White horse (mythology)

White horses (which are rarer than other colours of horse) have a special significance in the mythologies of cultures around the world. They are often associated with the sun chariot, with warrior-heroes, with fertility (in both mare and stallion manifestations), or with an end-of-time saviour, but other interpretations exist as well. Both truly white horses and the more common grey horses, with completely white hair coats, were identified as "white" by various religious and cultural traditions.

Portrayal in myth

From earliest times white horses have been mythologised as possessing exceptional properties, transcending the normal world by having wings (e.g. Pegasus from Greek mythology), or having horns (the unicorn). As part of its legendary dimension, the white horse in myth may be depicted with seven heads (Uchaishravas) or eight feet (Sleipnir), sometimes in groups or singly. There are also white horses which are divinatory, who prophesy or warn of danger.

As a rare or distinguished symbol, a white horse typically bears the hero- or god-figure in ceremonial roles or in triumph over negative forces. Herodotus reported that white horses were held as sacred animals in the Achaemenid court of Xerxes the Great (ruled 486-465 BC), while in other traditions the reverse happens when it was sacrificed to the gods.

In more than one tradition, the white horse carries patron saints or the world saviour in the end times (as in Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam), is associated with the sun or sun chariot (Ossetia) or bursts into existence in a fantastic way, emerging from the sea or a lightning bolt.

Though some mythologies are stories from earliest beliefs, other tales, though visionary or metaphorical, are found in liturgical sources as part of preserved, on-going traditions

Mythologies and traditions


In Celtic mythology, Rhiannon, a mythic figure in the Mabinogion collection of legends, rides a "pale-white" horse. Because of this, she has been linked to the Romano-Celtic fertility horse goddess Epona and other instances of the veneration of horses in early Indo-European culture.

White horses are the most common type of hill figure in England. Though many are modern, the Uffington White Horse at least dates back to the Bronze Age.

In Scottish folklore, the kelpie or each uisge, a deadly supernatural water demon in the shape of a horse, is sometimes described as white, though other stories say it is black.


In Greek mythology, the white winged horse Pegasus was the son of Poseidon and the gorgon Medusa. Poseidon was also the creator of horses, creating them out of the breaking waves when challenged to make a beautiful land animal.


In Norse mythology, Odin's eight-legged horse Sleipnir, "the best horse among gods and men", is described as gray. Sleipnir is also the ancestor of another gray horse, Grani, who is owned by the hero Sigurd.


In Slavic mythology, the war and fertility deity Svantovit owned an oracular white horse; the historian Saxo Grammaticus, in descriptions similar to those of Tacitus centuries before, says the priests divined the future by leading the white stallion between a series of fences and watching which leg, right or left, stepped first in each row.

Native American

In Blackfoot mythology, the snow deity Aisoyimstan is a white-colored man in white clothing who rides a white horse.

Popular culture

The mythological symbolism of white horses has been picked up as a trope in literature, film, and other storytelling. For example, the heroic prince or white knight of fairy tales often rides a white horse. Unicorns are (generally white) horse-like creatures with a single horn. And the English nursery rhyme "Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross" refers to a lady on a white horse who may be associated with the Celtic goddess Rhiannon.

A "white palfrey" appears in the fairy tale "Virgilius the Sorcerer" by Andrew Lang. It appears in The Violet Fairy Book and attributes more than usual magical powers to the ancient Roman poet Virgil.

The British author G.K. Chesterton wrote an epic poem titled Ballad of the White Horse. In Book I, "The Vision of the King," he writes of earliest England, invoking the white horse hill figure and the gods:

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.

More contemporary examples include Terry Pratchett's choosing white as the colour for Death's horse Binky in his Discworld series, or J.R.R. Tolkien's choice of white for Gandalf's horse Shadowfax in The Lord of the Rings. In film and television, the Lone Ranger rode a white horse. In the Shrek series of films, the cowardly Donkey turns into a noble white steed as part of a running joke in the second film. Princess Celestia, a character in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic cartoon series, is a white winged unicorn who controls the movement of the sun. (Source: Wikipedia )

Photo Credit Tosca Sütö

Photo Credit Tosca Sütö

Photo Credit Tosca Sütö

Photo Credit Nezzam

Responses to "Beautiful White Horses ( Mythology - Photos)"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Interesting article and beautiful pictures.

  2. Muddy Dog says:

    Very good.

  3. Anonymous says:

    for alishia.

  4. Anonymous says:

    love the article... i want to add an unicorn is actually real as it is in the bible had a lady telling me that unicorns are mention in the bible and she told me where to find it and sure enough it is in there. very interesting and very beautiful pictures really enjoyed them.. thank you for sharing.

  5. Anonymous says:



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