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Burs in a dog’s coat led to what invention?

Could a bur stuck in a dog’s coat lead to one of the greatest practical inventions of all time? Read to the end and you’ll find out what George de Mestral invented.

We share four golden retrievers. They spend a lot of time outside–even in the winter–while we’re working away at our desks in our climate-controlled office. They have a huge yard and some nice woods to frolick in and frolick they do! As a result of being outside so much, their coats are extremely thick and fluffy and healthy by the end of winter.

The downside is that when the first 50 degree days hit as we near April, the dogs–Romeo, Juliet, Max, and Annie–all start shedding.

Now, when we say ‘shedding,’ we’re fairly certain you’re not picturing the kind of shedding we’re talking about.

We’re talking about clouds of hair flying through the air, sometimes getting caught in neighbors’ trees.

We’re talking about clumped knots of undercoat mixed in with mud that would qualify our goldens as ‘rastafaris.’

We’re talking about–no joking–a garbage can full of hair we brush out of them throughout the next couple of weeks. Fun.

It was during a brush-out just this weekend that we ran into a clump of burs in Max’s coat that were really quite amazing. They literally wouldn’t let go, even with the most expert brushing technique. And it reminded us of one of the greatest practical inventions of all time.

Back in the late 1940s, a Swiss man went for a summer hike with his dog at his side. At day’s end, they returned home covered with burs. (Sounds familiar!)

The man pondered this incredible creation of nature–how the seeds were encased in prickly pods so that they’d grab and stick to whatever animal passed by. He happened to have a microscope and examined one up close. What he saw were tiny hooks that were designed for sticking to any fur or hair they came in contact with.

That’s when you might say George had his "eureka!" moment. George de Mestral went on to invent what we know today to be ‘Velcro,’ the name a combination of ‘velour’ and ‘crochet.’

After years of effort, in 1955 George’s idea was patented, and the inventor went on to create Velcro Industries, which sold over sixty million yards of Velcro per year.

Just goes to show, your ‘big idea’ might be right around the corner–or just maybe, right in your back yard.

About the Author: Rich Sloan

Rich Sloan is chief startupologist and co-founder of StartupNation and host of StartupNation podcasts. He is also co-author of the acclaimed how-to book, StartupNation: America's Leading Entrepreneurial Experts Reveal the Secrets to Building a Blockbuster Business. Rich encourages you to [...]