How did neat’s-foot oil get its name and Where does the term neat’s foot oil come from?

When we were very young, we would apply this dressing to our rather scuffed shoes, by natural logic the inference was that the oil gave one a neat foot, hence the name.

But not so.

Though now so rare as to be called obsolete, neat was formerly a general term for cattle, more especially for oxen.

Neat’s-foot oil, accordingly, was and still is an oil extracted from the hoofs, now also the shin bones, of oxen or cattle.

Now used as a lubricant and for dressing leather, it was at one time also used medicinally.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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