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Caricature of capoeira carioca from Rio, using cocada headbutt.

A headbutt or butt[1] is a targeted strike with the head, typically involving the use of robust parts of the headbutter's cranium as the area of impact. The most effective headbutts strike the most sensitive areas of an opponent, such as the nose, using the stronger bones in the forehead (frontal bone) or the back of the skull (occipital or parietal bone). The word is both a noun and a verb.


Headbutts can be used from close range such as from the clinch, or on the ground. They are typically applied to the head of the opponent, since the head is often a readily available target and has several sensitive areas, but can be delivered to any part of the body. It is considered a quick, very effective but risky maneuver, as a misplaced strike can also cause injury to the person delivering the headbutt.

An effective headbutt can be performed with a forward, rising, sideways or backwards motion; each being effective from different positions. Parts of the cranium with thick bone and high local curvature make for good weapon areas, and these include the forehead near the hairline, the outboard curved part of the parietal bone, and the occiput. Ideal targets are usually the fragile areas of the head, including the bridge of the nose, the cheekbones, the hinge area of the jaw, the temple, and the top edge of the eye socket.

Hitting the opponent's teeth or mouth is likely to cause mutual damage. The chin of the enemy is also a generally bad position to headbutt unless striking from below up into the bottom of the chin, similar to an uppercut. In the United Kingdom, a headbutt is sometimes referred to as a Glasgow kiss, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the city of Glasgow's violent reputation.[2]

In fiction[edit]

The character Yosser Hughes in Boys from the Blackstuff was noted for headbutting people and inanimate objects.[3] In one scene, his young daughter headbutts a social worker.[4] Headbutts often feature in professional wrestling and fighting video games.

In The Mummy Returns, Evelyn O'Connell headbutts some opponents, which she learned from her husband Rick O'Connell.

In nature[edit]

Headbutting between males of the green humphead parrotfish

Rams are well known for butting with their heads and horns. From this, the terms battering ram and hydraulic ram are derived. Goats are also well-known for butting.[5] Many males in various animal species employ butting during courtship to show off their strength to potential mates.

Cats engage in a gentle behavior that resembles headbutting, where they "bunt" a person or another animal with their forehead scent glands to mark their territory with pheromones.[6]

In sports[edit]

Contact sports[edit]

Headbutts are generally forbidden in most contact sports and, if performed, result in penalties and even disqualifications. However, it is a strike allowed in Burmese boxing, capoeira, muay boran, combat sambo, some full-contact karate rulesets/variants - namely Kūdō - and in the self-defence art of krav maga. In traditional boxing, official game style regulations are used if the headbutt is accidental. If a match does not reach halfway, it is no contest. If it reaches past the official match point, then scores will be calculated.

It is also the primary focus of the Eritrean martial art Testa.[7] Headbutts were a commonly used technique in vale tudo and mixed martial arts before the introduction of the unified rules of MMA. Similarly, although the art itself forbids any kind of strikes, some masters of judo taught the use of headbutts under the name of atama ate waza, as demonstrated by Kyuzo Mifune and Mikinosuke Kawaishi.[8][9]

Association football[edit]

Intentional headbutting is irregular in association football and even attempting one will warrant dismissal by a red card.[10] Famously, during the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final between Italy and France, French team captain Zinedine Zidane headbutted Italian player Marco Materazzi, after an angry exchange. Zidane received a red card, and Italy won the match on penalties. It was his last professional game, and ended his career on a "discordant" note.[11] This moment was later immortalized by a sculpture titled "Headbutt" by French artist Adel Abdessemed.[12]

In February 2011, Gennaro Gattuso was suspended for four matches after confronting and headbutting Tottenham Hotspur assistant coach Joe Jordan at the conclusion of a UEFA Champions League match.[13][14]

In 2016, Roy O'Donovan was handed an eight match ban, one of the longest bans in A-League Men history, after he headbutted Phoenix defender Manny Muscat.[15][16]

In August 2022, Liverpool player Darwin Núñez received a red card for headbutting Crystal Palace player Joachim Andersen after several rough tackles between each other during the match.[17]

Ice hockey[edit]

Headbutting is not allowed in ice hockey. In the National Hockey League even an unsuccessful attempt at headbutting warrants a double minor. An actual headbutt is a major penalty and a game misconduct, and a match penalty is mandatory if the referee rules that there was reckless endangerment.[18]


On March 3, 2014, Milena Knežević headbutted Anita Görbicz during the last seconds of the game between ŽRK Budućnost and Győri ETO KC in the EHF Women's Champions League group stage. Knežević was banned for the next two matches.[19]


On April 9, 2017, Japanese wrestler Katsuyori Shibata headbutted Kazuchika Okada during their match at Sakura Genesis 2017. The headbutt was so hard that it caused Shibata to start bleeding from the forehead. After the match, Shibata collapsed backstage, from where he was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a subdural hematoma.


  1. ^ "butt". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/OED/4595875797. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  2. ^ "ᐅ Glasgow Kiss – Meaning & origin of the term". SlangLang. 2020-08-25. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  3. ^ Teddern, Sue; Warburton, Nick (2015-11-19). Writing for TV and Radio: A Writers' and Artists' Companion. Bloomsbury. p. 47. ISBN 9781441178343. Archived from the original on 11 May 2018. Retrieved 1 November 2017.; Kilfoyle, Peter (2000-01-01). Left Behind: Lessons from Labour's Heartland. Politico's. p. 230. ISBN 9781902301662.
  4. ^ Owens, David (2011-11-30). Cerys, Catatonia And The Rise Of Welsh Pop. Ebury Publishing. p. 192. ISBN 978-1-4481-1636-2. Archived from the original on 11 May 2018. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  5. ^ "FAQ - Do goats bytt?". British Goat Society. Retrieved 14 April 2024.
  6. ^ Hovis, Stuart (March 11, 2022). "Why Does My Cat Headbutt Me". PetMD.
  7. ^ Bruster, Ron. Testa: A Brutally Beautiful African Martial Art Archived 2015-02-16 at the Wayback Machine. malandros-touro.com
  8. ^ Mifune, Kyuzo (1956). The Canon of Judo, p. 44 Archived 2016-10-07 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Kawaishi, Mikinosuke (1957). My Method of Self-Defense, p. 99 Archived 2016-10-07 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Pattullo, Alan (2014-09-11). In Search of Duncan Ferguson: The Life and Crimes of a Footballing Enigma. Mainstream Publishing. pp. 30–31. ISBN 9781780577470. Archived from the original on 11 May 2018. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  11. ^ "World Cup questions: what did Zidane's head-butt in Berlin mean? | Barney Ronay". the Guardian. 2020-05-07. Retrieved 2022-10-27.
  12. ^ "Zidane headbutt statue to be re-installed in Qatar". ESPN.com. 2022-06-06. Retrieved 2022-10-27.
  13. ^ "AC Milan 0–1 Tottenham" Archived 29 December 2020 at the Wayback Machine. BBC Sport. 15 February 2011. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  14. ^ "Gennaro Gattuso given four-match ban for headbutt" Archived 29 December 2020 at the Wayback Machine. BBC Sport. 21 February 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  15. ^ "Angry Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick slams Roy O'Donovan headbutt". Stuff. 31 December 2015.
  16. ^ Bossi, Dominic (6 January 2016). "Central Coast Mariners' Roy O'Donovan slapped with one of longest bans in A-League history". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  17. ^ Hunter, Andy (2022-08-15). "Darwin Núñez sees red before Luis Díaz gives Liverpool draw with Crystal Palace". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2023-12-09.
  18. ^ "Rule 47 – Head-butting" (PDF). Official Rules 2012-2013. National Hockey League. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  19. ^ "Knezevic banned for two games". European Handball Federation. Mar 13, 2014. Archived from the original on 2017-03-05.

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