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Why is the horse's frog called a frog?

Hi, my name's Ginny.
I have a question asked by many of my curious young students; Why is the frog called a frog? There has to be a story, true or myth about it's origin. Can you help solve the mystery for us all at Honey Hollow Pony Club?
Really hoping so,


Hi Ginny (and everyone else at the Honey Hollow Pony Club)!

Thanks for your question!

Some people think the horse's frog is named that because it resembles, in shape and texture, the amphibian. They are both roughly triangular and slightly squishy.

However, there's also a story -- true or not-- that relates the two.

In the 1800's in Scotland there was a club called Society of the Horseman's Word. Horse trainers, blacksmiths, and other horseman would join to learn horsemanship skills. Elder members of this masonic-like society were reputed to have supernormal abilities to understand and control horses. Apparently this Scottish club was only one of several such societies during this time (for horsemen and people with other interests).

Supposedly the society passed down from horseman to horseman a secret word or phrase that would control horses... a word that, when spoken to a horse, would instantly make him follow every comand or wish. There was a demand for those that knew the Word. Such an individual could make a wild horse calm and manageable, or a stubborn horse agreable.

These "horse whisperers" as they were called practiced both horsemanship and witchcraft. Initiation ceremonies included reading passages from the Bible backwards in order to summon the devil. Passwords, handshakes, and salutes were used to keep their rituals and practices secret.
They carried talismans and charms for good luck, and used oils and scents to influence horses. They would use a strong scent to 'jade' a horse, or make it refuse to move. Other oils and herbs would do the opposite, and restore the horse back to normal or have a calming influence on the horse. For this reason, they were also called 'horse-witches'.

One of the most important charms that they carried was a bone of a frog or toad. Part of the initiation ceremony required novices to kill a toad, and leave it on a whitethorn bush for 24 hours to dry. Then, the toad was put in an anthill and left for a month, so the ants would eat everything off but the bones. It was removed from the anthill and tossed into a running stream during a full moon. The horseman would watch the bones come apart in the water until the pelvis bone floated free (it's said to have floated upstream against the current). This bone is very similar in shape to the horse's frog. It was kept by the horseman and supposedly used to bewitch or control horses.

This, then, could be the reason that part of the horse's hoof is named after a frog; this almost forgotten society with its bizarre rituals is the only link I can find that relates the two.

The Society of the Horseman's Word was at its peak in 1870's and lasted up until the 1930's. The Society may still exist in remote parts of Scotland.




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