USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘horse hooves’
Customs
Folk Beliefs

Farrier Lore: White hooves v. Black Hooves

Informant: “There is an old saying about horses with white feet that a white footed horse is not as good as a black footed horse. They only come in two colors – black and white. But its only pigment so it doesn’t really matter what the color of the foot is. But the saying goes that… uh … if you have a horse with one white foot buy a horse, two white feet try a horse, three white feet look well about him, four white feet do without him.”

* When talking about foot color the informant is referring to the color of the horses hoof. A horse can have a lighter colored hoof which is more of a cream color (like a human fingernail), but the hoof is considered white. A black hoof is true to its name and basically black in color.*

 

The informant is a sweet, older, “cowboy” who has been working with horses and farm animals for his entire life. He is a Certified Journeyman Farrier (the highest level of certification by the American Farrier’s Association) and is very well respected in the Farrier community. He was born in Wichita, Kansas to a family that has been farmers for generations. In fact, the informant said that some of his family is still farming in “places like Oklahoma.” He learned of this lore as a child when he was about ten years old from his father and grandfather while working on the family farm, which included horses and mules. He shod his first horse when he was 13, and has been shoeing horses for about 51 years. *To “shoe” or to shod a horse is to put horse shoes on the horse’s hooves. Horses need to be shod about once every six weeks, so quality farriers are highly sought after in the equine community. A Farrier is a very specialized and difficult profession because if a horse is shod improperly the horse could become crippled.*

In regards to this saying, the white horse was assumed to be tenderfooted, which means the horse would not be able to walk on rough terrain. So, the saying implies that when buying a horse if a horse had one white hoof then the horse should be fine and the person interested in buying should go ahead. If the horse had two white hooves then the potential buyer should “try” the horse, meaning that they should ride the horse and see how the horse moves. If the horse had three white hooves than the buyer should be very cautious and thoroughly check to see how the horse’s legs were shaped, the way the horse lands, etc; factors which could affect how prone the horse would be to injury. If the horse had four white hooves, then the buyer should “do without him” and not purchase the horse.

The informant remembers this tale in particular because he found it to be completely ridiculous and untrue. The informant stated, “No, no its not true at all. The color of the foot is simply pigment. It it has nothing to do with the quality of the foot. In other words, you can find horses with white feet running out there across the lava rock out there in the desert and black footed horses that can’t even begin to move out there.”

The informant told me this tale while he was shodding one of the horses in a horse barn. According to the informant, this tale was spread through ignorance and lack of information of horse anatomy. I feel that such an appraisal from a man with this much experience probably indicates that this belief may be false.

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