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Caltrops are tetrahedral items used for making ground hard to cover. They always land with a pointy bit sticking up. Handy for preventing pursuers from catching you, whether they are on foot or horseback.

Despite the caption, the one in the page image is of a design favored for their one modern use; puncturing and deflating car tires (the hollow spikes let the air flow out quickly and prevent self healing tires from working).

See also Spikes of Doom.

Examples of Caltrops include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Iga ninja dogs use poisonous seeds shaped like caltrops as a trap in Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin.
  • In one of the Mobile Suit Gundam OVAs, the one where the Gundams are samurai, and then they are suddenly doing a Wacky Races parody, the Ninja pirate zombie robots use these.
  • While demonstrating "real" ninja techniques, Miu dumps a snack food on the floor, calling them caltrops. She is told to clean them up.
  • Usopp from One Piece sometimes uses these, and in one of the Video Games, he throws them on the ground as an attack.
  • Early in Naruto, Kakashi uses some of these to prevent Zabuza from running over to attack him while he was open.

Card Games



  • Anti-horse caltrops are mentioned in one of the Brother Cadfael novels, which are set in the mid-12th century.
  • Sharpe uses these in the book version of "Sharpe's Rifles", as a defence against Colonel de l'Eclin's cavalry.
  • Conena in Discworld/Sourcery uses these, though they're not explicitly referred to as such.
  • Caltrops are among the ninja-esque equipment included in trainee Assassin Teppic's comically-extended Lock and Load Montage at the beginning of Pyramids.
    • In his final examination, he also has to avoid caltrops he suspects are poisoned.
  • Chinese farmers in Lords of the Bow scatter caltrops over their fields to slow the advancing Mongols.

Live Action TV

  • Myth Busters: tested and busted that road spikes could stop or slow down a pursuing car.
    • Hollow ones might, but those weren't tested.
  • Ninja Sentai Kakuranger: Caltrops are one of the many tricks the rangers use.

Real Life

  • Giant versions of these called "Czech hedgehogs" were used as anti-tank defences in World War II. These giant versions were usually made of steel girders welded together to resemble giant jacks. They're still used today.
  • In Julius Caesar's circumvallation of Alesia, he planted a "garden" of these on both sides of his encircling walls: to keep the Gaulish chieftains in, and the relieving army out. Basically included hidden caltrops, made of iron, followed by spiked pits, and then upward-pointing branching stakes, designed to take a horse in the chest. Followed by two trenches, one filled with water and one not, and a stockade built from the top of the far back of the second trench, which was pointed at the bottom, making it much more difficult to cross. While under fire. Oh, and ballistae and scorpions were aimed into the trench as well. Have fun and stay safe, boys.
  • Ninja, who swore by just about everything sneaky, were fond of dropping these. They were called tetsubishi and makibishi in Japan.
  • Cops use a variant of these known as "spike strips" to disable the tires of those they're pursuing.
  • During The Korean War, American Air Force bombers would drop these over North Korean and Chinese supply routes at night, returning at daybreak to attack supply convoys that had become immobilized in the night by the obstacles.
  • Any Tabletop Games player who has stepped on a d4 understands acutely how these things are supposed to work: See below.
    • As has any kid, or parent whose kids didn't put away their toys, who's stepped on a Lego piece.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons and Dragons: caltrops were in the rules as far back as 1st Edition. Some are even Clockwork Creature.
  • GURPS: High-Tech mentions that a cheap way to make them more dangerous was to cover them in dung.
  • The standard pyramid-shaped four-sided die is sometimes jokingly referred to as such, especially if you've just trodden on one barefoot. Another popular name for them is the "Sonofabitch".
    • Most modern d4s at least have flattened corners. Not so with the early boxed sets of Basic Dungeons & Dragons (the one that came out before what we now call "1st Edition"). The d4 that came with that set was easily sharp enough to put an eye out.
    • When the players get angry in Knights of the Dinner Table and start throwing dice at one another, a common battlecry is "No 4-siders! No 4-siders!".
    • Vriska from Homestuck has trouble with them as well.

Video Games

  • The best line of defense in Deathtrack.
  • The moves Spikes and Poison Spikes do this in Pokémon. They affect Pokemon when opposing trainer tries to switch Mons, unless they're of the Flying type, have the Levitate or Magic Guard abilities, or (in the case of Poison Spikes), immune to poisoning. Spikes was even called caltrops in the Japanese version.
    • It's possible to think of Stealth Rock as a floating version of the caltrops.
  • Caltrops are a hold item in Kongregate's online game Kongai where they do 14 damage if you or your oppponent switched out if a character holding that item is in play (it used to be 10 damage).
  • Part of the Scout's arsenal in Team Fortress Classic. Apart from doing a little damage, they also slow down the victim greatly.
  • Allegiance has caltrop mines. These look nothing like traditional caltrops, but are three-dimensional mine fields IN SPACE that are deployed at choke points, and cause more damage the faster an enemy ship travels through them, forcing it to slow down and become an easy target.
  • In City of Heroes, caltrops are available to certain powersets and do minor damage and massively debuff speed. Among enemies, certain Tsoo and all Knives of Artemis use them. The KoA in particular are annoying because they can quickly stack caltrops, at which point your character may as well not be able to move at all.
  • Their use is inverted in Thievery, a mod for Unreal Tournament. The tough and armored guard team can set caltrops in order to damage and slow down members of the evasive thief team. Guards are immune to their own caltrops.
  • Shadow Warrior features these as an useable item. "Who put these here? Ow!"
  • One of the weapons available in Mini Ninjas.
  • Used by Burglars in The Lord of the Rings Online.
  • Izuna can scatter caltrops to damage whatever steps on the square next (possibly herself, if the player's not careful).
  • You can build these with a very low Forge lore in Drakensang 2: The River of Time. Of course, they can be placed as traps on the ground.
  • A mainstay of the Tenchu series, caltrops do a small amount of damage and stun anyone (including the player) who steps on them for a short time.
  • Shinobido features makibishi as part of your Ninja equipment along with shuriken, grappling hooks, five-colored rice and various explosive stuff. Those caltrops though can actually kills enemies, but it takes some time...
  • Assassin's Creed Revelations: caltrop bombs
  • Batman: Arkham City: one of tools Catwoman can use.
  • Caltrops are one of the trap types you can craft and deploy in Dragon Age Origins.
  • If your ninja in the Shogun entries of the Total War series are detected, they will scatter a handful of caltrops behind them in an attempt to slow down the pursuers. It is often highly effective. Fun to watch, too.
  • The Chill Spike from Mega Man 10 works like a spike strip (see Real Life above), damaging enemies that move onto it. Not surprisingly, it is effective against the robot/motorbike transformer Nitro Man, in the sense that it hurts his tires.

Western Animation

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