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Busby is the English name for the Hungarian prémes csákó ("fur shako") or kucsma, a military head-dress made of fur, originally worn by Hungarian hussars. In its original Hungarian form the busby was a cylindrical fur cap, having a bag of coloured cloth hanging from the top. The end of this bag was attached to the right shoulder as a defense against sabre cuts. In Great Britain busbies are of two kinds: (a) the hussar busby, cylindrical in shape, with a bag; this is worn by hussars and the Royal Horse Artillery; (b) the rifle busby, a folding cap of astrakhan (curly lambswool) formerly worn by rifle regiments, in shape somewhat resembling a Glengarry but taller. Both have straight plumes in the front of the headdress.
The popularity of this military headdress in its hussar form reached a height in the years immediately before World War I (1914–18). It was widely worn in the British (hussars, yeomanry, and horse artillery), German (hussars), Russian (hussars), Dutch (cavalry and artillery), Belgian (Guides and field artillery), Bulgarian (Life Guards), Romanian (cavalry), Austro-Hungarian (Hungarian generals) Serbian (Royal Guards), Spanish (hussars) and Italian (light cavalry) armies.
Possibly the name's original sense of a "busby wig" came from association with Richard Busby, headmaster of Westminster School in the late seventeenth century; the later phrase buzz wig may have been derived from busby. An alternative explanation is that the British hussar cap of the early 19th century was named after the hatter who supplied the officer's version—W. Busby of the Strand London. The modern British busby is worn with full dress by the Waterloo Band of The Rifles, the Royal Horse Artillery and ceremonial detachments at regimental expense. In its hussar version it is now made of black nylon fur, although Bandmasters still retain the original animal fur.
The busby should not be mistaken for the much taller bearskin cap, worn most notably by the five regiments of Foot Guards of the Household Division (Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards). Around 1900 the word "busby" was used colloquially to denote the tall bear and racoonskin "caps" worn by foot guards and fusiliers and the feather bonnets of Highland infantry. This usage is now obsolete.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Busby". Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 869.
- Wendy Skilton, page 42 British Military Band Uniforms: Cavalry Regiments, ISBN 1 85780 006 0