Anatomical Landmarks


Proper positioning of the firearm or penetrating captive bolt is necessary to achieve the desired results. When euthanasia is performed by gunshot, the firearm should be held within 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm) of the intended target. Ricochet may be prevented if the barrel of the firearm is positioned perpendicular to the skull as shown in the diagrams.

In cattle, the point of entry of the projectile should be at the intersection of two lines each drawn from the rear corner (outside corner) of the eye to the base of the opposite horn. 

Not between the eyes!
Above the eyes as illustrated.


Goats and Sheep
Penetrating captive bolt or gunshot followed by immediate exsanguination are the preferred methods of euthanasia in sheep. For hornless sheep, goats and rams the recommended sites for placement of the gun or penetrating captive bolt include the top of the head or slightly behind the poll. Sheep should be exsanguinated, pithed or given KCl by intravenous injection within 10 seconds after stunning by penetrating captive bolt or they may regain consciousness. Exsanguination, pithing and intravenous injection techniques of cattle and sheep should be performed as described on Exsanguination section.

In horned sheep and rams the top of the head may not be the ideal location because of the thickness of the skull in this region. Instead, an alternate position and orientation for penetrating captive bolt or gunshot in horned animals is on a line from the poll and aimed downward toward the back of the throat.  An alternative position for placement of the penetrating captive bolt or firearm in horned animals is the front of the skull directing the bolt or bullet toward the spinal cord.

The site for penetrating captive bolt or gunshot placement in horned goats is similar to that described for horned sheep and rams.  An alternate site is slightly behind the poll aimed toward the lower part of the chin. 


For llamas, the proper site is similar to that of hornless sheep.

polled goat proper site horned goat proper site
Proper site in horned goats or sheep is behind the poll as shown.
Again, NOT BETWEEN THE EYES! Slightly behind the poll or on the top of the head. Proper site in llamas is similar to that for hornless sheep.

For swine, there are three possible sites: frontal, temporal and from behind the ear toward the opposite eye. Recommended placement of the penetrating captive bolt or gun for use of the frontal site is in the center of the forehead slightly above a line drawn between the eyes. The bolt or free bullet should be directed toward the spinal canal. Proper placement and aim of the euthanasia device is particularly important since the brain is relatively small and well protected by sinuses. Alternative sites for gunshot (only) are the temporal region or from behind the ear directed diagonally toward the opposite eye. As advised anytime euthanasia is performed with a firearm, one must be careful of the location of on-lookers. By-standers should always be positioned behind the shooter.

In swine there are 3 possible sites:; frontal,
temporal or from behind the ear toward the opposite eye

Horses may be euthanized by gunshot or penetrating captive bolt. As described previously, use of the captive bolt requires good restraint so that the device may be held in close contact with the skull when fired. The site for entry of the projectile is described as being on the intersection of two diagonal lines each running from the outer corner of the eye to the top of the opposite ear (note diagram).  An alternative means of finding the appropriate site is to direct the bolt or free bullet 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) above the intersection of 2 lines each drawn from the top of the eye to the base of the opposite ear. 

but on the intersection of 2 lines each drawn from the
outer corner of the eye to the top of the opposite ear.


The proper site in deer is similar to that in cattle. The methods described for emergency euthanasia of deer are similar to those described previously for cattle and small ruminants.  Recommended positions and direction for firing of a penetrating captive bolt or gunshot in deer are as shown.

Since deer requiring euthanasia may be encountered on farm or roadside conditions, it is important to consider the natural instincts of fear and anxiety of a farm-raised verses wild animal. Approaching an injured wild deer will likely increase it’s distress causing it to attempt to flee which may only compound its misery. In general, whenever wildlife are involved in highway accidents, the best advice is to contact the appropriate state wildlife authorities. Their personnel are properly trained to handle these emergencies.