Dudy /Dudelsack


18th Century

Not on view

While ‘dudy’ is a generic term meaning bagpipe in Czech and Polish, it is also associated with a specific type of mouthblown bagpipe historically found in Bohemia. Scholar Michael Cwach identifies three different types of Bohemian bagpipes: Type A are mouth-blown with the drone pipe hanging in front of the player (dudy, dudelsack, Bohemian bagpipes), type B are larger bellows-blown bagpipes, also with a drone hanging in front of the player (německé dudy, dudy, Bohemian or Egerland bagpipes), and type C and bellows-blown bagpipes with a drone hanging over the shoulder and often featuring a goat head (Classical polnischer Bock, pukl, bock) (Cwach 2012:111).

This dudy is a large mouth-blown Bohemian bagpipe, most likely from Southern Bohemia. It is, according to Cwach’s typology, a type A Bohemian bagpipe: a mouth-blown instrument, with a drone hanging in front of the player. Most type A bagpipes Cwach identified were on the smaller side. However, some historical examples, such as this instrument, were much larger. According to Bohemian bagpipe expert Michael Vereno, these were a much rarer type. Examples of large mouthblown dudy of a similar type can be found at the National Museum of Prague (two instruments) and the Salzburg Museum, compared to dozens of the mouthblown versions. From the early to mid-19th century, these larger exemplars were fitted with bellows, making them easier to play. Vereno underlines that bellows were first added to larger bagpipes in German Bohemia around the early to mid-19th century, the technology slowly making its way to Southern Bohemia. As it stands, some of these larger bellows-blown bagpipes were still in use in the 20th century in New Zealand and in the USA, having been brought by German-speaking Bohemian migrants who used them to entertain their communities (Cwach 2012:107-9).

This dudy features a leather-sewn bag, with fringes hiding the stock joints. The melodic pipe has six finger holes and one thumbhole and is adorned with four brass rings. At the lower end of the melodic pipe, two small side holes, also punched through the external brass ring. The elbow of the melodic pipe, covered in brass, features a small vent hole, which serves to stabilize the dominant. A bovine horn is attached to the brass elbow. It is extended by a brass bell, embossed with circular dots at its extremity. The end of the bell is attached to the top of the melodic pipe with strong. The insufflation pipe is most likely not original. It is inserted into a stock which is missing its brass ring. A small piece of newspaper with German writing in Gothic script is wrapped around the groove of the stock.

The wooden drone is covered in brass sleeves and embellished with a few horn rings. It was played hanging in front of the player. The end of the drone is fitted with an elbow from which emerges a large and heavy twisted horn. The large size of the horn points to the Hungarian Grey, a light bovine with large, curved horns that was bred on the Hungarian plains and exported across Western and Southern Europe (Bartosiewicz 1997:49). Vereno notes that the size of the horns reinforces the case for an eighteenth-century instrument. Indeed, the Grey Cattle was a dominant breed from the 16th to the 18th century before their numbers sharply declined due to the mechanization of agriculture; by 1947, the breed was on the verge of extinction (Bartosiewicz 1997:50). The dimensions of the horn (horn length: ca. 435, base circumference ca. 265mm) point to the horn of a Hungarian Grey bull based on measurements from the 18th and 19th century (Bartosiewicz 1997:52). The large size and heavy weight of the drone meant that this instrument would have been played either sitting down, or with a strap to support its weight.

(Cassandre Balosso-Bardin, 2023)

Technical Description

Single wood chanter with cylindrical bore, 365 mm (750 mm including upturned bell), brass bound, with horn bell set in brass elbow socket and terminating in large brass rim tied to upper part of chanter, 6/1 holes, 2 tuning holes, with area around fingerholes indented, reed missing (typically, single reed of 2-part construction from bone, wood, or brass for the body and cane for the tongue, or 1-part reed made from elderwood);
1 drone in 4 sections, 890 mm (1642 including upturned bell), brass-bound wood pipe with cylindrical bore, with horn bell in brass elbow terminating in large brass rim, reed missing (typically, similar to chanter);
Insufflation pipe, probably not original, 157 mm long;
3 cylindrical wooden stocks, the chanter and drone stocks bound in brass, the insufflation pipe with printed paper wrapping and brass ring missing;
Leather goatskin bag with integral fringe;
Tips and stocks banded with brass, wood and horn ferrules;
Bell rims of embossed, riveted brass.


Bartosiewicz, László. 1997. ‘The Hungarian Grey cattle: a traditional European breed.’ Animal Genetic Resources/Resources génétiques animales/Recursos genéticos animales 21: 49-60.

Cwach, Michael, 2012. The pukl and Chodsko: Aspects of linkage between a bagpipe and an ethnographic region. PhD Thesis, University of Canterbury.

Jerzy Przeremnski, Zbigniew, 2006. Dzieje instrument w kultuze staropolskiej. Warsaw: Insytut Sztuki Polskiej Akademii Nauk

Vereno, Michael, 2023, private communication, 1 August 2023.

Dudy /Dudelsack, Wood, brass, horn, goatskin, Bohemian

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