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Wrought Iron Caltrope (Crows Feet) c. 17th Century

For foot soldiers, facing a charge of heavily armed cavalry would have been a terrifying experience. Their defensive measures included sharpened stakes, pikes and ditches.

The grim-looking object displayed here, known as a ‘crow’s foot’ or caltrop, was also used. They were placed on the ground in order to disrupt cavalry charges. Horses were quickly disabled if the spikes penetrated their hoofs.


A piece of ground covered with crow’s feet acted like a modern minefield. However you throw a caltrop down, one sharpened spike always sticks up.
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FGM Major
May 26, 2009
Northern California
The Caltrop is also the Divisional symbol for the 3rd Marine Division, my Vietnam outfit.
Affectionately called the 3rd Herd.
I sometimes felt like we were human caltrops, thrown in front of the enemy to slow him down...
My entire tour of duty was spent in the farthest north and west (Leatherneck Corner)you could go in Vietnam, interdicting the Ho Chi Minh Trail.



Caltrops were highly effective. Only problem is that caltrop had to be lay before the cavalry charge, in the right location and in great number and depth. The real issue was once laid, caltrop doesn't be pick up and reposition somewhere else. I my mind the longbow's sharpened stakes were better, for they would set them up first, could be reposition with the Archers and were just as effective as caltrop, maybe better for the charging cavalry horses would try to turn to aside at the last moment, cause chaos in the ranks, unless they were very well trained before hand.


Surely caltropes were easier disguised though. An open flank would be a lure for a cavalry charge but if that whole flank was littered with caltropes it would sure make a mess of any charge.
Very easy to hide in tall glass.
The problem is during the middle ages..metal wasn't easy to come by. And to production large numbers of Catlops to be truly effective, we talk in the thousands or hundreds if you could funnel your opponent cavalry. In Europe they were useful, but else where a big maybe. I do believe in China made good use of them too, but on limited score.