Cockleburs and Velcro

by Tom Hutton

My typical morning routine includes feeding and currying the horses. Of late I have had to spend extra time painfully (for me not the horse) removing prickly cockleburs from forelocks, manes, and tails. These tenacious burrs have become so numerous and work their way in to such an extent that at times our horses have the appearance of wearing hair curlers.

This got me to thinking about Velcro. A little googling finds that a Swiss engineer named Georges de Mestral in 1941 invented Velcro. He was inspired after taking a hunting trip to the Alps and having to contend with burrs in his dog’s fur and on his clothing. He placed a burr under a microscope and found  that each spine had a hook, making them stick to virtually anything. This inspired him to fashion Velcro from which I assume he made enough money to fill a Swiss bank vault.

The cocklebur (Xanthium) that I must contend with in Texaas is native to the Americas and eastern Asia. I can only guess that the recent

Just a few of the Cockleburs removed from our horses

Just a few of the Cockleburs removed from our horses

drought in our area somehow relates to the heavy crop of these burrs.

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