equestrian history · Uncategorized

What is a butteris?

So, I work in a museum. Every week, we do a “what is it?” object focus on something random from our collection.

Here’s this week’s object.


Do you know what it is?

Well, the social media person came to me and said “The collections record says this is a hoof parer. Can you tell me more about that to share?” To which I said, “Wait, a WHAT?!”

Yeah. It’s apparently a very old style of hoof knife. The proper technical term for it is “butteris,” sometimes spelled buttris, buttrice, butterys, and a bunch of other variations.

By “very old,” I mean that according to The Medieval Horse and Its Equipment by John Clark,

The word is recorded quite early in English – as in 1366, when John Wyot was accused of having maliciously wounded a horse at the smithy of John Mareschal in Wood Street[in London] with an instrument called a ’boutour.’

Clark also finds illustrations of the tool dating to the 15th and 16th centuries, but states that “by the early 19th century, the use of the butteris was being actively discouraged.” He cites an 1831 veterinary manual that calls the butteris “that most destructive of all instruments.”

But how would you use it, you ask? Well.


An article from The Carriage Journal describes the process.

With the horse’s hoof held with his knees, the farrier held the butteris at the grip with his right hand and the rest in his right shoulder. Short thrusts forward from the shoulder were used to trim the hoof.

True story, we were looking at the above photo in awe when a volunteer who is also a horse person came up behind us, saw the photo, and yelled. Blunt force trauma trimming, anyone?

By the early 19th century, the hoof knives we know and love today had started to supplant the butteris for obvious reasons, and by the mid 19th century there are patents for hoof nippers that are basically the same as today’s designs. I can only imagine that both worked better than a wholesale shearing off of the bottom of a horse’s foot.

You can still buy them, though. For a cool $119.

3 thoughts on “What is a butteris?

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