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If You See A Cowboy Boot On A Fence Post, Do Not Touch It

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When city dwellers or suburbanites drive through more rural areas, they might encounter things that they aren't used to seeing. They could spot cows, horses, open fields, silos and tractors, but they might also catch sight of something that they don't really understand, like a boot on a fence post. Well what they don't realize but probably should is that the boot was put there for a reason and it should not be touched.

According to, a boot on a fence post is not a decoration, rather it was placed there to pay respect. A rancher might put a boot on a post or hang a pair of boots on a fence as a way to honor a favorite horse. Due to the close relationships ranchers have with their horses, having spent years training them and caring for them, it is a heartbreaking loss when one of them dies or is sold, so many ranchers choose to give up a pair of boots and place them on the fence to pay tribute to the animal.

Boots don't only honor horses though. Often times, they acknowledge a beloved ranch hand. Because those who work on a ranch can become part of the rancher's family since many live and eat on the property, if a favorite helper passes away or moves on, boots may be placed on the fence in their memory. It goes back to a tradition that stems from the old adage "a pair of boots for every hand." In these situations, the boots typically belonged to the employee.

Photo: Getty Images

Using boots on a fence as a way to communicate something has been going on for many generations. Before the invention of electricity and telephones, a fence with boots meant that the work day was over and, if the boots pointed toward the property's gate, it meant that the farmer was at his home, while if they faced the other way, it meant that he wasn't in. This way, visitors would know if they should stop by or not.

These days though, since the boots on the fence tend to have a more sentimental meaning, if you ever encounter them, it's best to just leave them as they are and not touch them.