Monday, June 26, 2023

Hooves and Heels


By Cindy Regnier

Do you ever wear stilettos? Not me because I’m awkward in any heels, let alone spikes. But I do admire people who can wear them gracefully. Unless they’re moonshiners. Ever hear of a thing called heifer heels?

When prohibition came to America in 1919, there were those who were determined to get around the new laws any way they could.. History tells us moonshiners were a crafty bunch, coming up with all sorts of sneaky ways to avoid having their stills discovered. Consequently a thing called heifer heels became common practice for those folks. 

Dubbed Cow Shoes or Heifer Heels, wood blocks resembling the shape of cattle hooves were made with straps enabling them to be attached to a boot or shoe. Some innovative moonshiners even used real cow hooves they attached to their boot soles (ewwww!). The stills were often built in swamps or wooded areas out of public view, but if the authorities followed their footprints, they were caught and the stills dismantled.

Since cattle were commonly ranging these areas, the shoes permitted the moonshiners to continue using their stills while keeping the local sheriff from following their tracks by blending in with the local bovine traffic.

Clever. But apparently the moonshiners didn’t think up this idea. The idea is said to have originated with a gentleman by the name of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. One of Doyle’s famous Sherlock Holmes titled The Adventure of the Priory School involves the disappearances of a young student and his teacher. Holmes discovers that the murder culprit escaped capture with horses wearing fake cow hooves. (Neat trick for a horse?) But realistic or not in the literary world, the shoes allowed moonshiners to continue their lucrative trade out of sight of the sheriff. Until the law caught on to the ploy, which didn’t take long. A 1922 article from a Florida newspaper carried a story about moonshiners wearing “cow shoes” to trick the authorities. So much for that great idea.

Bootleggers weren’t the only ones who used the heifer heels concept. Out west, a 1920s-era cattle rustler named J.R. “Crazy Tex’ Hazelwood came up with his own version of cow shoes he used to rustle cattle. When cowboys discovered missing cattle, there were no prints to be found except those of the cows. Again, pretty clever. He finally got caught when someone followed the hoof prints far enough to find the missing cattle – and the rustler.

 Now days a google search for heifer heels will reveal something like this photo. Yours for around $200. What a fashion statement – or not.

I'd love to hear what you think about this trick of the moonshiners. Good idea or just plain silly? Or maybe a little of both?


Rand needs a wife. He's got two orphan nieces in his care and a cattle ranch to run. Carly needs an escape and she needs it quick, just in case her ruthless ex-fiance/boss follows through with his threats. She grabs her young brother and flees westward to marry someone she's never met. Is she sacrificing her dreams or putting them aside for something better? It will take every bit of courage she can muster to find out!



  1. Fascinating. This is something I never heard of before.

    1. Agreed - who was clever enough to think of this?

  2. Replies
    1. Sherlock Holmes managed to figure out a lot of weird stuff like this - right?

  3. Thank you for posting today! It's amazing what people can come up with to disguise their activity.

    1. True - unfortunately its usually the bad guys trying to outsmart the good guys