What’s Up Buttercup – For Our Horses?

What's Up Buttercup?

What’s Up Buttercup?

Do you know that Buttercups are poisonous? Every year I must remind myself that these lovely, small bright yellow flowers that I used to hold under my chin as a kid to see if I was in love or if I liked butter are potentially quite toxic to our horses, dogs, cats, chickens and more – they can be toxic to all domestic animals. If we could see the shadow/color of the Buttercup reflected on the bottom of our chins, that was supposed to mean we were in love or that one liked butter. I don’t know about all of that now other than it was a fun childhood game. Little did I know that beautiful yellow powdery substance we saw was due to the Buttercup’s evil irritant!

To avoid getting over-technical, Buttercups are part of the Ranunculus species, as are crows foot, spearwort, marsh marigold, etc. They contain the glycoside Ranunculin, which forms Protoanemonin, an irritant substance. All domestic animals, inclusive of our horses can be stricken with Buttercup (Protoanemonin) Poisoning.

While I have not ever taken a taste of Buttercups, they supposedly have a bitter, burning taste which helps to deter our horses from eating them. However, if large quantities of Buttercups are present in your horse’s pasture, it can become quite a challenge, to say the least for your horse to avoid them. It is during the flowering stage that the highest concentration of Protoanemonin is present.

While I’ve not put it to the test, Buttercups are non-toxic when dried.

What's Up Buttercup?

What Are The Symptoms Of Buttercup Poisoning?

  • Excess salivation
  • Mouth ulcers and difficulty eating
  • Facial swelling
  • Skin blistering
  • Colic
  • Diarrhea
  • Discolored urine
  • Lack of coordination
  • Staggering gait
  • Difficulty hearing and seeing
  • Convulsions

While rare, Buttercup poisoning can cause death. All of the above symptoms are quite serious, and potentially fatal consequences can result from such a lovely little flower!


  • Buttercups thrive in poor, compacted soil, so aerating your pastures will encourage better drainage which can help to reduce this potentially fatal crop.
  • Harrowing/dragging your pastures will also help to break up those nasty runners.
  • While far from the safest option, chemical weed/plant killers can be used. If this option is chosen, your horses should not be allowed to graze in the treated pasture for at least 2 weeks.
  • Lime your pastures! We have found that if we do not lime our pastures at least once a year (ideally, we should lime in the fall and early spring) that Buttercups will pop up everywhere
  • Keep your pasture grass cut short, if possible.

I think last year was probably one of the worst years for Buttercups in our pastures. This is probably due to the fact that we were unable to lime our pastures (and yard) the previous fall. We have found that using the concentrated, fast-acting lime works really well, and in the long run turns out to be more economical since less lime needs to be used vs. the traditional powdered or granulated lime. No matter which type you use is more of personal preference and circumstances; it’s the results that count.

Well, I hope this article has either served as a good, important reminder for you, or if you are not familiar with the toxic effects of those pretty, little Buttercups, that you’ve learned something new! Like most, there’s always lots going on in our daily lives and we forget about these things sometimes.

Do you have any tips on how you manage your Buttercups? If so, please feel free to share your thoughts!

Happy Riding & Healthy Living,



Renee & The Team At HappyHorseOfAmerica.com

What's Up Buttercup?

Photographer Unknown. All Rights Reserved.

For more interesting details, visit http://www.eattheweeds.com/buttercups/ or
http://www.equinews.com/article/buttercup-toxicity-horses to learn more!

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