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Q: Origin of term for horse anatomy ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Origin of term for horse anatomy
Category: Science > Biology
Asked by: balthazar-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 13 Jun 2002 19:01 PDT
Expires: 20 Jun 2002 19:01 PDT
Question ID: 25512
The center portion on the bottom of a horse's hoof (triangular shaped)
is called "the frog". Where did this term come from?
Subject: Re: Origin of term for horse anatomy
Answered By: davidsar-ga on 13 Jun 2002 19:49 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Balthazar (if that really is you name)...thanks for a good one.

This turns out to be one of the favorite factoids of the "fun but
useless knowledge" crowd (along with the fact (?) that duck quacks
don't echo and no one knows why).  After wading through innumerable
such sites, I finally found one that draws a plausible connection
between frogs as we usually think of them, and frogs on the bottom of
a horse's hoof.  It all has to do with the horse whisperers:

     "Horse Whisperers possessed two important talismans or fetishes
that could be used in connection with jading and drawing. These were
the milt and the frog's bone.
      The milt is a piece of fibrous matter on the tongue of a colt...
Of greater importance was the frog's bone.  In fact, it was usually
the bone of a toad. And possessors of this talisman were known as
'Toadmen'. The bone itself was forked like a wishbone (possibly the
pelvic girdle or breastbone). It resembled the V-shaped band of horn
on the underside of a horse's hoof which is called the 'frog'. So
there was imitative magic at work here, both in the verbal and visual

      The ritual of acquiring it was almost as important as the object
itself. In fact, it is said to have originally been part of the
Whisperers' initiation ceremony.
      After it was killed, the frog or toad was left on a whitethorn
bush for 24 hours to become hard and dry. It was then buried in an
anthill and left there for a month. At the end of that time there was
only the skeleton left. This was taken to a running stream at full
moon and tossed onto the water. The horseman had to watch carefully
until a little crotch bone separated itself from the rest and floated
against the current. It was this bone which was kept."

Somewhat off topic, but also of interest (to me, at least) is the Q&A
on the New Scientist website that addresses the age old question: 
"Why are domesticated horses given shoes? They seem to have no
difficulty managing without them in the wild."
It has to do with...the frog, of course.  Check it out if you're so

search [underside of a horse's hoof is called a frog]
balthazar-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Very cool answer..whether it's true or not, it makes for a great
story. No, thank God, Balthazar is not my name but the name of my
While horses have gotten along very well in the wild without shoes,
man has added shoes to keep the hoof from cracking and tearing up.
next question should be, why not just let them break up. Is it yet one
more example of man inteferring with nature?

Subject: Re: Origin of term for horse anatomy
From: chromedome-ga on 14 Jun 2002 03:54 PDT
For what it's worth, Balthazar, I was told as a child that this
portion of the hoof was called a "frog," because of a physical
resemblance.  Head on down to your nearest pond, catch a spring peeper
or whatever you've got, and look closely at the (roughly triangular,
and bulgy) shape of the body.  Now talk to the next horse you happen
across, and ask him to "shake a hoof."  Examine the "frog," the
softish bit in the middle.  It is also roughly triangular, and bulgy.

However, after a bleary-eyed search late last night (my time) I was
unable to back that with a reference on anyone's website.

Davidsar's answer, though not what I was expecting, is certainly
ingenious and plausible.
Subject: Re: Origin of term for horse anatomy
From: emmerald-ga on 21 Jun 2002 20:51 PDT
Hi Balthazar, 

In response to you question about horse's hooves, here's an answer:

Shoeing horses prevents cracking and chipping. Why not just let the
horse's hooves chip? Domestic horses often do not travel enough to
wear down their hooves evenly, and they often develop jagged, long
chips and cracks. These, if not treated, may split up along the hoof
and cause intense pain and injury. They may also open up the hooves to
infection or create a place where debris can settle in and irritate
the horse.

Horses in the wild may also have painful problems like this, but
generally they have harder hooves and travel more so that they that
wear down rather than split up. Of course, sometimes a horse will
develop a problem like this, and they will either grow out more hoof
and get better, or get worse and die (usually get killed by a predator
because they can't run away).

A healthy horse is a happy horse-- keep his hooves trimmed and shod,
and do it regularly, every 4-6 weeks :-)
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