We thoroughly investigated why horseshoes bring good luck because people kept asking us why that is. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to come up with a good answer. But what we have discovered is that believe in horseshoes is centuries old and has spread worldwide. We considered this to be such a special discovery that we made a summary about it. We think this page offers the most complete overview you can find on the internet. If you have any additions or suggestions I would like to invite you to notify us.
The earliest mention of the good luck horseshoe was in the story of Saint Dunstan. He lived in England in 909 – 988. A story about him, written by Gutenberg, mentioned that one evening when St. Dunstan was a smith the devil came for a visit and asked him to provide him with brand new horseshoes. St. Dunstan quickly realized that he was the devil and he put one of his red-hot tongs on the devils nose. He made the devil promise him that he would never enter a house if it had a horseshoe. We suppose the Dutch expression ‘iemand bij de neus nemen’, an equivalent English expression is ‘to pull someone a leg’ (but instead of a leg, the Dutch say a nose) was inspired by this story. The king of the court was so pleased with Dunstan that he immediately appointed him to be a bishop. In one of the publications of Gutenberg there are many beautiful pictures of Saint Dunstan and the devil.
Books were still written by monks by hand and were garnished with exquisite illustrations around this age. It was a huge amount of work, the dutch expression ‘monnikenwerk’ refers to this labor. The expression is used to refer to work as if it is only fit for monks. (Printing was not invented yet). Right next to this text on this page is a picture of an ostrich with a horseshoe in its beak. What is special about the picture is the frequent occurrence of the same image on Gale stones and Family Crests. Even Shakespeare wrote about it in Henry VI part II Jack Cade: ‘make thee eat iron like an ostrich’. The meaning of the ostrich is yet unknown to us.
The family Chernihiv (also called Chernitzkoff, Czernichow, Czernichew, Tchernichov, or Tchernychevwas) consisted in the 12th Century of famous knights in Poland. Their family crest is the oldest one we could find that had a horseshoe in it. We came across many other family crests that had a horseshoe in it but from later dates. The line of Chernihiv had a bloody history and a lot of wealth. It seems the horseshoe brought them a lot of luck.
The news about Saint Dunstal would have spread like wildfire. A protector against the devil would definitely be needed there around 1,200. In Rutland, a place in England, is a church from 1229 that was immediately decorated completely with horseshoes (and they weren’t the smaller ones). Apparently the devil bothered them a lot in those days. Nowadays more than 200 horseshoes hang on the church, all have the closed side aimed to the sky. According to the custodian the devil cannot make a nest in the horseshoe by hanging them this way. The first documented horseshoe was given by Edward IV in 1470.
There were many travelers in this period which often was a dangerous venture. Therefore the travelers often carried an amulet with them. It was thought to ward off devils, witches and other troubles. Since 1300 we see the image of an horseshoe on an amulet occurring more frequently. It was a lot easier to carry with you than a real horseshoe. This amulet was found west of Westminster Abbey in London. It is made of copper, 16.1 mm in diameter and weighs 1.2 grams. It was made around 1350.
This beautiful copper engraving was made in 1450 and is displayed in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The description; "The lamentation of Christ in a shrine with six other expositions about the live of Christ". That is nice, but what makes it special is: the engraver placed a horseshoe in his master insignia. And the horseshoe did bring him good luck: many of his other works are displayed in the Rijksmuseum.
Fatehpur Sikri (City of Victory) is famous in India and founded in 1570 in honor of a Muslim saint. One of the buildings became famous because of its “horseshoe gate”. It is a huge door that was decorated completely with used horseshoes over the course of time. We can see that the believe in horseshoes was picked up in India all the way back from England in just a few centuries. And this believe did not stay within Christianity, but it was also embraced by Muslims.
People all over Europe knew the devil would not come into houses that were decorated with a horseshoe. A very solid way to do this was by displaying the image of the horseshoe in a Gable stone. Since 1600 the occurrence of these kind of stones became more frequent. The larger and more expensive the house was, the more horseshoes were carved in stone. This is one of the oldest ones we could find.
Seafarers, they were very superstitious! Mermaids, the great Kraken, the Flying Dutchman, they had enough time to let their imagination run wild. A famous sailor at the time was Admiral Nelson who won many battles with his ship the HMS Victor. Nelson was also superstitious. He let the crew nail a horseshoe on the mast of every ship he sailed. On the photo at the side of this text a part of the mast of the HMS Victory is displayed, with the horseshoe still on it. Unfortunately this horseshoe did not bring Nelson enough luck: he died on the ship because of a musket bullet of the French at the battle at Trafalgar.
Art also discovered the horseshoe. Apparently they were so common at the time such that the horseshoes were implemented in a still life. This beautiful painting is displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York. It was made by William Harnett. His works are displayed in many different museums all over the world.
We found a lot more ‘lucky charms’ in this period. This is a kind of paperclip we saw at an auction on eBay (meanwhile sold for $195).
We already have a large collection of old postcards with horseshoes from this period. We reprinted a set. People who are interested: send us an email, we have still have a couple of them.
Since 1920 the “horseshoe pitching” became popular. It is a sport that revolves around throwing a horseshoe around an iron stake that is placed in the ground. We find it unfortunate that they stopped using real horseshoes, but a piece of iron with “hooks” attached to it in order to make it easier to keep the iron hooked on the stakes. At the moment the sport is very popular in the USA and Canada.
Horseshoes are also fashion-sensitive. Behold this beautiful clock Art Deco style. It is made in 1930 so you have to wind it up by hand. On the clock-face subtle letters “Good Luck” can be seen. A wonderful acquisition for only $99.- dollars on eBay.
Science discovered good luck horseshoes! Niels Bohr (left on the photo) a great scientist and a friend of Albert Einstein (right) was interviewed by a journalist. The journalist noticed a horseshoe hanging on the wall at the home of Niels and asked confounded: “but professor, surely you as a great scientist are not superstitious?”. Niels Bohr answered: “No, definitely not, but they say that horseshoes bring good luck, even if you don’t believe it!”
Cars are getting bigger and manufacturers are trying to make them safer with safety belts, disk brakes and unbreakable windshields. It is probable that this development was the cause of the higher occurrence of horseshoes placed at the front of the car. A Mercedes without one was difficult to find!
Russians are very superstitious. There are strong rumors that the first cosmonaut Joeri Gagarin had smuggled a horseshoe on board during his first spaceflight. If that was the case, it certainly brought him good luck. After his flight he became a great hero in Russia. We named a horseshoe after him.
Elvis, still a phenomena, loved glitter and glamor. During his heydays he often was spotted with a fantastic ring that had a large horseshoe. The ring also became famous and many replicas were made afterwards. They are still available to buy at eBay. This one was sold at Christies for $18,000,-.
Tattoos are almost mandatory since the 80s. While they used to be exclusive to seafarers (anchors) and criminals (harts), nowadays you can see the most extraordinary designs on the street. Horseshoes are a beloved design, we beheld many remarkably exotic artworks!
Companies are implementing a horseshoe in their logos more often. We have seen hundreds of them. Many of them are very successful companies. Because of the horseshoe? Who knows. This photo is of two players of the Colts: a very famous team of Football players.
Fashion seems to go very far… What can we say about these shoes… Beautiful? Hideous? In any case, they are special!
At one time we had delivered a Giant Horseshoe to an American producer. To our amazement we saw the horseshoe in the series Entourage where the Giant was hanging on the wall at the office of Arie Gold (the protagonist) for a whole season. In the final scene Arie takes his leave of his company with great discrepancy. The only items he takes with him is a family photo and his “Lucky horseshoe”!
We are amazed by the usage of good luck horseshoes over the last 1,000 years. We are very curious about the usage of horseshoes in the future. We will undoubtedly encounter them in the most unexpected places. We are very curious! In any case, we will provide new designs in the following months.