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Crop Guardians: The Intriguing History of Scarecrows
It’s strange when you think about it: Straw, the same straw your horse or goat might sleep on. Lifeless straw. But tie some together in a humanoid form and it takes on a personality of its own. Scarecrows have been personifying straw for over 5,000 years. These human-shaped decoys have become the poster child for autumn, ushering in the falling leaves and cooler weather. How is it that our animal bedding first sprung to life, creating what we know today as scarecrows?
The first recorded instance of scarecrows appeared during the time of ancient Egypt. Instead of straw and clothes, farmers would secure nets on poles. This allowed them to easily catch pests attempting to prey on their crops.
500 Years later, the Greeks began using their own scarecrows. These crop guardians were made of wood carved to look like Priapus, their most hideous mythical character. The farmers hoped that the terrifying figures were so unsightly, no bird would dare venture near their crops.
It was actually the Japanese that first begin using straw regularly with their scarecrows. Called “kakashis,” these figures were dressed in people’s clothes and given straw hats. To make them appear more threatening, they were also given old bows and arrows.
Copying the Greeks, the Romans spread the use of scarecrows throughout Europe. Instead of carving elaborate statues out of wood, farmers in what is now Great Britain decided to fill old clothes with straw instead. However, it wasn’t until a group of Germans traveled to America that straw scarecrows became the icons they are today.
The immigrants called their strawmen, “bootzamon.” Interestingly, pests weren’t the only ones these scarecrows scared away. As frightened children began telling one another stories of the “bootzamon,” the name was slowly Americanized into “bogeyman.”
Today, we have very few traditions that date back more than 5,000 years. And yet, scarecrows are still an iconic part of the fall season. In many ways, it’s one of the few things that connects us with almost any other human being, regardless of time or location. So it really is strange to think about straw and realize, it’s so much more than you might imagine.
Why not get you and your favorite four-legged friends in the autumn spirit with a fresh bale of Standlee straw? It works great for decoration and even better as nice, comfortable bedding to help your animals get a good night’s rest. Find a Standlee straw retailer near you by clicking the button below!