Horses in the earth

30 08 2006

Uffington horse

Before the gods that made the gods
Had seen their sunrise pass,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale
Was cut out of the grass.

Before the gods that made the gods
Had drunk at dawn their fill,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale
Was hoary on the hill.

Age beyond age on British land,
Aeons on aeons gone,
Was peace and war in western hills,
And the White Horse looked on.

–G.K. Chesterton, “The Ballad of the White Horse“, 1911

Throughout England, there are numerous white horses carved into hillsides; the Uffington white horse (shown above) was found to have been created sometime during the Bronze Age (1200-800BC). I found a nice account of the visit to the horse here; some more photos here. (Of course, it could be a dragon too, a victim of St. George, but my hunch is that it could be an emblem of the pre-Christian horse cult in Britain)

Alton Barnes white horse

Others are much more recent; the Alton Barnes horse, above, was commissioned by a man named Robert Pile in 1812, while the Westbury horse, also in Wiltshire, is thought to be much older, as it was mentioned in an 18thc. book. Exiled Preacher and Wiltshire Hotpot have some great photos.

Most of the figures were created by scraping away the top layers of grass and soil to expose the stark white chalk underneath, and the ones we know of only survived due to the maintenance efforts of local people, who scraped the figures clean and removed any vegetation which began to grow on them. However, some were constructed by piling light-coloured stones or rubble together to create a shape. According to Wikipedia, “Ancient figures all have an associated fair or ceremony which involves maintaining them.” Not all have survived; many of the older ones were lost and overgrown, like the Rockley horse (below).

Rockley horse




9 responses

31 08 2006
Link to “Horses In The Earth” « PurpleSlog

[…] Bridlepath has a short post with pictures of aerial views and links to horses carved into landscapes. […]

14 02 2007

Too cool! I had no idea these existed. How amazing!

15 02 2007

Very interesting!

21 02 2007
Patricia Barlow-Irick

I want to join a cult of horse-worshippers…… where can I sign up?

21 02 2007

Hate to break it to you, but you’re already in. We all are. 😉

20 03 2007
The Madara Rider of Bulgaria « Bridlepath

[…] Horses in the earth  […]

26 04 2007
Ancient Thracian chariot found in Bulgaria « Bridlepath

[…] Horses in the earth […]

8 01 2008
mira evans

i was just doing a report and i love horses. when i saw comanche i had to stop. i loved the vidio of ruffian and i think this site is great. like they say america was biult on the hores’s back.

18 11 2011

Actually have seen them in person. Amazing stuff!

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