Prevalent in northwest Scotland, the Scottish Gaelic language contains many terms for the various varieties, e.g. cas-dhìreach "straight foot" for the straighter variety and on, but cas-chrom "bent foot" is the most common variety and refers to the crooked spade. Although no longer as common as they once were, they are still used in some places, especially the Outer Hebrides.
It is an implement of tillage peculiar to the Highlands, used for turning the ground where an ordinary plough cannot work on account of the rough, stony, uneven ground. It is of great antiquity and is described as follows by Armstrong:
It is inexpeditious in comparison with the plough, eight men being necessary to dig as much with it in one day, as a horse would plough in the same time. It is chiefly used for tillage, and consists of a crooked piece of wood, the lower end somewhat thick, about two-and-a-half feet in length, pretty straight, and armed at the end with iron made thin and square to cut the earth. The upper end of this instrument is called the ‘shaft’, and the lower the ‘head’. The shaft above the crook is pretty straight, being six feet long, and tapering towards the end which is slender. Just below the crook or angle, there must be a hole wherein a straight peg must be fixed, for the workman’s right foot in order to push the instrument into the earth; while in the mean time, standing on his left foot, and holding the shaft firmly with both hands, when he has in this manner driven the head into the earth, with one bend of his body he raises the clod by the iron-headed part of the instrument, making use of the ‘heel’ or hind part of the head as a fulcrum. In so doing, he turns it over, always to the left hand and then proceeds to push for another clod in the same form. To see six or eight men all at work with this instrument, standing on one leg and pushing with the other, would be a curious sight to a stranger. With all of its disadvantages, the cas-chrom is, of all the instruments, fittest for turning up the ground in the country, for among so many rocks, a plough can do little or nothing, and where there are no rocks, the ground is generally so marshy that cattle are not able to pass over it without sinking in deeply.
In the Western Isles, with a foot plough though, perhaps one man can do the work of four men with an ordinary spade, so while it is disadvantaged compared to a horse-plough, it is also well suited to the country.
South America and New Zealand
The foot plough was also used by Peruvians circa 1600. The Inca King and accompanying provincial lords used foot ploughs in the "opening of the earth" ritual at the beginning of the agricultural cycle. Incan agriculture used the chakitaqlla, a type of foot plough.
- The Way Potatoes Go, Worldwide, 8000BCE-Present: A Potatoe Perspective on an American Matter, Åsa Sonjasdotter for EATLACMA, curated by Fallen Fruit, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), 2010 (retrieved 16 February 2012)
- Inca vessel in the form of a digging stick, Peru, 15th-16th century, exhibit at the British Museum referencing C. McEwan, Ancient American Art in Detail, London, The British Museum Press, 2009, (retrieved 16 February 2012)
- Story: Farm mechanisation, Page 2 – Machines powered by humans and animals, Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand (retrieved 16 February 2012)
This article incorporates text from "Dwelly's [Scottish] Gaelic Dictionary" (1911). ((Cas-chrom) with minor additions and corrections)
- Laia - the Basque h-shaped tool, also described as a foot plough.
- Lazybed, a form of agriculture
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