Abstract Background Two types of horns are evident in cattle - fixed horns attached to the skull and a variation called scurs, which refers to small loosely attached horns. Cattle lacking horns are referred to as polled. Although both the Poll and Scurs loci have been mapped to BTA1 and 19 respectively, the underlying genetic basis of these phenotypes is unknown, and so far, no candidate genes regulating these developmental processes have been described. This study is the first reported attempt at transcript profiling to identify genes and pathways contributing to horn and scurs development in Brahman cattle, relative to polled counterparts. Results Expression patterns in polled, horned and scurs tissues were obtained using the Agilent 44 k bovine array. The most notable feature when comparing transcriptional profiles of developing horn tissues against polled was the down regulation of genes coding for elements of the cadherin junction as well as those involved in epidermal development. We hypothesize this as a key event involved in keratinocyte migration and subsequent horn development. In the polled-scurs comparison, the most prevalent differentially expressed transcripts code for genes involved in extracellular matrix remodelling, which were up regulated in scurs tissues relative to polled. Conclusion For this first time we describe networks of genes involved in horn and scurs development. Interestingly, we did not observe differential expression in any of the genes present on the fine mapped region of BTA1 known to contain the Poll locus.