Horse-hoof ashtrays: A tasteful tribute to our noble steeds?

For those of you who’ve made it along to the War Horse: Fact & Fiction exhibition, you may have seen a variety of slightly ghoulish objects in our Legacy section. For those of you who haven’t, on display are a range of handcrafted and engraved silver ashtrays and inkwells made from the feet of some of the horses used by soldiers.

Learn more about this rather unusual tradition from our curator, Pip Dodd.

Exhibition curator Pip Dodd describes the tradition of turning horses’ hooves into ashtrays and inkwells

Posted in Blog


  1. namem calvert
    Posted 13 March 2012 at 11.43am | Permalink


  2. Jane Allard
    Posted 18 March 2012 at 4.55pm | Permalink


  3. Joy Lunn
    Posted 26 March 2012 at 3.30pm | Permalink

    My brother in laws’ uncle Brian had a pair of mounted inscribed hooves to commemorate a favourite charger.
    There is nothing abominable about it, if the horse is dead and the owner or keeper wishes to have a reasonably permanent reminder then a hoof is more tangible than a fragile piece of mane or tail and more portable than a painting.
    I have horses myself, I have photographs one hundred years ago that option wasn’t always practical or available.

  4. Moira Kindlin
    Posted 1 May 2012 at 8.10pm | Permalink

    I don’t see what is so shocking about it, The horses weren’t killed for their hooves like rhinos for their horns. You keep Grandpa’s ashes on the mantle piece so why not a fave pet or horse’s remains.

  5. Charlie
    Posted 3 May 2012 at 9.22pm | Permalink

    Ino the horses wernt alive at the time but me as a 11 year old fount this verry disturbing and couldnt handle it. As Joy said she had horses same here and i adore them both to bits! But i do find this upsetting… but i do think it is a good idear and that it should become a new thing that we could be able to do with our horses when they pass. It will treasure memorise and it mean our horses are going to always be with us. Thankyou.

  6. shz williamson
    Posted 6 May 2012 at 1.21pm | Permalink

    in a strange way i rather like these, although i cannot imagine doing this with any on my horses after they’re gone: i do feel these objects show respect and loss for individual horses at a time where horses were generally considered disposable. as an illustration of a different time – i think these are very valid and quite precious.

  7. ali
    Posted 7 May 2012 at 9.36am | Permalink

    errrrrr… no!? ok , no offence to previous comments, i mean each to their own… but would you have your mothers foot turned into an ashtray or some other ‘thing’ to keep her memory with you? hmmm .. i think not!! why? exactly! just sayin’

  8. Paul M
    Posted 7 May 2012 at 7.36pm | Permalink

    I imagine this custom had it;s roots in the fact that Army horses were (and still are) stamped with a number on one of their hooves, similar to a soldier carrying an ID disc around his neck. If the horse died or was killed or had to be destroyed then the Unit farrier would remove the numbered hoof and present it as proof that the animal was dead, This was simpll accounting for livestock and property and ensured it hadn’t otherwise been disposed of at a loss to the Treasury. No doubt some of these hooves were retained for sentimental reasons and some one had the idea of making an ornament out of them.

  9. Susi M
    Posted 13 May 2012 at 9.14am | Permalink

    Could not agree more, Ali. There are those out there who won’t see the difference between retaining a hoof or a obtaining a rhino horn. Also, a little bit sick. Keep a little clipping of the mane as a keepsake (like someone might keep a lock of hair in a locket) but let’s not hack off parts of a beloved pet before burying it, Jesus Christ.

  10. Susi M
    Posted 13 May 2012 at 9.15am | Permalink

    Also, how is flicking stinking fag ash into a ‘hoof’ ashtray a ‘tribute’ to the horse????

  11. Becca
    Posted 14 May 2012 at 7.13pm | Permalink

    Its strange they are all charges !

  12. Amanda
    Posted 23 May 2012 at 9.50pm | Permalink

    I find this disturbing and shocking. There are far more respectable ways to remember any animal!! It’s sick!!

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