What is a Stanchion?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A stanchion is an upright post which is usually utilized to support something. Stanchions appear in a wide range of environments, from the decks of yachts to the stalls of milking sheds. Manufactured stanchions which come as part of kits are made by many companies and people can also devise their own for a custom purpose. Any sort of rod or pole can serve as a stanchion and it is possible to come up with some rather creative variations on supportive stanchions.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

Stanchions can be made with a wide variety of materials. Because they are designed to be supportive in nature, they are usually made with materials which can withstand weight and pressure. Metals are common choices but materials like wood and highly durable plastics can be used as well. The width of the stanchion may be adjusted relative to the height in order to address support needs. The design can also vary depending on whether the stanchion is fixed or movable, and what kinds of materials it may be attached to.

One classic use of stanchions is in temporary barriers. Barriers for lines at airports, movie theaters, museums, and so forth are often made with stanchions which support looped tape or rope. The barrier can be easily and quickly reconfigured to address various needs and to keep a crowd under control. In this case, the barrier is more symbolic than functional because people can easily duck under the ropes or knock the stanchions over to bring down the barrier.

Stanchions are also utilized in architecture to provide vertical support. Open spaces like large windows may require such support to distribute the weight of the structure above, for example. Stanchions may be used for fencing and in more substantial barriers such as those used to control livestock for handling as well. A version of the stanchion is also used as a hitch on many vehicles, in which case the post may fold back when not in use so that it is not in the way.

Some stanchions are fixed in place, and may be set in cement or other materials so that they cannot be knocked over. Others are fixed but can fold or swivel as needed. Mobile stanchions supported by broad bases can also be seen. These devices can be moved around to reconfigure a space or area. The bottom is usually weighted to make the stanchion difficult to tip over.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Aren't stanchions also used as retractable barriers, or have them attached? It seems like I worked with them at work a few times, and I'm pretty sure they're called stanchions. Thanks for the info!


Stanchions support a cattle fence along the edge of my yard. A herd of scary looking longhorn cattle graze out there, and I'm glad that the fence looks very sturdy.

Between the stanchions is that kind of wire that looks like a grid. The openings are squares small enough for only a bird to pass through, so the fence makes me feel much more secure than those typical barbed wire fences that I have seen lining other pastures.

Also, each stanchion is set in cement. If a bull became angry and decided to try and knock one down, I believe it would resist him.


I have seen stanchions with chains strung between them at my favorite state park. I go there year round to hike and be near the lake, but some areas have been closed to the public for the winter.

It's always a bummer to drive up to my favorite spot, only to find stanchions and chains, along with a “closed” sign. Rangers patrol this park all day and night, and they would find me if I were to jump the chain and ignore the sign.

Luckily, there are dozens of great spots to enjoy at this park. I am willing to wait until next year to visit the other areas, and the fact that I can't get to them will make accessing them that much more enjoyable next summer.


@StarJo – Yes, the stanchions and velvet ropes are a lot like a stop sign at the end of a road. You can either choose to obey it or ignore it, though it definitely would be in your best interest to do the first.

I have seen the same type of roped stanchions at awards shows along the red carpet. As celebrities walk up the aisle, the stanchions appear to be holding the crowd back. Really, the huge security guards standing in front of the stanchions are the deterrent.

I'm sure that if these events were not adequately guarded, fanatics would hop the rope and mob the celebrities. A short rope strung through small stanchions is not enough to keep a determined person back from the object of her affection.


The stanchions at movie theaters are psychologically intimidating. Though you could skip over them in one hop, you don't, because you know that security would throw you out if you did.

I have noticed that the stanchions are used mostly on the weekends. I recently went to the theater on a Tuesday night, and since there were very few people there, the stanchions had been moved to the side, and no guard was in place to check my ticket.

I guess they figured that since only a handful of people were in there, the workers at the concession stand, where tickets were being sold, could easily spot someone sneaking in. The stanchions are used mainly to control a crowded situation.

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