The Invasion of the Burdocks

Every day when I visit the farm where I board my horse, I hate seeing burdocks tangled in his forelock, mane, and tail.

It seems no matter how many times I tell the horses to stay out of the burdocks – they never listen!

What are burdocks?

The Invasion of the Burdocks

If you’re lucky enough to have never dealt with burdocks, or maybe don’t even know what they are, they are a self-seeding weed that manages to grab hold of everything that gets too close.

The guy who invented velcro was inspired by burdocks! They stick to everything!

The Invasion of the Burdocks

The burdock bushes grow several feet high. And wide! Yup – some bushes are taller than me!

Burdocks love horses

Unfortunately the farm where I’ve been boarding horses for years is a breeding ground for burdocks. They grow really well in the summer months, and look like prickles. When they die off in the fall and turn brown, they stick to everything that rubs up against them. When you pull burdocks off your clothes, your horse, your dog and toss them aside, they reseed themselves.

I don’t know why horses love burdocks. And vice versa! Maybe the grass is greener around the burdocks? Hmmm…

Untangling burdocks

I can’t tell you how annoying it is to arrive at the farm and see horses with burdocks tangled in their forelocks, manes, and tails. Especially when it’s below freezing outside, because I have to take my gloves off to deal with them. Icy cold fingers are not fun.

Yes, the gloves come off when dealing with burdocks. Whenever I see burdocks on my horse, I have to untangle them immediately. If burdocks continue to accumulate on a horse over days or weeks, that tail can turn into a club. The more burdocks, the longer it takes to remove them. To the point when scissors might be the easiest solution.

Keep on top of removing burdocks!

That’s just part of daily grooming a horse.

The Invasion of the Burdocks

We get a lot of rain in southwestern British Columbia. If those burdocks get wet, they’re dynamite to remove from a mane or tail. You do not want to see wet burdocks stuck on your horse! They take forever to remove because they’re falling apart, and stick even worse to wherever they’re tangled. And of course, just because I’ve gone home the night before and the horse is burdock-free, doesn’t mean they won’t pick up more burdocks. And of course and it’ll rain overnight.

I have arthritis in my fingers. Untangling burdocks from mane and tail is getting really difficult. Depending on how many burdocks are stuck on the horse, it can take half an hour or longer to remove them. Painful fingers! I also have to bring a curry comb and maybe a mane comb into play. Cajun always looks like he has a bad case of the frizzies after the burdocks are removed.

Take a look at the photos I took of Cajun after he tangled with burdocks a few days ago.

The photo below is not the greatest. Kind of dark inside the barn.

The Invasion of the Burdocks

Just for comparison, here’s what his forelock normally looks like.

The Invasion of the Burdocks

Burdocks tangled in Cajun’s mane.

The Invasion of the Burdocks

And on his tail.

The Invasion of the Burdocks

It took me 20 minutes to get all the burdocks out. I stuck them together in a big ball. As you can see, some of the mane and tail is held captive by the burdocks.

The Invasion of the Burdocks

And just for scale, to give you an idea of how many burdocks I took off that darned horse.

The Invasion of the Burdocks

Burdock debris

I hate dealing with burdocks at the farm, and unfortunately sometimes I’m dealing with the residual debris even after arriving home.

I have to reach up to detangle the burdocks from the horse’s mane and forelock.

It doesn’t take long before I’m feeling really itchy in my chest. That tells me burdock dander and little needles have made their way into my clothing.

After I came from untangling that massive amount of burdocks, right away I removed my hoodie and bra and put them into the laundry. I also hit the shower. Not so much because I was dirty or smelly, but I had to get all traces of that itchy burdock off me.

Getting rid of burdocks

The next question seems to be, once I’ve got the burdocks off the horse, what do I do with them?

Remember, these suckers reseed themselves. They’re an invasive weed. My thought process is that nobody is going to be walking through ten or twenty feet of blackberry brambles, so generally I toss the burdocks into the closest blackberry patch.

Blackberries are great, but the brambles are another invasive weed that needs to be kept under control. Where I keep my horses, they don’t do anything about fighting back the blackberries.

Oh sure, I picked enough blackberries this past summer to make mufffins.

Skinny Blackberry Muffins

I also put blackberries into freezer bags so I can make more skinny blackberry muffins over the next few months.

Skinny Blackberry Muffins

As you can see from the blackberry brambles, if I throw burdocks into the patch, it’s not going to be a big deal.

Skinny Blackberry Muffins

Burning burdocks is a good option, but I generally don’t hold onto burdocks long enough for a bonfire to get going at the farm.

I hate getting home and letting the dogs out of the car only to discover one of them has  burdocks stuck on their tail or somewhere else in their fur.

Or when I take off my jacket, and discover that scratchy thing is a burdock!

I don’t want to let this invasive weed get seeded where I live, so I put the burdocks into the garbage.

Destroying burdocks?

Some of the people who come out to the farm try to deal with burdocks.

The Invasion of the Burdocks



Stomping on them.

The problem is you’re only getting the part of the burdock you can see above ground. Like many weeds, burdocks are hard to kill.

The farm I board at has 40 acres and burdocks grow randomly in many places. They’re like little bushes. Every year, there’s more of them.

If you only have one burdock growing on your property, you’d want to take fast action, involving a shovel or maybe a 4 wheel drive and a chain,

You do not want to ever let a burdock gain footing on your land where it gets busy reseeding.

More reading

Here’s an article from the Invasive Species Council of British Columbia: Burdock.

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