spurs, believed to have been used by the Roman Legions of Julius
Caesar, have been unearthed in England. Early Roman, Greek,
and Byzantine sculpture did not, however, show horsemen wearing
spurs. The Romans developed spurs in order to have a way
to steer their horses with their legs, while leaving their hands
free to fight.
The earliest cavalry initiated by Alexander
the Great did not use spur, bit, nor stirrup.
spurs had a single sharp protrusion. Etruscan tombs of
the second century B.C. contained bronze spurs of this type.
Many later variations of this type are found throughout Europe.
The British Museum has iron examples, some with silver inlay,
dating from the 11th to 13th centuries. The Mongol hordes
of Genghis Khan wore similar prick spurs around the year 1200.
The revolving rowel used in modern western spurs probably
originated in France. A roweled spur was shown upon the
Seal of Henry III of England who lived from 1207 to 1272.
This type became widely popular about the fourteenth century.
age of chivalry, spurs became an emblem of rank. Gold
or gilded spurs were only worn by knights or royalty.
Esquires' were silver and those of a page were tinned.
One could tell the rank of the wearer by the spurs, even if
the armor or clothing gave no clue.
The caste system
was all-important at that time. Knights vied with each
other to indicate their prestige with costly spurs. Many
were jeweled and all were objects of art. Spurs were usually
buried with their owner, accounting for the fact that few remain
The Guild of Spur-Makers of Paris during the 14th
century only allowed only one apprentice to each master craftsman.
Apprenticeship was for six years with little or no pay.
At the end of this strict training, the apprentice became a
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."
In the rare case of disgrace, a knights spurs were chopped off
in a public ceremony with the cook's cleaver.
were not permitted to wear spurs. Knights who failed to
remove his spurs before entering a church had to pay a fine
to the choir boys in order to regain them.
In 1302 the "battle
of the spurs" took place in West Flanders. 20,000 Flemish
burghers on foot repulsed the attacks of 47,000 French knights
on horseback. The burghers collected 700 pairs of gilded
spurs as trophies of their victory.
Horse armor, called "bards"
influenced spur design of the time. This armor was plate
lined with leather. It was introduced a piece at a time
until a full set consisting of seven sections became standard
by the middle of the 15th century. The section that protected
the horse's flanks was called the "flanchard." In order
for a spur to reach the horse an extremely long shank was developed,
up to a foot in length. Bards declined in popularity and
by 1600, they became rare. Accordingly, spur lengths returned
In Spain, armorers developed large and ornately
decorated spurs with rowels. Some of these designs came
to the new world with the conquistadors. Their influence
is still seen in Mexico and South America.
In the United States, spur styles have
also changed. In colonial days, the English style was
popular. Those spurs were light and conservative with
a slight curve and small rowel. Straight shanked hunting
spurs were also popular.
The regulation spur
worn in the cavalry in 1882 was solid brass, slightly curved,
with a small rowel, black straps, and brass buckle. The
same type was popular during the Civil War. Later, the
cavalry adopted a straight shank and eliminated the rowel.
That remained standard until World War ll when army horses
were replaced by other war machines. Early cavalry officer's
uniform required boots and spurs. They had a duty version,
a dress version that was lighter, and an extremely light dance
spur for social functions.
Early Native Americans apparently
did not use spurs, preferring a quirt or riding whip.
More pages about spurs:
[ Spurs: History & Usage ] [ E F Blanchard Cowboy Spur Maker ] [ Garcia Bits and Spurs ] [ Spurs: Prison Made Spurs ] [ Amozoc Spurs ] [ Adolph Bayers Spurs ]