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The metaphorical use of horns refers to the term 'cuckold', which historically refers to 'a symbol of unawareness and suffering the infidelity of a partner'. Satirical tales, such as Chaucer's 'Miller's Tale', along with several of Shakespeare's poems make reference to the failure of characters, who may suspect they had become a cuckold. Illustrated by the wearing of horns as an 'embarrassingly direct' reference to one's inability to control their partner, the provocative symbol of horns reference defeated stags, who are forced to give up their mates to the new alpha male.

'In evolutionary biology, the term 'cuckold' is also applied to males who are unwittingly investing parental effort in offspring that are
not genetically their own', as witnessed through female cuckoo's who lay their eggs in other birds' nests.

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