June 03, 2009



by Deeanne Gist

Early spurs looked different from the ones we’re familiar with. They had a single sharp protrusion and were developed by the Romans so they could steer their horses with their legs, while leaving their hands free to fight.

The revolving rowel we see in today’s spurs originated in France (we think). During the age of chivalry, they became an emblem of rank. Gold or gilded spurs were only worn by knights or royalty. Some knights wore costly jeweled spurs in order indicate their prestige. Unfortunately, we don’t have very many of those left because spurs were usually buried with their owner.

When a valet became an esquire or an esquire was knighted, he was fitted with new spurs during a special ceremony. Thus came the expression "earned his spurs." (Esquires' spurs were silver and those of a page were tinned.)

In the rare case of disgrace, a knight’s spurs were chopped off in a public ceremony with the cook's cleaver.

Churchmen were not allowed to wear spurs. But they had the last laugh because knights who failed to remove their spurs before entering church had to pay a fine to the choir boys in order to regain them. LOL.

There was even a "battle of the spurs" in 1302—named as such because the victors collected 700 pairs of gilded spurs as trophies.

In the United States, spurs were worn by anybody who wanted them. Early cavalry officers, however, were required to wear boots and spurs. They had a duty version, a dress version that was lighter, and an extremely light dance spur for social functions.

I can’t figure out what it is about spurs that have such appeal. Maybe just because they’re part of the cowboy’s persona? What do you think? Do you know of anyone who collects them?



Vickie McDonough said...

I've never heard of anyone collecting spurs. I rarely even see them around here. Thanks for the interesting information about them.

Karen Witemeyer said...

This makes me think of the old song..."I've got spurs that jingle, jangle, jingle..."

For some reason it's hard to picture a rugged cowboy hero jingling when he walks. LOL

Karin said...

I think they like the sound of the spurs when they walk!

Deeanne Gist said...

Oh, Karen. I'd forgotten all about that song! LOL!

Patricia PacJac Carroll said...

I read your post and then yesterday happened to watch an old Robin Hood and couldn't believe when they talked about an evil knight who had his spurs chopped off. I would never had understood what they were talking about. Didn't even know knights wore spurs. : )

Deeanne Gist said...

Get out! That's so cool!!

Debbie Gail Smith said...

I'm currently learning to ride horses. I'm told some riders like to wear spurs to help guide the horse when a simple knee or calf against the horse's side to guide him doesn't work (for stubborn or less sensitive horses). The different size and shape of spurs mean different things. (see p.30-33 Horse and Rider November 2008)