STIRRUP (O. Eng. stirap, stigrap, M. Eng. stirop,styrope,etc.,i.e. a mounting or climbing-rope; O. Eng. stigan, to mount, climb, and rap, rope, cf. Du. stijbeugel, literally mounting bow or loop, Ger. Sleigbiigel) , a loop usually of metal, suspended by an adjustable strap from the saddle and used as a support for the foot of a rider of a horse when seated in the saddle and as an aid in mounting. The earliest use of stirrups seems to have been in the East, for they -are mentioned in early Chinese literature and examples which must be earlier than the 7th century A.D. have been found in Japan. The Greeks and Romans did not use them but mounted by vaulting or from a mounting block (see SADDLERY AND HARNESS). The earliest evidence of their use in Europe is in the Art of War of the emperor Maurice (A.D. 582-602). They were probably brought into use by the nomad horsemen of Asia. The stirrup of the early middle ages seems to have been light and semicircular or triangular in shape. By the 14th century the footplate became broader and the sides heavier and ornamented. By the 16th century this ornamentation increases and open metal-work is used. The Arab stirrup is very large, affording a rest for the entire sole of the foot ; sometimes the heel part projects and terminates in a sharp point used as a spur.
See the plates in F. Hotteuroth, Trachten, Haus- Feld- und Kriegsgerathschaften, etc. (1901); and R. Zschille, Die Steigbiigel in Hirer Formen-Entwicklung (1896).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)