Featured Object: German Powder Horn overview image

Featured Object: German Powder Horn

  • Post Date9/16/2017
  • Reading Time2 minute read

This German powder horn was used to carry gunpowder for either warfare or, based on the carved scenes, more likely hunting. One side shows a man shooting a wild boar with a gun, the other side shows a huntress out with her hound shooting at a deer with an arrow. The materials used and the craftsmanship are of a high quality, indicating that this horn was most likely used by someone of nobility or another rich individual, such as a successful merchant.

  • illustration of a man shooting a wild boar with a gun
  • illustration of a huntress out with her hound shooting at a deer with an arrow

Powder horns are made using a variety of processes. First a suitable animal horn, most commonly cow, is selected with the size, shape, color, and quality being considered. The horn is then hollowed out and lightly boiled so that the mouth can be stretched or shrunk to make a waterproof and airtight seal. The mouth is then cut and squared and the tip end trimmed.  Next the mouth is plugged with a soft wooden plug, usually made of pine or poplar. Finally the horn is scraped and polished. This horn was also decoratively carved using the nautical scrimshaw method and decorative horsehairs and a carrying strap were attached.

  • thinner nearly cylindrical section with a small hole which leads into the interior of the piece
  • green threads attached in a crescent around the rounded wide end
  • view of the small hole which leads to the interior of the piece

This powder horn is noteworthy because it indicates the power and wealth nobles had in order to afford intricate and high quality luxury goods like an intricately decorated powder horn. During the 1600s, when this horn was made, German nobles, especially smaller petty nobles, were known for spending money to outwardly broadcast their class status with luxury goods.

  • German powder horn with strap and thread embellishments

This article was originally published on 8/19/2006, but is presented here with expanded photography.