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After paying a trip to the Natural History Museum in London I found myself wondering... would it be allowed (to any extent) to use a shofar of an animal that has kosher simanim but is extinct? There were a number of horned ram/antelope-like species that appeared to have split hooves and, given their closeness to kosher shofar animals in terms of how they were classified and appeared, would it be allowed to use their horns as a shofar? Is it too great of an assumption that they chewed the cud?

Furthermore, if timescales for fossilisation allows, would it be muttar to use a fossilised horn that is intact?

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Doesn't the process of fossilization mean that the material from the bone is replaced by rock such that the resulting fossil is not made of bone at all? – WAF Sep 9 '13 at 0:33
@WAF -- yes! But I can't help pointing out that kosher shofarot are made of horn, not bone (i.e., horns not antlers.) I am not sure that horn is normally fossilized, as it's softer than bone and has less minerals. – Ernest Friedman-Hill Sep 9 '13 at 3:33
@WAF i dont know if the Torah would make that distinction. If it 'was' a kosher animal for shofar would it matter if it became fossilized. – bondonk Sep 9 '13 at 11:37
Natan Slifkin has an article called "Exotic Shofars" that I found through Google....but I can't figure out how to download it -- any link I click on is dead. If you manage to get a hold of it please ping me here with a link. – Shokhet Sep 28 '14 at 19:16

3 Answers 3

Chaza"l ensured us that if an animal has split hooves and are not pigs (who don't have horns) then they chew cud.

So, if the horn is a shofar (not a keren, e.g from a cow), and it is still in kosher condition, it would be permitted.

(Assuming that only the animal was technically fossilized, but the horn is still made of the original material.)

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Who says that rule is true for animals that became extinct before Chazal lived? (Ignoring for the moment animals that are alive now but chazal never saw) – Double AA Sep 9 '13 at 16:02
@DoubleAA What indicates that Chaza"l's statements would be time-limited? Btw, Rashi (mishna niddah 51b) lets us identify kashrus by the horns alone, i.e. "all shofros are kosher". – NBZ Sep 9 '13 at 17:03
Not time limited. Eternally true about animals that existed then. – Double AA Sep 9 '13 at 17:29
@ NBZ According to many poskim, the simanim, as understood by Chazal are not reliable. See the citations listed in my response below for details. – Yaacov Deane Sep 10 at 17:30

The mitzvah of blowing shofar is m'Doraita, meaning from the written Torah. (VaYikra 23:24 and VaYikra 25:9) This has the implication that in questions regarding it's fulfillment, one should be stringent. In other words, one should be stringent, for example, that what you are blowing is in fact a kosher shofar.

There are requirements on the horn itself and the animal which it comes from. See the following sources for details: Rosh Hashanah 26a and in Shulchan Aruch (and Shulchan Aruch Harav) Orach Chaim chapter 586. The following is a link providing a brief discussion of this subject:,457071/Is-any-horn-fit-to-be-kosher-Shofar.html

In regard to the animal, it must be from a kosher animal, either behemah or chayah. But that presents an interesting question in terms of contemporary practice. In regard to the written Torah, it defines a kosher animal (mammal) as any animal with fully split hooves and that chews its cud (Is a ruminant.). (See VaYikra 11:1-3)

The practical side of this in regard to your question is that although you may be able to determine that the hooves are clearly split. It would not be possible to determine from an extinct animal with certainty that it was a ruminant. The Torah gives examples of animals that look like they are ruminants, but that are not. Since in the case of shofar you would be required to be stringent in your decision, on this alone, the extinct animal horn would likely be disqualified. For interesting details about the potential problems with these simanim, see the following link:

But for some, there is even another consideration.

Behemot are that class of animal that may be used as an offering in the Temple. Generally these are the herded animals mentioned in Torah, cows, sheep and goats. The horns of cows are specifically not allowed for use as a shofar.

Chayot on the other hand are definitely kosher animals. But according to some minhagim, like those who follow the Chazon Ish and possibly the Siftei Kohen, the simanim cannot be relied upon in this generation. Only chayot about which we have a definite mesorah are considered kosher for actual use and consumption. For people required to follow those minhagim, only the horns of chayot that have a definite mesorah as being kosher would be permissible for use.

Again, in the case of the extinct animal, this would exclude their usage.

For a very good discussion of the details surrounding this subject, see the following link:

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Why couldn't an extinct animal have a tradition regarding its kosher status? – Daniel Sep 10 at 17:25
@Daniel If you are talking about something recently extinct, like since the time of the Talmud, then there should be a mesorah. Actually, this is something dealt with in Israel on a practical level. The Barsheshet-Ribak factory makes shofarot from specific chayot. This was originally questioned, investigated and permitted. See this link: – Yaacov Deane Sep 10 at 17:39
Thanks for tge response. The question is not concerned with lechatchila, of course... – bondonk Sep 28 at 22:35

If the horn comes from one of the animals the Torah lists as Kosher, and the type of horn is halachikly defined as a Shofar, then it would be good. If not, it won't be good.

See Devarim 14:4... And see Rashi, who learns the Torah to be saying that they are the only Kosher animals.

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I don't think there is enough detail in this answer to answer the question. – bondonk Sep 7 at 13:39

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