Sporran: Wikis


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Traditional brown leather daywear sporran with brass cantle
Animal mask sporran made from the head and pelt of a pine marten. Sporrans of this style are considered appropriate for both everyday and formal evening dress.

The Sporran (Scottish Gaelic for 'purse') is a traditional part of Scottish Highland dress. It is a pouch that performs the same function as pockets on the pocketless Scottish kilt.

Made of leather or fur, the ornamentation of the sporran is determined by the formality of dress worn with it. The sporran is worn on a leather strap or chain, conventionally positioned in front of the groin of the wearer.

Since the traditional kilt does not have pockets, the sporran serves as a wallet and container for any other necessary personal items. It is essentially a survival of the common European medieval belt-pouch, superseded elsewhere as clothing came to have pockets, but continuing in the Scottish Highlands because of the lack of these accessories in traditional dress.

The sporran hangs below the belt buckle; and much effort is made to match their style and design. The kilt belt buckle can be very ornate, and contain similar motifs to the sporran cantle and the Sgian Dubh. Early sporrans may have been worn suspended from the belt, rather than hung from a separate strap in front of the wearer.

When driving a car, dancing, playing drums, or engaging in any activity where a heavy pouch might encumber the wearer, the sporran can be turned around the waist to let it hang on the hip in a more casual position.[1] [2]


Sporran types

Dress sporran with fur front and sterling silver cantle of a style appropriate for eveningwear and formal occasions.
Military sporran of long horsehair, normally worn as a part of regimental dress and by bandsmen.
  • "Day Sporrans" are usually brown leather pouches with simple adornment. These "day" sporrans often have three or more leather tassels and frequently Celtic knot designs carved or embossed into the leather.
  • "Dress Sporrans" can be larger than the day variety, and are often highly ornate. Victorian examples were usually quite ostentatious, and much more elaborate than the simple leather pouch of the 17th or 18th centuries. They usually have sterling or silver-plated cantles trimming the top of the pouch and a fur-covered face with fur or hair tassels. The cantle may contain intricate filigree or etchings of Celtic knots. The top of the cantle may have a set stone, jewel, or emblems such as Saint Andrew, a thistle, Clan, or Masonic symbols.
  • "Animal Mask Sporrans" are made from the pelts of mammals such as the badger, otter, fox, pine marten, or other small animals, with the head forming a flap that folds over the front and closes the opening at the top of the sporran. Animal mask sporrans are considered appropriate for both day and eveningwear.
  • "Horsehair Sporrans" are most often worn as a part of regimental attire. Pipers will often wear the most flamboyant sporrans with long horsehair that swishes from side to side as the piper marches.

Common misconceptions about the sporran

  • It keeps the front flap of the kilt down during dancing, running etc.

The front of the kilt is in fact a double flap coming from left and right. The sporran itself is more likely to fly around during energetic movement due to its looser attachment and greater inertia. However the sporran does weigh the flap down when sitting legs apart, although the kilt is designed to do this naturally without additional help.

  • It is a form of armor for the groin

The studded 'apron' on the Roman Balteus (sword belt) is sometimes referred to as a 'sporran' or 'groin guard', and this has led to confusion with the Scottish sporran—ironically, as the Roman 'groin guard' was solely decorative.[3]

Sporran materials and the Law

As sporrans are made of animal skin, their production, ownership and transportation across borders can be regulated by legislation set to control the trade of protected and endangered species. A 2007 BBC report on legislation introduced by the Scottish Executive stated that sporran owners may need licences to prove that the animals used in construction of their pouch conformed to these regulations.[4]

However several of the species listed in the BBC article are not covered by the Habitants Directives of the legislation, and of the over a hundred different animals listed by the legislation only a few, such as Otter, have ever been associated with sporran construction. Most common sporran skins are not controlled or regulated animals in regards to this legislation.[5]


  1. ^ "Kilts & Tartan Made Easy". http://www.clan.com/kiltsandtartan. Retrieved 2007-12-29. 
  2. ^ "Formal Pipe Band Dress Instruction". http://www.kinnairdbagpipes.com/docs/FAQ/Dress%20Instructions%20Mar%2006.pdf. Retrieved 2006-11-23. 
  3. ^ "EQUIPMENT". LEGION XXIV MEDIA ATLANTIA. October 23, 2003. http://www.legionxxiv.org/equipment/. Retrieved 15 February 2009. 
  4. ^ "Sporran wearers may need licence". BBC News. 2007-06-24. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6234290.stm. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  5. ^ "The Truth Behind The Myths Of The Sporran Licence". http://scottishsporran.com/index.php?news=5. Retrieved 2007-07-23. 

External links

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:




A fur trimmed sporran



From Scottish Gaelic sporan (purse) < Old Irish sboran < Late Latin bursa (purse).




sporran (plural sporrans)

  1. A small pouch, usually made of either fur or plain or fur-trimmed leather, which is worn, suspended from a belt or chain, on the front of a kilt and used to hold various items normally carried in pants pockets.

See also

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