What are the white horses?
Most of them are chalk hill figures. They are created by cutting and removing the turf to reveal the bare chalk beneath, and usually then the excavation is back-filled with loose chalk. See the Construction
page for details. Some are limestone or quartz instead of chalk, and a few are "paintings" done with limewash.
Q: How old are the white horses?
A: The Uffington horse is around three thousand years old, having been dated to between 1400 - 600 BC. There may have been a horse on Pitstone Hill in Buckinghamshire, and if there was it was cut before AD 1580. The original Westbury horse is often associated with King Alfred, but there is no historical evidence to support that, and it was probably cut around AD 1700, although possibly earlier. The others range from the late 1700s to 2003. See the Chronology page for more information.
Q: How could the Uffington horse have survived three thousand years of weather and erosion?
A: The horses need regular maintenance, called scouring, to survive. This involves removing encroaching turf and weeds from the surface, and replenishing the loose chalk, and redefining the outline, a process traditionally done every seven years. If this isn't done, the horse becomes overgrown and in time disappears, which has happened in some cases. Perhaps astonishingly, this must have been done at Uffington throughout the horse's three thousand year history.
Q: How big are the white horses?
A: They vary enormously. Of the hill carvings, Uffington is the longest at some 365 feet (112 metres) long and 110 feet (34 metres) high, and Osmington, including the rider, covers the biggest area, measuring around 320 feet (95 metres) high and 280 feet (85 metres) long. Of those that are not hill carvings, Ciudad Juarez in Mexico (a painting on a mountainside) is the longest at 3140 feet (960 metres). The smallest of all is Cleadon Hills (a painting on a rock face), being just 7 feet (2 metres) high by 10 feet (3 metres) long. For more details see the Measurements page.
Q: Why do people cut white horses?
A: For a variety of reasons. Uffington may have had a religious or ritual purpose, or it may have been totemistic, in other words being the emblem of the local people, high on a hill for all to see. Perhaps it served both purposes. More recently, horses have been cut to mark coronations, to mark the start of the third millennium, and sometimes purely because the local landowner wanted one.
Q: What is "Wiltshire White Horses"?
A: Just me, really. I've lived in Wiltshire most of my life, and I have a continuing interest in the white horse hill figures. When I began this site, my intention was just to cover the Wiltshire horses, but I've since extended it to include the other horses in Britain, and the foreign ones. I'm always pleased to receive new information about the white horses, and you can contact me from the contact page.
Q:Do you make a profit out of Wiltshire White Horses?
A: No - it costs me money. I have to pay for the domain name, and I pay for commercial web hosting in order to be able to use facilities that I wouldn't get with free hosting, and to keep the site free from advertisements.
Q: Where does the Wiltshire White Horses logo come from?
A: It's based on a line drawing of the Cherhill horse as it was in the early twentieth century (the appearance of the horses can change with successive scourings, and this one is no exception).
Q: How can I find out more about white horses?
A: This site contains a great deal of up-to-date information about them. It also has a page of Links to other sites, and a Bibliography. If you have a specific question that you can't find the answer to, feel free to contact me.
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This site was last updated on 20th March 2019