Why Do Pirates Have Peg Legs?

There are different fascinating things about pirates, but the one thing that stands out often is their peg legs. Ever wondered why pirates have peg legs? Well, you are in luck. In this article, we’ll take a look at the reasons why pirates have pegs legs.

Peg Legs?

‘A peg for a leg’ is one of the most common phrases where the pirates are involved, and it’s also the reason for the association of pirates with peg legs.

Essentially, the peg for a leg phrase is quite symbolic, and it might not be as figurative as you may have hoped. This is because many circumstances would lead to a pirate losing their leg or foot aboard a ship. Most of the time, the badly broken legs or even crushed foot would have to be amputated, and they’re also were several men missing one leg working on the merchant ships. So, where do the peg legs come from? In cases where the hurt/ injured men would require the peg legs, they would get them, but only if they could afford the legs. This means that the peg legs are the artificial limbs that would be used by amputated pirates.

Looking back at history, the artificial limbs date back to 300B.C. or earlier. However, the modern prosthetics date back to the 1550s from a renowned French Surgeon, Ambroise Paré, who came up with artificial limbs made of wood but covered with metal. These limbs were ill-fitting, heavy, and also expensive, but it said that as much as 1/3 to ½ of all the French soldiers said to have lost their limbs received the artificial limbs.

However, it wasn’t until the 1700s that the first lightweight artificial limbs made of lightweight wood were made and became the go-to option for prosthetics. Unfortunately, even these lightweight prosthetics were ill-fitting and painful.

While the use of the prosthetic limbs continued amid the discomfort, their use became widespread only from the American Civil War. During the Golden Age, metal was used to make the artificial limbs, but as mentioned above, the metal and heavy wood prosthetics were heavy and would tire out the wearers. The discomfort from wearing the peg legs was worsened by the fact that the amputations carried out at the time weren’t advanced, and the stumps left behind would be painful or tender, meaning that piling that on with an improperly fitting peg leg would only worsen the pain. And in other cases, the peg legs would still cause pain, even when they fit well, perhaps because of the materials used for the peg legs.

In a bid to come up with a more efficient and reliable prosthetic, the peg legs were born. In this prosthetics’ design, a peg leg would be attached by strapping the leg to the thigh or around the wearer’s waist, and in other cases, the shoulder, all in a bid to prevent the peg leg from slipping out of position. It was, therefore, rather common for persons wearing the peg legs to still use crutches.

Pirates and Peg Legs

Yes, the pirates used the peg legs as well; and there are two accounts giving records of the pirates using peg legs. However, most of the amputees who’d remain pirate crews would still hob around, and most of them used crutches. Regarding the reasons behind peg legs, it’s obvious that the peg legs were intended to improve their movements in and out of the ships.


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