AskDefine | Define spur

Dictionary Definition



1 a verbalization that encourages you to attempt something; "the ceaseless prodding got on his nerves" [syn: goad, goading, prod, prodding, urging, spurring]
2 any pointed projection [syn: spine]
3 tubular extension at the base of the corolla in some flowers
4 a sharp prod fixed to a rider's heel and used to urge a horse onward; "cowboys know not to squat with their spurs on" [syn: gad]
5 a railway line connected to a trunk line [syn: branch line, spur track]


1 incite or stimulate; "The Academy was formed to spur research"
2 give heart or courage to [syn: goad]
3 strike with a spur
4 goad with spurs; "the rider spurred his horse"
5 equip with spurs; "spur horses" [also: spurring, spurred]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Spur



Old English spora



  1. A rigid implement, often roughly y-shaped, that is fixed to one's heel for purpose of prodding a horse. Often worn by, and emblematic of, the cowboy or the knight.W.
    • 1598: Lives he, good uncle? Thrice within this hour I saw him down; thrice up again, and fighting; From helmet to the spur all blood he was. — William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act IV, Scene VI, line 4.
    • 1786: Two sorts of spurs seem to have been in use about the time of the Conquest, one called a pryck, having only a single point like the gaffle of a fighting cock; the other consisting of a number of points of considerable length, radiating from and revolving on a center, thence named the rouelle or wheel spur. — Francis Grose, A Treatise on Ancient Armour and Weapons, page 22.
  2. Anything that inspires or motivates, as a spur does to a horse.
  3. An appendage or spike pointing rearward, near the foot, for instance that of a rooster.
  4. Any protruding part connected at one end, for instance a highway that extends from another highway into a city.
  5. Roots. (As in genealogical?). Spurs are symbolic of knighthood, so perhaps spurs in this context is an allusion to the hereditary aspect of knighthood. Any insights would be appreciated.
    • 1609: I do note That grief and patience, rooted in them both, Mingle their spurs together. — William Shakespeare, Cymbeline, Act IV, Scene II, line 57.
  6. Fan or member of Tottenham Hotspur FC.

Derived terms

Related terms


A rigid implement, often roughly y-shaped, that is fixed to one's heel for purpose of prodding a horse
Anything that inspires or motivates, as a spur does to a horse
An appendage or spike pointing rearward, near the foot, for instance that of a rooster
Any protruding part connected at one end


  1. To prod (esp. a horse) in the side or flank, with the intent to urge motion or haste, to gig.
    • 1592: Draw, archers, draw your arrows to the head! Spur your proud horses hard, and ride in blood; Amaze the welkin with your broken staves! — William Shakespeare, Richard III, Act V, Scene III, line 339.
  2. To urge or encourage to action, or to a more vigorous pursuit of an object; to incite; to stimulate; to instigate; to impel; to drive.
    • 1599: My desire (More sharp than filed steel) did spur me forth... — William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act III, Scene IV, line 4.
  3. To put spurs on; as, a spurred boot.


to prod
To urge or encourage to action, or to a more vigorous pursuit of an object; to incite; to stimulate; to instigate; to impel; to drive
To put spurs on

Extensive Definition

The parts of a spur include:
  • The yoke, branch, or heel band, which wraps around the heel of the boot.
  • The shank or neck, which extends from the back of the heel band and is the area that usually touches the horse
  • The rowel, seen on some spurs, a small revolving wheel or disk with radiating points at the end attached to the shank.
Spurs are usually held on by a leather or leather-like strap, called a spur strap, that goes over the arch of the foot and under the sole in front of the boot heel. Some western designs have a leather strap that goes only over the top, with a heel chain or a rubber "tiedown" instead of a strap under the boot. There are also styles with no straps where the heel band simply is very tight and slips on wedged between the sole and heel of the boot. Some spur designs have a slot for running the spur strap through, others have "buttons," sometimes on the heel band itself and sometimes attached to the heel band by hinges, that allow a strap with buttonholes to be attached.
When used in military ranks, senior officers, and officers of all ranks in cavalry and other formerly mounted units of some armies, wear a form of spur in certain orders of dress which is known as the box spur, having no spur strap but a long metal prong opposite the neck, extending between the arms of the heel band, which is inserted into a specially fitted recess or "box" in the base of the boot heel. Due to the prong, such spurs can only be worn with appropriately equipped boots. This construction is shown in the illustrations of the swan neck and waterford spurs below.
Spurs seen in western riding may also have small curved-up hooks on the shank in front of the rowel, called "chap guards," that were originally used to prevent the rider's chaps from interfering with the rowels of the spur. Some cowboys also added small metal Pajados, also known as Jingo Bobs or Jingle Bobs, near the rowel, to create a jingling sound whenever the foot moved.
In the history of veterinary science, the word "rowel" described a small disk of leather or other material that was used as a seton stitch.


The spur's use cannot with certainty be traced further back than Ancient Rome. Early spurs had a neck that ended in a point, called a prick, riveted to the heel band. Prick spurs had straight necks in the 11th century and bent ones in the 12th. The earliest form of the horseman's spur armed the heel with a single prick. In England the rowel spur is shown upon the first seal of Henry III and on monuments of the 13th century, but it does not come into general use until the 14th century. The earliest rowels probably did not revolve but were fixed.
Spurs in English riding tend to use a spur that is very sleek, slim and conservative in design, with a shorter neck, as the saddle and leg position is closer to the horse. They usually have a rounded or blunt end. Rowels are not as popular as the plain blunt end, although there are types that include a rowel or smooth disk on the end. When used in sports requiring finesse, such as dressage, the spur's purpose is not to speed up a horse, but to give accurate and precise aids in lateral and complex movements, such as pirouettes, travers and renvers, and the airs above the ground. Dressage riders tend to ride in "Waterford" style spurs with a rounded knob at the end. Conversely, show hunter and jumper riders may use a flatter end to encourage forward movement, such as the Prince of Wales design.
Modern types of spurs also includes motorcycle spurs. They are basically rowels worn as foot jewelry, hung off of boots. They can be similar in appearance to spurs worn by equestrians. Some designs may improve motorcycle safety, when their bright material attracts motor vehicle drivers to the presence of motorcyclists, especially to their feet where riders are most vulnerable when stopped in traffic. Their owners will further customize them by adding miniature strobing LED lights, or rare-earth magnets that activate traffic lights.


The spur is a refined tool, designed to allow the rider to transmit very subtle signals to the horse that are nearly invisible to any other observer. No matter the discipline, it is important that a rider has a correct position before using spurs, with a deep seat, legs lengthened to the extent allowed by the stirrups, heels down, with knees and thighs rolled in so that the rider has a solid base of support. A swinging or unstable leg may inadvertently jab the horse with the spur as the rider sits, thus irritating, distracting, or frightening the animal, and chronic misuse may deaden the horse to the leg aids. Improper use may also provoke dangerous or undesirable behaviors such as bucking or running away.
Spurs are rarely used in sports such as horse racing, where the rider's leg is not significantly in contact with the horse.
Most spurs are activated by the rider flexing the heel slightly up and in. A roweled spur permits an additional type of action; a rider can roll the spur lightly against the side of the horse rather than being limited to simply pressing inward.

Rodeo spurring

The exception to the use of spurs in a subtle fashion is in the rodeo events of bull riding, Saddle Bronc and Bareback Riding, where the rider is required to spur in an elaborate, stylized fashion, touching the horse or bull at every stride. This requirement is designed to resemble the behavior of old-time horse-breakers who would deliberately provoke a horse to buck. In modern times, riders are required to use spurs in a manner that is merely encouraging an animal that is already predisposed to buck; they are not to produce pain. Spur design and use is strictly defined by rodeo rules, spurs are dull and rowels must turn freely. In fact, the way spurs are to be used in bucking events generally makes it harder for the rider to stay on: in bareback bronc competition, the spurs must be above the point of the horse's shoulder at the first jump and remain forward at all times, deliberately creating a very awkward position for the rider that requires both strength and coordination to stay on the horse. In saddle bronc competition, the rider must make a full sweep with the spurs from shoulder to flank with each jump, requiring great concentration and any error in balance putting the rider in a position to be quickly unseated. Bull riders are allowed a position that is the closest to that of classic equestrianism, they are not required to spur the bull, but if they choose to spur, may do so with their legs down in a style that approaches a normal riding position.

Types of spurs

Spurs are divided into Men's, Women's, and Children's, according to width (which must fit on the heel of the rider's boot). Spurs are further divided into length of the neck, with 1/4" being relatively small (and a common size in children's spurs), with some being 2-3" long. Many competition rules limit the length of the neck.
  • Round end: end is a metal ball about the size of a small marble, making it one of the milder spurs
  • Knob end: end of the spur is squared off but blunted at the edges
  • Prince of Wales: has a flat end, making is slightly sharper. This is a popular spur.
  • Rowelled spur: the end of the spur has a toothed wheel which spins. This is the most common western-style spur, although it is seen on some English-style spurs. Teeth are dulled at the points. A rowel with many small teeth is milder than one with only a few, larger teeth. Most rowels have at least eight teeth on each wheel. Other variations, more common in English riding, include:
    • Disc: the end has a small rowel-like rolling disc without teeth, which allows the spur to roll on the horse's side when applied, decreasing chance of spur marks. Popular in dressage. Severity depends on thickness of disc.
    • Roller spur: end of the neck has a plastic "roller," which moves as the horse's side is touched. This spur tends to reduce spur-rubs on sensitive horses. It is considered very mild.
  • Swan-neck: the neck of the spur goes upward at an angle, before leveling off, looking similar to the neck of a swan. This is commonly seen in dressage.
  • Waterford: the end of the neck has a large, round metal ball, making the spur softer and less likely to cause spur rubs.
  • Le spur (English) or Barrel Racing Spur (Western): a spur with small "teeth" or ridges on the inside of the heel band, instead of a neck. For use, the rider does not have to turn in the heel. A quicker and more subtle design, but also more apt to be accidentally used when not intended.
spur in German: Sporn (Reiten)
spur in Esperanto: Sprono
spur in French: Éperon
spur in Dutch: Sporen (paardrijden)
spur in Japanese: 拍車
spur in Polish: Ostroga (jeździectwo)
spur in Romanian: Pintene
spur in Swedish: Sporre
spur in Chinese: 距

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

accelerate, activation, actuation, aculeate, acuminate, animate, appendage, arm, arouse, awaken, barb, barbel, barbule, bill, bough, branch, brashly, breakwater, bundle, bustle, cage, cape, catalyst, cheer on, chersonese, cog, comb, coral reef, corral, countenance, crag, crest, crowd, cuspidate, delta, dispatch, drive, drive on, drove, edge, egg on, encourage, encouragement, excitant, excite, exhort, expedite, fang, favor, file, flog, foreland, forward, gad, gadfly, gaff, goad, goad on, grind, hand, harrow, haste, hasten, hasten on, hastily, head, headland, herd, hie on, hilltop, hone, hook, hound on, hurry, hurry along, hurry on, hurry up, hustle, hustle up, imp, impel, impetuously, impetus, impromptu, impulse, impulsively, incautiously, incentive, incitation, incite, incitement, induce, inducement, instigate, instigation, jag, joint, knoll, lash, leg, limb, link, lobe, lobule, lofty peak, member, motivate, motivation, motive, mountaintop, mull, naze, needle, ness, nudge, offshoot, oilstone, on the spot, organ, oxgoad, peak, pecten, peninsula, pic, pico, pike, pinion, pinnacle, point, poke, precipice, precipitate, press, pressure, prick, process, prod, projection, promontory, prompt, prompting, prong, propel, provocation, provoke, punch cattle, push, push on, push through, quicken, quill, railroad through, rake, rally, ramification, rashly, ratchet, recklessly, reef, reset, ride herd on, root on, round up, rouse, rowel, runner, rush, rush along, sandspit, sawtooth, scion, set, sharpen, shepherd, sic, snag, snaggle, speed, speed along, speed on, speed up, spiculate, spike, spine, spire, spit, spray, sprig, sprocket, spur on, stampede, steeple, stimulant, stimulate, stimulation, stimulus, sting, stir, strap, strop, suddenly, summit, switch, tail, taper, tendril, thoughtlessly, tine, tongue, tooth, tor, twig, unexpectedly, unpremeditatedly, unthinkingly, urge, urge on, urging, whet, whip, whip along, whip on, whiplash, wing, wrangle
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1