Hoe (tool)

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For other uses, see Hoe (disambiguation).
A farmer using a hoe to keep weeds down in a vegetable garden.

A hoe is an ancient and versatile agricultural hand tool used to shape the soil, control weeds, clear soil, and harvest root crops. Hoes are also used to mix things like concrete, and to dig holes. Shaping the soil can be piling soil around the base of plants (hilling), creating narrow furrows (drills) and shallow trenches for planting seeds and bulbs. Weed control with a hoe can be by agitating the surface of the soil or by cutting foliage from the roots, and clearing soil of old roots and crop residues. Hoes for digging and moving soil are used harvesting root crops such as potatoes.


There are many types of hoes of quite different appearances and purposes. Some can perform multiple functions. Others are intended for a specific use.

Cultivating tool pull or draw hoe
Cultivating tool push or thrust hoe

There are two main classes of agricultural hoe: draw hoes for shaping, and scuffle hoes for surface weed control.

A draw hoe has the blade set at approximately a right angle to the handle. The user chops into the ground and then pulls (draws) the blade towards them. Altering the angle of the handle can cause the hoe to dig deeper or more shallowly as the hoe is pulled. A draw hoe can easily be used manually to cultivate soil to a depth of several inches.

A scuffle hoe is used to scrape the surface of the soil, and to loosen the top inch or so, and to cut the roots, remove, and disrupt the growth of weeds efficiently. These are mainly of two different designs: the Dutch hoe and the hoop hoe.

Draw hoe blades from Serbia
A Dutch hoe or push hoe; usually attached to a long hilt and handle
Hoedad (tree-planting tool) Kaibab National Forest, Arizona, USA

Types of draw hoe include:

  • The typical farming and gardening hoe with a heavy, broad delta-shaped blade and a flat edge is known as the grub hoe, grab hoe, pattern hoe, Italian hoe,[1] or dago hoe ("dago" is an ethnic slur referring to Italians, Spaniards, or Portuguese).[2]
  • Hoedads (also, "hoedags") are hoe-like tools used for planting trees.[3] According to Hartzell (1987, p. 29), "The hoedag [was] originally called skindvic hoe... Hans Rasmussen, legendary contractor and timber farm owner, is credited with having invented the curved, convex, round-nosed hoedag blade which is widely used today" (emphasis added).[4]
  • The mortar hoe, a tool specific to hand mixing mortar and concrete, has the appearance of a typical square-bladed draw hoe with the addition of large holes in the blade.[5]

Types of scuffle hoe include:

  • The collinear hoe has a narrow, razor-sharp blade which is used to slice weeds by skimming it just under the surface of the soil with a sweeping motion;[6] it is unsuitable for tasks like soil moving and chopping. It was designed by Eliot Coleman in the late 1980s.[7]
  • The Dutch hoe is a design that is pushed or pulled through the soil to cut weeds just under the surface. A Dutch hoe has a blade "sharp on every side so as to cut either forwards and backwards".[8] The blade must be set in a plane slightly upwardly inclined to the dual axis of the rod used as a handle stick. The user uses the handle to push the blade forward, forcing it below the surface of the ground and maintaining it at a shallow depth in the surface layer of soil by altering the angle of the handle whilst pushing. A push hoe can easily cultivate and remove weeds etc. from the surface layer of the soil.
  • The hoop hoe (also known as action,[9] oscillating, hula, stirrup, pendulum weeder,[10] or swivel hoes) have a double-edge blade that bends around to form a rectangle attached to the handle. Weeds are cut just below the soil surface as the blade is pushed & pulled through the area. The back and forth motion is highly effective with cutting weeds in loose or breakable soil. Widths of the blade typically range between three to seven inches. Its tool-head is a loop of flat, sharpened strap metal. It is not as efficient as a draw hoe for moving soil.[11]
  • The Swoe hoe is a modern[12] one-sided cutting hoe - a variant of the Dutch hoe.
  • Wheel hoes are, as the name suggests, a hoe or pair of hoes attached to one or more wheels. The hoes are frequently interchangeable with other tools.[13][14]

Other types of hoes include: tined hoes, sometimes called fork hoes; 'clam hoes', made for clam digging; adze hoes, with the basic hoe shape but heavier and stronger and with traditional uses in trail making,[15], pacul or cangkul (hoes similar to adze hoe from Malaysia and Indonesia), 'gang hoes' for powered use. [16]


Hoes are an ancient technology, predating the plough and perhaps preceded only by the digging stick. In Sumerian mythology, the invention of the hoe was credited to Enlil, the chief of the council of gods.[17] The hand-plough (mr) was depicted in predynastic Egyptian art, and hoes are also mentioned in ancient documents like the Code of Hammurabi (ca. 18th century BC) and the Book of Isaiah (c. 8th century BC).

The human damage caused by long-term use of short-handled hoes, which required the user to bend over from the waist to reach the ground, and caused permanent, crippling lower back pain to farm workers, resulted in the California Supreme Court declaring the short-handled hoe to be an unsafe hand tool that was banned under California law in 1975.[18] The short-handled hoe that Governor Jerry Brown gave to César Chávez in 1975 was displayed in the California Hall of Fame in 2006.[citation needed]

Archaeological use[edit]

Over the past fifteen or twenty years, hoes have become increasingly popular tools for professional archaeologists. While not as accurate as the traditional trowel, the hoe is an ideal tool for cleaning relatively large open areas of archaeological interest. It is faster to use than a trowel, and produces a much cleaner surface than an excavator bucket or shovel-scrape, and consequently on many open-area excavations the once-common line of kneeling archaeologists trowelling backwards has been replaced with a line of stooping archaeologists with hoes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eisen, Gustavus A. (1890). The Raisin Industry: A Practical Treatise on the Raisin Grapes, Their History, Culture and Curing. Sacramento, USA: H. S. Crocker. p. 131. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  2. ^ "dago definition". Cambridge Dictionaries Online. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Nix, Steve (May 28, 2008). "Hoedads: The Tool, The Cooperative". About.com. 
  4. ^ Hartzell, Hal Jr. (1987). Birth of a Cooperative: Hoedads, Inc. A Worker Owned Forest Labor Co-op. Eugene, OR: Hulogos'i Communications. p. 29. ISBN 0-938493-09-4. 
  5. ^ "California Ag Mechanics Tool ID Manual". CSU Chico College of Agriculture. California State University. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  6. ^ "Collinear Hoe Instructions" (PDF). Chelsea Green Publishing. 1995. 
  7. ^ Byczynski, Lynn (22 Feb 2008). The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower's Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers (2 ed.). Vermont, USA: Chelsea Green Publishing. p. 68. ISBN 160358076X. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  8. ^ Loudon, John (1871). The Horticulturist, Gardening in America Series. Applewood Books. p. 84. ISBN 9781429013680. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  9. ^ Darling, David. "Hoe". Encyclopedia of Alternative Energy. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  10. ^ "Annual Progress Report, September 1, 1984" (PDF). USAID. United States Agency for International Development. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  11. ^ Green, Victor (1 February 1954). "The Scuffle Hoe—A Valuable Tool for Small Plot Work on Non-Rocky Soils". Agronomy Journal 46 (2): 94–95. doi:10.2134/agronj1954.00021962004600020011x. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  12. ^ "Swoe". V&A Images. 
  13. ^ Power Farming. Power Farming, Incorporated. 1919. p. 191. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  14. ^ "US Patent 1017048, Cultivator, filed 1911". USPTO US Patent Database. United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  15. ^ https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/publications/fs_publications/05232810/page09.cfm
  16. ^ "Model tractor, type 2D, equipped with toolbar and set of gang hoes". Collections Online. Science Museum Group. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  17. ^ PBS. Heritage: Civilization and the Jews. "Nippur". Accessed 26 Nov 2012.
  18. ^ "Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers' Struggle". Pbs.org. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Evans, Chris, “The Plantation Hoe: The Rise and Fall of an Atlantic Commodity, 1650–1850,” William and Mary Quarterly, (2012) 69#1 pp 71–100.

External links[edit]