Folklore and legends
This page contains snippets of folklore and legend and other stories concerning the white horses.
Uffington horse and foal eating and drinking
The Uffington white horse is said to be a mare, and to have her invisible foal on the hill beside her, and at night the horse and foal come down to eat at the slope below known as the Manger, and to drink at nearby Woolstone Wells, which latter were formed from a hoofprint from the horse.
As different as chalk and cheese
The expression "as different as chalk and cheese" is believed to refer to the land divided by Hackpen Hill, on which the Hackpen horse is cut. The hill forms the boundary between the high chalk downs to the south of it and the clay cattle country to the north, where cheese is a product of the milk from the cattle. The two areas are as different as chalk and cheese.
Uffington horse as a wish fulfiller
It is said that anyone who stands on the eye of the Uffington horse and turns around three times clockwise with their eyes closed whilst making a wish will have that wish come true. Please don't try it, as visitors are now requested not to walk on the horse because of the damage that was being caused to it.
Predicting a future husband
There was a belief that (real) white horses could predict the future husband of an unmarried girl. The girl would count the number of white horses she saw until she reached one hundred. Then the first man she shook hands with after that would one day become her husband.
St George and the Dragon
Near to the Uffington horse is a flat-topped hill known as Dragon Hill, and the Uffington horse is sometimes said to represent a dragon, not a horse. There is a story that St George killed the dragon on Dragon Hill, and the patch of bare chalk on the flat summit is the spot where the dragon's blood fell.
Uffington horse in the sky
Once every hundred years the Uffington horse gallops across the sky to be reshod by Wayland in his smithy. This is said to have last happened in around 1920, though I haven't been able to trace any eye witness accounts!
Uffington "whispering gallery"
The author Ralph Whitlock recounts the following incident. In the 1950s, Mr Whitlock went with the owner of a Devizes firm engaged in repairing the horse with concrete to see the work taking place. They found the foreman giving directions from a shoulder of the hill a quarter of a mile or more from the horse, speaking in a normal voice. The face of the hill appeared to act as a whispering gallery, and his voice carried clearly to the workers at the site of the horse.
Uffington horse and King Arthur
There are many stories that King Arthur is not dead, but lies sleeping, and will one day awake when England is in peril. (Why he should help the descendants of those he fought is a question that shall not be entered into here!) It is said locally that when Arthur awakes, the Uffington horse will rise up and dance on nearby Dragon Hill.
Tan Hill horse going down to drink
It was said locally that when the Tan Hill white horse heard All Cannings' church clock strike midnight it went down to a dewpond above Cannings Cross to drink. One night it was supposedly so thirsty that it drank the pond dry, even though a dewpond is said never to dry up. This is related by Kathleen Wiltshire in Wiltshire Folklore
, but the reference is a little ambiguous and could possibly be to the Alton Barnes horse instead.
Westbury horse going down to drink
The Westbury white horse is also known as the Bratton white horse after the nearby village, and there are springs on Westbury hill known as Bridewell springs, locally pronounced Briddle Springs. It is said in Bratton that when Bratton church clock strikes midnight the horse goes down to Briddle Springs to drink. I have reason to believe this to be true!
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This site was last updated on 14 March 2017