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"Caltrops? What are you, a ninja? Coming up with such an unpleasant countermeasure..."
Shoto Todoroki (to Aizawa), My Hero Academia

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, on horseback, or, in more modern cases, in a vehicle.

See also Spikes of Doom and Spiked Wheels. Expect Agony of the Feet. Land Mine Goes "Click!" is for the modern explosive equivalent.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Iga ninja dogs use poisoned seeds shaped like caltrops as a trap in Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin. These are actually Truth in Television; the seeds of the water chestnut (also known as water caltrop) really are shaped vaguely like caltrops, though in real life they are used as food rather than Improvised Weapons.
  • 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 robots use these.
  • In Strawberry Marshmallow, 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.
  • In Gintama, Gintoki and Kagura end up becoming ninjas in order to help rescue Elizabeth in a particular story arc, and are provided with these to shake off some pursuers. However, they have no clue as to how to use them properly and start throwing them directly at their pursuers, which does slow them down still, but not much.
  • In Kemono Friends, Panther Chameleon has these as part of her general Ninja motif. However, rather than using them to injure her opponents she throws them to try and pop balloons on their heads. She succeeds...and then a stray caltrop pops her own balloon.
  • In Dragon Ball, Ninja Murasaki spreads these on the ground to prevent Goku from chasing him. Goku tries to follow him anyway and hurts his feet. He looks around and finds some wooden sandals that he can use to walk over them safely.
  • My Hero Academia: Aizawa uses these in during his fight against Todoroki and Yaoyorozu; to incapacitate Todoroki, Aizawa leaves him hanging in the air and drops caltrops on the ground below him to ensure he won't escape.
  • In Tokyo Shinobi Squad, Jin throws a handful of these on the ground to pop the tires of the shinobi squad hounding En at the start the story.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 
  • In Robin #80, Steph uses caltrops to blow the tires on the van carrying the gun runners as they try to leave with guns blazing out every window after shooting Star.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Les Tontons flingueurs: After Theo tricks Fernand into driving a truck of bootleg alcohol to set a trap for him (and blame the Wolfonis), his goons first drop a box of caltrops over the road to make the truck crash, before trying to gun Fernand down.
  • James Bond's Cool Car from Tomorrow Never Dies has the ability to drop a whole bunch of these to pop enemy tires and mess up pursuit. See Tropes Examined By The Myth Busters for a report on how well that would really work. Bond gets double points for driving over his own caltrops, and fixing and reinflating the tires with just the press of a button!
  • The Batmobile in the The Dark Knight Trilogy can deploy these.
  • Parodied in The Beatles' Help!!. The Kaili cult's disguised Harrods van has a front headlight which issues forth a stream of thumbtacks.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road: The final Chase Scene commences with Slit trying to get ahead of Furiosa's War Rig and spike their wheels. Fortunately it's an eighteen-wheel rig, so this isn't easy.
  • In The Aggression Scale, Owen uses jacks as improvised caltrops in his series of traps. He must have sharpened the tips, given how far they stick into Lloyd's flesh.

  • Anti-horse caltrops are mentioned in one of the Brother Cadfael novels, which are set in the mid-12th century.
  • The Dodge Interceptor from Freeway Fighter comes armed with three spike canisters, which can be used to puncture tyres of pursuing enemy vehicles.
  • Sharpe uses these in the book version of Sharpe's Rifle, as a defence against Colonel de l'Eclin's cavalry.
  • Discworld:
    • Conina in 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.
  • In The Saga of Yngvar the Traveller, the Vikings use them when fighting King Jolf.
  • Early in The High Crusade, after the dust settles from foraying into a hostile alien spaceship, the invaders, who were quite caught by surprise, are mildly remarked to have not prepared any caltrops.
  • Caltrops smeared with poison are one of the defenses improvised during the Siege of Chyrellos in The Elenium. This was particularly effective against the Rendorish mercenaries due to their footwear mostly consisting of thinsoled sandals.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Caltrops were in the rules as far back as 1st Edition. Some are even Clockwork Creatures.
  • 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.
  • Car Wars has various types (including incendiary and explosive for extra damage) as one of the available weapon options.
  • The Mad Meks 2 White Dwarf article for Gorkamorka introduces the Spike Droppa, a vehicle upgrade that scatters spiked balls behind a vehicle to puncture the tires of enemy vehicles and inconvenience warriors on foot.

    Video Games 
  • The best line of defense in Deathtrack.
  • Pokémon
    • The moves Spikes and Toxic Spikes 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 Toxic Spikes), immune to poisoning. A double layer or Toxic Spikes will badly poison the target. Spikes was even called Caltrops in the Japanese version. Poison types that aren't also one of the above are able to neutralize Toxic Spikes.
    • It's possible to think of Stealth Rock as floating caltrops, seeing as they can also hurt Flying-types (for massive damage, too, thanks to Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors).
  • In the 6th Bloons Tower Defense game, the Ninja Monkey can drop Caltrops which serve the same role as spikes.
  • 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 greatly slow down the victim.
  • 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 Game 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: Lo Wang can get a box with three charges that can be deployed at will. Certain traps also scatter oodles of these around when triggered. They don't tell friend from foe, though, and if necessary they can be destroyed with explosives.
    "Who put these here? Ow!"
  • One of the weapons available in Mini Ninjas.
  • Used by Burglars in The Lord of the Rings Online.
  • Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja: Izuna can scatter caltrops to damage whatever steps on the square next (possibly herself, if the player's not careful).
  • In Drakensang 2: The River of Time, you can build these with a very low Forge lore. 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 kill 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 standard caltrops aren't good enough, you can also create and use poisoned caltrops for extra damage.
  • If your ninja in Shogun: Total War and Total War: Shogun 2 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 below), 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.
  • In Guild Wars 2, the thief profession has two caltrop abilities: a utility skill to drop caltrops around the thief which cause bleeding damage and reduced movement for enemies, and a unlockable trait that causes this to happen automatically when the thief dodges. In neither case is the thief or allies affected.
  • An absolutely essential tool in the arsenal of "Grey morality" Avatars in Ultima VII. Placed properly, you could use them to knock out mages for ease of stealing the potions they somehow managed to produce from nothing. Also a good way to knock out dragons for one-hit KO experience grinding. In the sequel, it was a way to get easy victories(and thus quicker/better training) in the arena of Monitor.
  • The La-Mulana remake adds caltrops as a subweapon.
  • Some of the black-clad ninja in Bad Dudes toss makibishi. If you don't have a weapon, you can low-kick them out of the way. (If you've got the nunchucks, you can possibly fire upwards at them from a lower level. If you've got the knife, you suck.)
  • One of the standard wall defenses in Kingdoms of Camelot on Facebook. Best against mounted troops.
  • Caltrops are one of the many traps that are scattered around the grounds in Dungeons of Dredmor. The ones that do higher damage tend to be made of magical elements, such as Aetheral energy or Dragonsbreath.
  • In Mortal Kombat X, one of Erron Black's special moves sees him drop caltrops on the floor. They stop running opponents cold and do small but steady damage when they're on top of them.
  • Fire Emblem Fates has caltrops appear as a type of terrain hazard, slowing down units trying to walk through them and dealing damage to everyone who stands on them at the beginning of turn.
  • In Shovel Knight, this is Donovan's standard subweapon when you play as him. At least, before he became Specter Knight. He regains access to them if he collects every red skull in the game.
  • In Diablo III, Demon Hunters can drop caltrops that damage and slow down enemies who step close to them.
  • Available as a catalog item in Roblox. They do quite a bit of damage and cause their victim to play the death sound.
  • In Gamer 2, the police enemies have laid out caltrops in their sector. If Hailey steps on them, she'll lose her deflector plate.
  • Darkest Dungeon: A little while after release, the Bounty Hunter's "Hook and Slice" attack got replaced by tossing a handful of caltrops directly at the target. The victim takes minor base damage, bleeding damage, and gets a big speed debuff; the main downside is that it can only target the very back of a formation.
  • The Kishu enemy units in Marvel Puzzle Quest uses the Caltrops ability to deploy trap tiles, that once matched, hurt the whole player team.

    Western Animation 
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, Catwoman has them... in the shape of cats, naturally. She uses them in "The Cat and the Claw" to stop Red Claw's men from pursuing her through a ventilation duct.
  • Batman uses bat-shaped ones in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Doofenshmirtz tries to use this trick during a race. It backfires because the caltrops come from the front of his car.
  • In the Mickey Mouse (2013) short "Three Legged Race", Huey, Dewey and Louie use jacks as caltrops to sabotage the other racers. They puncture Horace and Clarabelle's feet, causing them to deflate.

    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, as their size and weight make them an effective vehicular deterrent — the weight makes it impossible for a vehicle to ram them out of the way, and even if they are knocked around by something like an explosion, they'll just assume the same position when they stop. The only ways to deal with a Czech hedgehog are to deliberately roll them out of the way or cut them down, and both of those take a lot of time and effort. Variants of this with different shapes have been also used on beachheads to deter landing boats.
  • The Roman Empire
    • 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. It included hidden caltrops made of iron, followed up 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.
    • The Romans also used them to definitively murder chariot warfare, twice:
      • The first time happened when the Romans faced the Celtic chariots used by the Gauls, small vehicles from which a warrior could lob javelins at the enemy while staying mobile or close in to jump on them. While the Romans could deal with the javelins by simply placing their trademark tower shields overhead, a charge of chariots was still a problem until they started to throw caltrops big enough to wound horses hooves but small enough that the standard-issue caligae (the heavy-soled boot-sandals of the Roman legionaries) could protect them, wait for the Gaulish charge to break down, and then calmly walk to the toppled vehicles and downed enemies to slaughter them and their horses. It was so effective that by Caesar's time the only Celts who still used them were the Bretons, who had never met the Romans (and when Caesar brought with him the caltrops in his second expedition only Vercingetorix' sudden rebellion in the Gauls saved them from conquest);
      • The second time happened when they met the more traditional scythed chariots in their wars against the Hellenistic kingdoms. While already declining on its own due to the creation of effective cavalry and infantry formations to resist their charges, the scythed chariots could occasionally pose a danger to an unprepared force (in fact a Roman army was nearly routed by a sudden charge that caught them with their pants down. That very army had inflicted the worst humiliation to scythed chariots in the history of warfare just a few weeks before, until the Romans brought back their caltrops. Once they did, the chariot charge would always stop abruptly and the Romans would calmly walk to the enemy to slaughter both the horses and the charioteers.
  • Ninja, who swore by just about everything sneaky, were fond of dropping these, which they called makibishi. They were called tetsubishi when made of iron and tennenbishi when made out of sun-dried water caltrops (a type of seed pod). And not only did they work as caltrops, they could also be thrown as an alternative to shuriken.
    • It should be noted that, unlike their common depiction in media, tetsubishi were most definitely not weapons. While they could be used for several purposes (like all ninja tools), they were primarily used exactly like western caltrops: spread out across an area to make it harder to traverse quickly.
  • It's believed caltrops saw at least some use at Jamestown, Virginia, to defend against hostile natives.
  • Cops use a variant of these known as "spike strips" to disable the tires of those they're pursuing. Preferred since it is also desirable to remove the spikes as quickly as possible, otherwise the cop cars in pursuit would get their tires popped as well. A one-way version of a spike strip is sometimes used to prevent drivers from avoiding parking-lot fees by driving out through the entrance.
  • 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. As has any kid, or parent whose kids didn't put away their toys, who's stepped on a Lego piece.
  • Goatheads are the plants which give Caltrops their name, and are a pain in the ass for bikers everywhere, since they love to stick in tires and cause them to go completely flat. The fact that they grow fast, grow almost everywhere in the world and prefer dry climates where bikers not only flock to but people are also likely to go barefoot does not help matters.
  • In the U.S. labor movement, they're typically called "jackrocks". During some particularly bitter strikes, picketers or their sympathizers would spread them along roads, intending to destroy the tires of management or replacement workers (but obviously causing danger to innocent travelers as well). Several states have banned possession of such devices.
  • One thing to note about modern Anti-Vehicle caltrops is that they're most efficient when hollow to let air out. The variety with solid spikes will also work, but won't empty tubeless tires as quickly, because they also act as plugs.
  • Improvised mini-"caltrops" can be made from a pair of staples twisted together. This was created by some extremely bored students to serve as a booby trap or a wicked prank, often scattered on the seat of an unsuspecting schmuck who would soon get a sharp reminder why their neighboring classmate was not fun to be around.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Drop The Caltrops


BTD6 Ninja Monkey

The Ninja Monkey throws caltrops that act like spikes in addition to its shurikens.

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Example of:

Main / Caltrops

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Main / Caltrops