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Tibia Vara

John W. Pinkerton


One doesn't hear much about bow-leggedness these days.  In old Westerns there always seemed, for the sake of humor, to be at least one cowhand with exaggerated bowed legs  (He's so bow-legged, he can ride two horses at the same time!).

Bandiness, bandy-leg, tibia vara, genu varum all mean what us rabble call bow legs.  It's, of course, a deformity of the legs marked by a bowing outward at the knees.

We all start out life bow legged; the cramped quarters of the womb causes this, and as an infant, we seem to relax in a bowed configuration, but by the age of three or four, it usually disappears.

If it persists, it’s probably because of rickets, malnutrition, infections, tumors, or Blount's disease (a growth disorder of the shin bone).  One's occupation can also cause bowed legs: jockey is a good example.

In extreme cases, some times splints attached to legs will correct the problem.

If not corrected, about the worse problem in later life is arthritis.

I found the following poem, “The Bow-leg Boy” by Eugene Field, which puts a sweet twist on the affliction:

The bow-leg boy

Who should come up the road one day

But the doctor-man in his two-wheel shay!

And he whoaed his horse and he cried "Ahoy!

I have brought you folks a bow-leg boy!

Such a cute little boy!

Such a funny little boy!

Such a dear little bow-leg boy!"

He took out his box and he opened it wide,

And there was the bow-leg boy inside!

And when they saw that cunning little mite,

They cried in a chorus expressive of delight:

"What a cute little boy!

What a funny little boy!

What a dear little bow-leg boy!"

Observing a strict geometrical law,

They cut out his panties with a circular saw;

Which gave such a stress to his oval stride

That the people he met invariably cried:

"What a cute little boy!

What a funny little boy!

What a dear little bow-leg boy!"

They gave him a wheel and away he went

Speeding along to his heart's content;

And he sits so straight and he pedals so strong

That the folks all say as he bowls along:

"What a cute little boy!

What a funny little boy!

What a dear little bow-leg boy!"

With his eyes aflame and his cheeks aglow,

He laughs "aha" and he laughs "oho";

And the world is filled and thrilled with the joy

Of that jolly little human, the bow-leg boy--

The cute little boy!

The funny little boy!

The dear little bow-leg boy!

If ever the doctor-man comes my way

With his wonderful box in his two-wheel shay,

I 'll ask for the treasure I'd fain possess--

Now, honest Injun! can't you guess?

Why, a cute little boy--

A funny little boy--

A dear little bow-leg boy!

Of course I looked for humor related to bowed legs.  Wow!  A mighty small reservoir of humor.  I did find one joke I kinda liked about bow legged cowboys, but my wife wouldn't allow me to repeat it here…bless her heart.

I don't recall the cause of my sudden urge to learn more about bow legs, but whatever it was, I hope I to avoid it in the future.