A headbutt (French coup de tête) is a targeted strike with the head, typically (when intentional) 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, utilising the stronger bones in the forehead (frontal bone) or the back of the skull (occipital or parietal bone). It can be considered a quick, very effective but risky maneuver, as a misplaced strike can cause greater injury to the person delivering the headbutt than to the person receiving it. A headbutt does not have to be against another person's head, although this is usually the nearest and easiest target.
In the United Kingdom, a headbutt is sometimes referred to as a Glasgow kiss, or Glasgow handshake. This is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the city of Glasgow's violent reputation.
From French botter = "to kick". Rams are well known for butting with their heads and horns. From this the terms battering ram and hydraulic ram are derived. Many males in various animal species employ butting during courtship.
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. 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.
Headbutts are generally forbidden in most contact sports and, if performed, result in penalties and even disqualifications. However, it is a strike allowed in krav maga, lethwei, muay boran, capoeira, combat sambo and some full-contact karate rulesets. 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. It is also the primary focus of Eritrean martial art Testa.
Headbutts were a commonly used technique in vale tudo and mixed martial arts before the introduction of the unified rules of MMA.
Intentional headbutting is illegal in association football and will warrant dismissal by a red card.
In April 1994, Scottish forward Duncan Ferguson, then of Rangers, received a three-month prison sentence (for being convicted of assault) after headbutting John McStay during a Scottish Premier Division match between the Rangers and Raith Rovers at Ibrox Stadium.
In the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Ariel Ortega headbutted Dutch keeper Edwin van der Sar in the Argentina vs. Netherlands quarterfinal match and was sent off.
In the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Rafael Márquez headbutted Cobi Jones in the Round of 16 match between the USA and Mexico.
In the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Mark van Bommel was headbutted, this time by Luís Figo in the Portugal vs. Netherlands second round match. However, Figo received only a yellow card this offense. In the final match against Italy, Frenchman Zinedine Zidane headbutted the Italian Marco Materazzi in the chest, for which he received a red card and a subsequent three-match ban. The ban had no effect since he had previously announced his intention to retire after the 2006 World Cup.
In the 2010 African Cup of Nations, referee Coffi Codjia was suspended indefinitely by the Confederation of African Football after failing to award a red card to Algerian goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi, who headbutted him during an argument.
Cameroonian Samuel Eto'o, playing for Inter Milan, headbutted Boštjan Cesar from Chievo Verona on Nov 21, 2010.
During the 2012 Major League Soccer season, Montreal Impact's Nelson Rivas headbutted Philadelphia Union's Antoine Hoppenot in the 68th minute of playing time during the 2–0 win over the Union on August 4, 2012. Rivas was issued a red card along with Union's Jack McInerney.
During an English Premier League match between Newcastle United and Hull City on 1 March 2014, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew collided with Hull's David Meyler when the latter attempted to retrieve the ball for a throw-in. Pardew proceeded to headbutt Meyler and was immediately sent off. The next day, Newcastle fined Pardew £100,000, and on 3 March, The FA announced it had formally charged Pardew with improper conduct, which ultimately led to a Premier League record seven match ban.
During the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Pepe received a red card in Portugal's opening match with Germany for headbutting German midfielder Thomas Müller.
Headbutting a player is illegal in ice hockey and, as a result, results in a match penalty.
On May 19, 2015, Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw deliberately headbutted the puck into the Anaheim Ducks net during the second overtime of the second game of the Western Conference Finals. The goal was waved off by the referees, but Chicago eventually won the game in the third overtime.
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.