A farmer using a hoe to keep weeds down in a vegetable garden.

A hoe is an ancient and versatile agricultural and horticultural hand tool used to shape soil, remove weeds, clear soil, and harvest root crops. Shaping the soil includes piling soil around the base of plants (hilling), digging narrow furrows (drills) and shallow trenches for planting seeds or bulbs. Weeding with a hoe includes agitating the surface of the soil or cutting foliage from roots, and clearing the soil of old roots and crop residues. Hoes for digging and moving soil are used to harvest root crops such as potatoes.


Cultivating tool, a pull or draw hoe
Cultivating tool, a push or thrust hoe

There are many kinds of hoes of varied appearances and purposes. Some offer multiple functions while others have only a singular and specific purpose.

There are two general types of hoe: draw hoes for shaping soil and scuffle hoes for weeding and aerating soil.

A draw hoe has a blade set at approximately a right angle to the shaft. The user chops into the ground and then pulls (draws) the blade towards them. Altering the angle of the handle can cause the hoe to dig deeper or more shallowly as the hoe is pulled. A draw hoe can easily be used to cultivate soil to a depth of several centimetres. A typical design of draw hoe, the "eye hoe", has a ring in the head through which the handle is fitted.[1] This design has been used since Roman times.

A scuffle hoe is used to scrape the surface of the soil, loosen the top few centimetres, and to cut the roots of, remove, and disrupt the growth of weeds efficiently. These are primarily of two different designs: the Dutch hoe and the hoop hoe.

A hand hoe is usually a light-weight, short-handled hoe of any type, although it may be used simply to contrast hand-held tools against animal- or machine-pulled tools.

Draw hoes

Eye hoe heads, some with sow-tooth (German: Sauzahn), Centro Etnográfico de Soutelo de Montes, Pontevedra, Spain
Hoedad (tree-planting tool) Kaibab National Forest, Arizona, USA

Scuffle hoes

Other hoes

Fork-hoe depiction in Der Rebmann (the vine-dresser). Jost Amman, Das Ständebuch, 1568

Hoes resembling neither draw nor scuffle hoes include:


Further information: Hoe-cultivation belt

Hoes are an ancient technology, predating the plough and perhaps preceded only by the digging stick. In Sumerian mythology, the invention of the hoe was credited to Enlil, the chief of the council of gods.[35] The hoe features in a Sumerian disputation poem known as the Debate between the hoe and the plough, dating to the 3rd millennium BC, where a personified hoe debates a personified plough over which tool is the better. At the end of the poem, the hoe is declared the winner.[36] Another composition from the same era and language, the Song of the hoe, is dedicated to the praise of this tool.

The hand-plough (mr) was depicted in predynastic Egyptian art, and hoes are also mentioned in ancient documents like the Code of Hammurabi (ca. 18th century BC) and the Book of Isaiah (c. 8th century BC).

Long-term use of short-handled hoes, which required the user to bend over from the waist to reach the ground, could cause permanent, crippling lower back pain to farm workers. Over time this resulted in change after a struggle led by César Chávez with the political help from Governor Jerry Brown in the California Supreme Court. They declared that the short-handled hoe was an unsafe hand tool which was than banned under California law in 1975.[37][38]

Archaeological use

Over the past fifteen or twenty years, hoes have become increasingly popular tools for professional archaeologists. While not as accurate as the traditional trowel, the hoe is an ideal tool for cleaning relatively large open areas of archaeological interest. It is faster to use than a trowel, and produces a much cleaner surface than an excavator bucket or shovel-scrape, and consequently on many open-area excavations the once-common line of kneeling archaeologists trowelling backwards has been replaced with a line of stooping archaeologists with hoes.

See also


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Further reading