We’ve all seen them, taking post at farms and sitting atop haystacks in decorative fall displays. But how did these famous fall figures come to be?
Those who farm and garden know best how important it is to keep pests away. Many have had to count on hearty harvests to survive harsh winters, which is why they’ve had to be so protective of their crops.
In fact, ever since Egyptian times, there’s been a need for someone to scare pests away from fields. Some say that the first recorded scarecrows (farmers who hid in the fields) took post along the Nile River to keep quail away from the wheat.
Before Europeans settled in North America, adult Native American men served as scarecrows or bird scarers, and some tribes even created scarecrows by stringing rags and animal skins from cedar poles. When they reached the Americas in the 1600’s, European settlers also stood guard in fields taking turns scaring birds and also wolves. More ideas for building scarecrows came from immigrants, such as German farmers who constructed human-like scarecrows called bootzamon or bogeyman.
During the Great Depression scarecrows became especially common on farms across the United States. Still today, mannequins can be found standing guard and scaring away bothersome birds. Travel across the globe, and you’ll find that Jacks-of-straw, Scarebirds, Tattybogles, Shoy-hoys or scarecrows are still standing guard.
So you now know their history, but just how did scarecrows get their name? Why weren’t they called scarebirds? Since crows were known as the biggest problem birds, eating seed and pulling up plants, “scarecrows” was the name given to these helpful farmhands.
Some are supported by a wooden cross while others wave freely as if they were walking. Scarecrows come in great variety. They have faces made of pumpkins, stuffed bags or even jugs. Creative farmers build their own scary scarecrows, and, often times, friendly ones are made just to complement festive fall décor.
With harvest season in full swing, you’re bound to see a scarecrow or two, scary or sweet, even if you’re traveling the globe. From the 11th Annual Kurrajong Scarecrow Festival to be held in Kurrajong, Australia, to the Scarecrow Festival taking place in Bayfield, Wisconsin, fall is in the air and scarecrows are in the fields.