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Whenever a show features or references a desert, savannah or other barren land, odds are good that a bovine cranium will be involved to set the mood.
Often accompanied by cacti.
Compare Ribcage Ridge, a sister trope.
Examples of Desert Skull include:
- Bleach has Neliel Tu Odelshvanck, who has part of such a skull attached to the top of her head. She lives roaming around the desert that is Hueco Mundo.
- The arrancar Rudbornn also has a more traditional-looking desert bovine skull around his head, like a helmet.
- The opening scene of Gun X Sword has Van looking down at an animal skull in the desert and questioning why the creature isn't still alive for him to eat.
- Shows up in many Georgia O Keefe paintings.
- Three Garfield strips had Jon bring home one of these, which Garfield then put on Odie, while Jon was talking to his mother on the phone about it.
- In the comic strip Beyond The Black Stump, two recurring characters are a pair of skulls out in the desert somewhere who pass the time having odd conversations.
- The Far Side: One uncaptioned cartoon shows a pair of oxen pulling a covered wagon across the desert, turning their heads as they pass a bovine skull.
Film -- Animated
- The owl mariachi band from Rango stood on one of these while singing about Rango's journey.
- On An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, Tiger runs into a buffalo skeleton that seems to come to life when he's not looking. Turns out it's being manipulated by native mice, who then capture Tiger.
- The Lion King: As Simba returns to the Pridelands, he finds it riddled with wildebeest skeletons to show how Scar's rule has ruined the land. At the end, as Simba returns to power, there's a brief shot of a skull being washed away by the rain, to symbolize the end of the old regime.
- Cars featured a variation of this: since all animals in their world are also vehicles, in the desert surrounding Radiator Springs, there appear to be rusted-up car parts lying among the rocks and cacti.
- In Animal Crossing, this shows up as a furniture item in the "American West/frontier" set. Sometimes animals who are cows have them in their homes...
- In Earthbound, you can actually have a conversation with a cattle skeleton in the Dusty Dunes Desert. It, of course, claims otherwise.
- The original Starcraft had all sorts of bones and skulls in the randomly-generated desert terrain tiles.
- Cave Story's Sand Zone is full of bones... including animated ones.
- The standard Clonk desert scenarios contain, along with cacti, animal skulls as decoration.
- Eets uses this as decoration for desert-themed levels.
- These can be found in the desert levels of the Game Boy Advance Fire Emblem games. Rare items can be dug up in the nearby sands.
- In Pioneer Trail (formerly Frontier Ville), these keep popping up on disused parts of your homestead.
- Bugs Bunny wears one in the Looney Tunes short "The Wacky Wabbit".
- At the top of the Arthur episode "Feeling Flush," there's an Imagine Spot where the kids are walking through the desert. The very first shot we see is of a skull (pictured above).
- There's one of these (with overly ornate horns) atop the sign for the Gold City Guest Ranch in the "Mine Your Own Business" episode of Scooby Doo.
- Adventure Time has these, except some of them seem to be skulls of aquatic animals.
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