Every state has some weird laws, many of them dusty old relics lawmakers never got around to expunging. But Arkansas has more than its share of head-scratchers, governing everything from when you can walk your cow to where you can keep your gator (not in the bathtub!).
Legislating Mother Nature
While most strange Arkansas laws were designed to dissuade human perps, lawmakers tried to put the finger on Mother Nature when they enacted a law forbidding the Arkansas River to rise higher than the Main Street bridge in Little Rock.
That one got repealed when it proved unenforceable: How do you arrest a river? But other laws nearly as weird are still on the books.
Horn Honkers: Beware After Dark
Waiting in line at the drive-thru at night? Better not honk your horn if you get impatient. In both Little Rock (Sec. 18-54) and Fort Smith (Sec. 16-45), it's illegal to sound the horn on a vehicle after 9 p.m. at any place where cold drinks or sandwiches are served.
Arkansas Has an Official Pronunciation
Out-of-state visitors frequently run afoul of the law if they mispronounce Arkansas (Ar-kan-saw). While that trespass won't land you in jail or subject you to fines, Arkansas is one of the few states that has a legal pronunciation of its name; it's duly enshrined in Title 1, Chapter 4, Section 105.
Flirting on the Streets Was Once Illegal
Another oft-cited law, passed in 1918, made it illegal for men and women to flirt on the streets of Little Rock.
Aimed at curbing solicitation, the law is no longer on the books but still makes for amusing reading: Who knew coughing was once considered a seduction technique?
1918 Ord. No 2502
It shall be unlawful for any person to attract or to endeavor to attract the attention of any person of the opposite sex, upon or traveling along any of the sidewalks, streets or public ways of the City of Little Rock, by staring at, winking at, coughing at or whistling at such person, with the intent, or in any way calculated to annoy, or to attempt to flirt with any such person.
Any person violating Section 4 of this ordinance shall be fined in any sum not less than $5.00 nor more than $25
Where to Keep Your Gators and Other Weird Animal Laws
Many of the weirdest laws govern the animal kingdom. According to local folklore, there was once a law on the Arkansas books that made it illegal to keep an alligator in your bathtub. And dog owners definitely run afoul of the law if their pets are barkers, as a far more recent ordinance states:
2003 Ord. No. 18,959
It shall be unlawful for any person to keep on his premises, or under his control, any dog which by loud and frequent barking and howling shall disturb the reasonable peace and quiet of any person.
Cow owners should take heed, too. Bessie may need her exercise, but even cows deserve some time off. A 1904 law limits cow-walking to very specific hours: 10 p.m. to 4 a.m; 9 a.m. to 12 noon, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. While still on the books, it's no longer actively enforced, since cows are rarely spotted strolling along the streets of Little Rock.
Some Old Arkansas Laws Targeted Women
Some oft-cited Arkansas laws of the past were meant to keep women in line. Teachers during the Jazz Age were forbidden to bob their hair, though that was more likely a school board edict rather than a state or city statute. Far more degrading was a Little Rock law that allegedly permitted a man to beat his wife with a stick no bigger than three inches wide if he limited those beatings to no more than once a month.
While not verifiable, that specificity of that one has the ring of truth.
Tennessee Laws Out-Weird Arkansas
Weird though some of its laws may be, Arkansas can't hold a candle to Tennessee, where it is still legal to gather and consume road kill. While road kill-consumption makes a certain amount of sense in mountain man country, another alleged old law does not. Legend has it that, at one point, it was illegal in Tennessee for someone pulling up to a stop sign to refuse to fire a gun out of the window. That may be a vestige of the moonshine era when warning shots were just good manners.