History of Horses in Mythology

Running With the Ancients: The History of Horses in Mythology

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Avia

Horses are humans’ most loyal companions and have been around us for thousands of years. Over the years, they’ve also become an integral part of human mythology. Most stories and ancient legends or myths we hear include horses and they represent power, freedom, and greatness. But what is the history of horses in mythology? Well, it depends on the culture. We have horse legends adapted to various cultures, with the Greek one being one of the most popular.

However, we can spot a trace and similarities across all cultures. It seems like, in mythology, horses most of the time represent strength, freedom, and beauty. They are often companions of heroes or embodiments of the human spirit’s quest for transcendence.

Let’s dive deeper into horses in mythology and try to understand the role horses have played throughout history.

Why Horses are Commonly Found in Mythology?

Just because horses have been human’s most loyal companions for thousands of years, it is not a surprise to find them in every segment of our culture, including mythology. They’ve reserved a special place in human consciousness and often carry a lot of symbolism.

They’ve played many roles throughout history, especially in mythology. Horses were used for transportation, warfare, and agriculture, which elevated them to the iconic status they had.

That’s why horses can be found in most myths and legends across civilizations.

What are Some Common Themes in Horse Mythology?

The most common horse themes in mythology are the representation of freedom and their connection to the human spirit. Just as we mentioned before, they symbolize a lot of things, mainly great things that helped us advance as a civilization.

Humans always respected horses just because of all the great things that these creatures have done for us, which is why it is common to find horses in mythology representing dedication, hard work, power, and free spirit.

Horses in Greek Mythology

Horses in Greek Mythology

Greek mythology has some of the most talked about legends, and most of them include horses. We probably have the most popular horse in myths, Pegasus, who was born from the blood of Medusa, the Gorgon slain by Perseus, from where Pegasus emerged as a winged marvel carrying heroes into epic battles against mythical monsters.

This is one of the few horses with wings. It represents not just a fighting spirit and agility, but also his untamed arrogance and its ability to connect the earth and the sky realms.

This legend inspired many movies, documentaries, and other stories, and now we can often see a horse with wings in many different segments of our culture.

Did you know? According to Greek myth, horses were originally created by Poseidon, the god of the sea, as a gift to humanity. Horses were designed to be strong, beautiful, and really tough animals.

Horses in Norse Mythology

Horses in Norse Mythology

Horses can also be found in Norse mythology, often with similar symbolism. But apart from strength, agility, endurance, and connection with the human spirit, here horses also represented fertility. 

One of the most popular horses in the Norse mythology is Sleipnir. But it is quite different from the Greek mythology. Instead of wings, Sleipnir has four additional legs. Yes, this is an eight-legged steed, capable of traveling across realms at unimaginable speed.

This is the kind of horse we need at the Kentucky Derby. After all, most people who bet on the Kentucky Derby would place their money on an eight-legged horse, right?

This horse was a blend between gods and beasts, and his power was always feared by the earth’s people. There are other horses also found in Norse mythology and in most cases, they act as a symbol of power.

Fun fact: The Norse civilization adopted the practice of offering horses as sacrifices to placate gods such as Odin, demonstrating the respect that these magnificent animals were given in prehistoric beliefs.

Horses in Chinese Mythology

Horses in Chinese Mythology

In Chinese mythology, horses are quite the opposite. Instead of symbolizing power, greatness, strength, and agility, they represent harmony, balance, and authority.

One of the most popular horses is the Dragon Horse, known as Longma. Basically, this is a combination of a dragon and a horse. Just because dragons were quite popular in Chinese mythology, this connection is quite explainable. 

Longma, apart from having a scary-looking body, with dragon scales all over the horse body, the horse didn’t represent power, fear, or anything aggressive. Instead, Longma has been used to symbolize the relationship between humans, animals, and the divine, fostering a sense of unity across the universe.

In some myths, this horse also had dragon wings, similar to Pegasus, and could often fly at incredible speeds.

Did you know? The Terracotta Army, an iconic archaeological discovery in China, includes intricately sculpted horses believed to accompany emperors into the afterlife, showcasing the enduring reverence for horses in Chinese traditions.

Horses in Native American Mythology

Horses in Native American Mythology

Among Native American tribes, horses hold spiritual significance, embodying courage, resilience, and the bond between humans and nature. The Appaloosa, with its distinctive spotted coat, is often revered as a sacred symbol, representing the endurance and adaptability of tribal communities.

The introduction of horses by European settlers transformed Native American cultures, revolutionizing hunting, transportation, and warfare. Horses became symbols of strength and freedom, woven into the fabric of tribal lore and spiritual practices.

Fun fact: The Nez Perce tribe, renowned for their horsemanship, bred Appaloosas with exceptional speed and endurance, showcasing the deep bond between indigenous peoples and these majestic animals.

The Legacy of Horse Mythology

The enduring legacy of horse mythology transcends cultural boundaries, reminding us of the timeless allure and symbolism these magnificent creatures embody. 

Whether soaring through Greek skies on the wings of Pegasus, traversing Norse realms with Sleipnir, or symbolizing imperial grace in Chinese lore, horses continue to captivate human imagination and inspire tales of adventure, heroism, and mysticism.

Exploring Horse Mythology Today

In modern times, the legacy of horses in mythology endures in art, literature, and cultural symbolism. From equestrian sports celebrating the bond between humans and horses to artistic interpretations in films and novels, the spirit of equine mythology continues to gallop through the corridors of human creativity. As always, thanks for reading!

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