Old Horse

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

In a similar situation to the Old Tup, the Old Horse is both a song and a custom. As a song, it is found in different versions all over England, and it details how the horse used to be so proud and fine but is now old and decayed:But now that he's grown oldAnd scarcely can he crawlHe's forced to eat the coarsest grassThat grows against the wallPoor old horse.The Old Horse was also an animal disguise custom, performed at Christmas/New Year and found in and around the area where the counties of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire meet. The Horse was constructed by mounting a horse's skull, or wooden horse's head, on a pole. The mouth could open and close, operated by a string. The team consisted of the Horse and an unspecified number of men who would sing the song while the animal pranced or otherwise acted up. In some versions they pretended to shoe the horse during the song. The earliest references to the custom only date to the 1840s.


Cawte, 1978: 117–24.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.