The horse in Anglo-Saxon mythology is an extremely significant symbol. ‘Horsa’ – from which we derive the modern word ‘horse’ – was the semi-mythological leader of the Anglo-Saxons who landed near Ebbsfleet, on the Isle of Thanet in the 6th century and so the white horse became the symbol of Kent.
In ancient times these figures would be made by revealing the underlying chalk. There are approximately 17 chalk horses on the hillsides in England that can be seen from afar. The Westbury White Horse is a hill figure on the escarpment of Salisbury Plain.
Great British horse artists
The mythology of the white horse
White horses have a special significance in the mythologies of cultures around the world. They are often associated with warrior-heroes, with fertility, or with an end-of-time saviour.
From earliest times white horses have been mythologised as possessing exceptional properties, transcending the normal world by having wings (Pegasus from Greek mythology), or having horns (the unicorn). Most of the famous ‘white’ horses that we think of were in fact greys. For example, Napoleon’s favourite mount, Marengo and the most loved racehorse of recent years, Desert Orchid.
Images & Licensing
From cave paintings to contemporary sculpture, see more images of the horse in art in the Bridgeman archive. Contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org for research and licensing queries.