Object Title

Shaffron

Shaffron

Date

1850-1950

Object Number

XXVIH.5

Provenance

Presented by the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum, 1954.

Physical Description

The shaffron consists of a main plate, flat at the top and steeply angled for the nose, where the sides are bent down to form a rectangular section. On the forehead is a raised boss surrounded by shaped raised bands, with curvelinear shapes forming a pattern on the nose. The embossed ridges are surrounded by a double row of punched dimples and raised dots. The edges of the plate are bound with leather, which holds in place a padded lining of coarsely woven cloth. Attached to the top edge is a broad leather strap with a bifurcated distal end. A smaller strap with ends cut short is threaded through this main strap at right angles. These straps are edged with leather binding and decorated with strips of green leather. There are also remmnants of two further straps attached to the inner rim of the proper right side of the shaffron.

The cheek pieces are also present, but detached. They are semicircular, embossed with a central boss, and have borders of raised and punched dots. Like the main plate they are bordered with leather and lined. One of the cheek pieces still has the remnants of a strap attached. Contemporary photographic evidence shows that these cheek pieces were suspended at the side of the horse's face between two straps, one running from behind the horse's ears and one from the nasal section of the main plate of the shaffron.

Dimensions

Main plateDepth140 mm
Main plateLength527 mm
Main plateWeight1.75 kg
Main plateWidth210 mm
Main plateWidth90 mm
Cheek pieceLength235 mm
Cheek pieceWeight0.47 kg
Cheek pieceWeight0.483 kg
Cheek pieceWidth150 mm

Inscriptions and Marks

None.

Associations

Places Sudan/Africa

Notes

This object was previously thought to be 'possibly for a camel', due to the sharp angle of the shape of the main plate, and the narrowness of the nasal section. However, until pictorial evidence or descriptive sources comes to light of camels wearing shaffrons, it seems unlikely that these shaffrons were intended for camel use; horses seem to have been armoured, but camels usually seem to have been left unprotected apart from fringed harnesses. Photographs of horses wearing shaffrons in Sudan in the early 20th century indicate that they seem to have been worn further up the head than might normally be assumed, with the angled part of the main plate fitting up over the top of the face and running between the ears. In these photographs, the main plate frequently appears to sit proud on top of the nose, rather than fitting over and around it, which suggests that the narrowness of the nasal section of the main plate on this example would not prevent it from being worn by a horse.