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The hackle is a clipped plume or short spray of coloured feathers that is attached to a military headdress, with different colours being associated with particular regiments.[1]

In the British Army and the armies of some Commonwealth countries, the hackle is worn by some infantry regiments, especially those designated as fusilier regiments and those with Scottish and Northern Irish origins.

The modern hackle has its origins in a much longer plume, originally referred to by its Scots name, heckle, which was commonly attached to the feather bonnet worn by Highland regiments (now usually only worn by drummers, pipers and bandsmen). The smaller version originated in a regimental emblem adopted by the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment, to be worn in the sun helmet issued in hot-weather postings from the 1870s.[2]

British Army

Hackle colours in British fusilier regiments

Soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Modern fusiliers

A Fusilier of the Royal Welsh

In the modern British Army, there is a single regiment of fusiliers, plus a battalion of a large regiment. Hackle colours are:

Other ranks of the Royal Welsh, the regiment that was formed by the amalgamation of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and Royal Regiment of Wales, continue to wear the white hackle of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

Historic fusilier regiments

There were several other fusilier regiments which have been amalgamated and no longer exist. The hackle colours worn were as follows:

Non-fusilier regiments

Soldiers of the Royal Irish Regiment
A Coldstream guardsman with an Army standard

Non-fusilier regiments which wear the hackle are:

Royal Regiment of Scotland

Following the amalgamation of the regiments of the Scottish Division to form The Royal Regiment of Scotland on 28 March 2006, the following hackles are being worn by the regiment's constituent battalions:

Whilst the white hackle of 2 SCOTS, red hackle of 3 SCOTS and blue hackle of 4 SCOTS have a known ancestry, the origin of 1 SCOTS black hackle and 5 SCOTS green hackle are not clear and have no apparent precedent. It may be that the black hackle of 1 SCOTS simulates the black-cock tail feathers originally worn in the 1904 pattern Kilmarnock Bonnet and latterly in the regimental Glengarry Cap by the Royal Scots and King's Own Scottish Borderers, who merged in August 2006 to form 1 SCOTS. Alternatively, it may be a sympathetic gesture to a former Lowland regiment, the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), who went into 'suspended animation' in 1968 (and later disbanded), who wore a black hackle in their rifle green dress Balmoral. The adoption of the green hackle now being worn by the Argylls battalion (5 SCOTS) is no doubt a continuation of that regiment's association with the colour green, most prominent in the hue of their regimental kilts and stripes on their regimental association ties. (It is, however, worthy of note that in the 19th century, all line regiments of the British Army used to designate their "light company" with a green hackle.)[3] The Regimental Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland does not wear the hackle. However, the Highland Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (Territorial Army) continues to wear the red hackle with the Tam o' Shanter. Tradition holds that the black hackle originated as a Scottish tradition of wearing a black feather in your hat to signify you have an ongoing quarrel with someone.[citation needed]

Other regiments

Former non-fusilier regiments, now amalgamated, which also wore the hackle were:

Royal Navy

Other armies

Australian Army

There are five Army Reserve Regiments with Highland Companies in the Australian Army which wear the hackle:

Canadian Army

There are several fusilier regiments in the Canadian Army which wear the hackle (the French-speaking fusilier regiments do not appear to do so):

Scottish-influenced non-fusilier regiments which wear the hackle include:

Irish-influenced non-fusilier regiments which wear the hackle (on the caubeen):

Other regiments which wear the hackle in the bearskin include:

Dutch Army

A few infantry regiments in the Dutch Army wear the hackle:

Indian Army

In the Indian Army, a few selected infantry regiments wear the hackle:

Malaysian Army

New Zealand Army

Pakistan Army

Sri Lanka Army

South African Army

Scottish- and Irish-influenced regiments which wear the hackle include:

Swedish Army

United States Army


  1. ^ "hackle". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.) Sense 2b.
  2. ^ "Report on Ashantee, 1874". Glasgow Herald. 26 December 1895.
  3. ^ This is illustrated in The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Osprey Men at Arms. Osprey. 1988. ISBN 0-85045-085-3.
  4. ^ Spaan, L-Col Warren, ed. (2002). Calgary Highlanders Regimental Book. Calgary, Canada: The Calgary Highlanders Regiment.