A caparison is a covering, or cloth, laid over a horse or other animal, especially a pack animal, or horse of state. In modern times, it is used mainly for decoration in parades and for historical reenactments. A similar term is horse-trapper.The word is of Spanish origin, derived from an augmentative form of the Latin word caput, "head".
In the Middle Ages, caparisons were part of the horse armour known as barding, which was worn during war or tournament. They were adopted in the twelfth century in response to conditions of campaigning in the Crusades, where local armies employed archers, both on foot and horse, in large quantities, the covering might not completely protect the horse against the arrows but it could deflect and lessen the damage of them. An early depiction of a knight's horse wearing a caparison may be seen on the small Carlton-in-Lindrick knight figurine from the late 12th century. Modern re-enactment tests have shown that a loose caparison protects the horse reasonably well against arrows, especially if combined with a gambeson-like undercloth underneath.
Domesticated and temple elephants of India
In the Indian state of Kerala, elephants are beautifully decorated during temple festivals. They wear a distinctive golden head covering called a nettipattam, which is often translated into English as an elephant caparison. However, it covers only the head, not the body, as in a horse caparison.
- Caparisons in 13th-17th century illustrations and artwork
- A caparison made for the wedding-celebration of Gustaf II Adolf of Sweden and Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg, 1621
- Caparisons in the 14th Century German Manesse Codex 
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). "article name needed". Cyclopædia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (first ed.). James and John Knapton, et al.
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