lush vegetation that existed at the time. The animal may have attained a weight of 6 tons and a length of about 30 feet.

"Fossil evidence supports the idea that this head armor was used in display and ritualized combat within its own species," says Brent Breithaupt, UW Geological Museum director. "It may also have served to deter predators."

One of the predators a Triceratops defended itself against was the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex.

O. C. March discovered the triceratops in 1887 in Wyoming. Marsh originally found a triceratops horn, which he thought was a bison horn. In 1888, Marsh found the complete skull of the triceratops and realized that it was definitely not a giant bison! Marsh named the triceratops in 1889.

Characteristics of the Horned Dinosaur

Wyoming State Dinosaur - Horned Dinosaur

Triceratops literally means "three horned face." They had two large horns on the top of their skull, and a final horn on the tip of its beak (much like that of a rhinoceros.) Behind the back two horns was a frill. This frill was much like a shield of bone above its head. The triceratops was about 10 feet high and 30 feet long. Its skull alone could be up to 10 feet long. They could weigh up to 12 tons! The triceratops had 4 stumpy feet and was generally a slower animal.

Because of its four stumpy feat the Triceratops could only run about 15mph because of the lack of a long stride. Their diet consisted of plants and bigger shrubs. The Triceratops sturdy beak enabled it to eat through make tougher plants. Although the triceratops was a plant eating animal (herbivore) they could defend themselves against larger animals with their horns. The triceratops traveled in herds from location to location depending on food. The horns and frills of a triceratops had many functions other than defense consisting of: courtship, pack dominance, status symbol, and increased body area.

  • LIVED: 67-65 mya during the Cretaceous period in North America
    : Length 9 m (30 ft)
  • WEIGHT: 4.8 tonnes (5 1/2 tons) heavy as an elephant
  • DIET: Fibrous plants
  • DEFENSE: Triceratops would charge at predators, like a modern day Rhinoceros. The three horns on its head would easily pierce a predator's hide, and the predator would find it isn't worth it.
  • AMAZING: Triceratops' frill probably served as a heat exchange, shedding extra heat when it was in the shade, and warming up in the sun. When a pair of Triceratopsians fought, they would lock horns, and twist until the stronger one would push the other to the ground.

Wyoming Statutes

The law designating the triceratops as the official Wyoming state dinosaur is found in the Wyoming Statutes, Title 8, Chapter 3, Section 8-3-104.

Title 8 General Provisions
Chapter 3 State Seal, Flag, Flower, Bird and Other Symbols

Wyo. Stat. § 8-3-116 (2013)

§ 8-3-116. State dinosaur.

A state dinosaur shall be designated by election in accordance with law. The results of the election naming the state dinosaur shall be filed with the secretary of state.

HISTORY: Laws 1994, ch. 16, § 1.

The triceratops was adopted as the State Dinosaur on March 18, 1994

Taxonomic Hierarchy:Triceratops

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Order: †Ornithischia
Family: †Ceratopsidae
    Subfamily: †Chasmosaurinae
Tribe: †Triceratopsini
Genus: †Triceratops - Marsh, 1889
Type species
†Triceratops horridus - Marsh, 1889
†T. horridus - Marsh, 1889
†T. prorsus - Marsh, 1890

State Fossils
State Fossils
Most US states have made a state fossil designation, in many cases during the 1980s. It is common to designate one species in which fossilization has occurred, rather than a single specimen, or a category of fossils not limited to a single species.

Some states that lack a "state fossil" have nevertheless singled out a fossil for formal designation such as a state dinosaur, rock, gem or stone.