For thousands of years, horses and people have shared a sacred bond. Humans love for horses has gone so deep that they have become part of our myths and legends. People have passed on stories of mythical horse beings for centuries.
These mythical horses range from the well-loved unicorn to the malevolent kelpies. They have played important roles in many different cultures, often being portrayed as powerful and important beings. All of these mythical horses have a unique history behind them.
Originating in Turkish mythology, Tulpars are flying horses that were usually black or white. Their wings were more commonly associated with their swift speed rather than with flight. Tulpars can also be found in Asain legends, as Tulpar remains were said to have been used to invent the fiddle.
Bucephalus was the well-loved mount of Alexander the Great and was one of the most famous horses to ever exist. He had a black coat with a white star on his forehead. He was deemed wild and unmanageable, striking fear in people until young Alexander tamed him and made him his trusty mount for battle.
Alexander said Bucephalus feared his shadow, so he would turn his head to the sun when mounting him. After his death, legends of this great and once untamable horse were written that he had also been a man-eater.
Chollima is a powerful winged horse that comes from Korean mythology. The Chollima could travel far distances at swift speeds, with the capability to cover thousands of miles a day. It was said Chollima was too swift to be ridden by any mortals, with no man ever being able to tame him. To find out the swiftest horse breeds, read our guide on the fastest horse breeds here.
Hippocampus is a fish-tailed horse from Greek mythology. The ancient Greeks believed that the hippocampus was the adult form of the creature we know today as the sea horse. Legend says that hippocampus pulled the chariot of Poseidon and they were often used as mounts for nymphs and other sea creatures.
Sleipnir is an eight-legged horse that comes from Norse mythology. Ridden by Oden, Sleipnir had a coat grey as the thunderclouds with a strength that knew no equal. He was said to be “the best among horses” with the ability to out gallop, out kick, out jump and out whinny all other horses.
One of the most unique mythical horses, a centaur has the upper body of a human and the lower body of a horse. These Greek legends were originally portrayed as barbaric and chaotic, though some stories describe them as more pleasant creatures. They possess the ability to speak as humans, along with the power and speed of a horse.
Known for being a part of the wizarding world today, hippogriffs are fast and powerful magical creatures that have the front part of an eagle and back part of a horse. Hippogriffs were first recorded in Greek mythology and are said to be born from a griffin and a mare. Though they can be ferocious, some tales describe them as a symbol of love, as a mare and a griffin are natural enemies.
Kelpies are shape-shifting water spirits from Scottish lore that most commonly take the form of a black horse. These beautiful magical horses are said to appear in bodies of water all throughout Scotland. Kelpies are known to have a dark side, as legend says they would drown unsuspecting human victims after luring them onto their backs.
Pegasus is one of the most popular Greek legends, known for his pure white coat and powerful wings. This immortal being is said to be born from Medusa and Poseidon with the power to create streams wherever he struck his hoof. Pegasus was said to be the noble stead of mortal Bellerophon.
After slaying many vicious monsters together, Bellerophon believed that he was worthy to ride to the top of Mount Olympus but was struck by Zeus on his way up and was thrown to his death. Pegasus made it to the top of Olympus where he spent several years pulling a thunderbolt chariot for Zeus. After his long dedicated service, Zeus awarded Pegasus with a constellation which still holds his name today.
Perhaps the most loved of all mythical horses, the unicorn is a legendary horse known worldwide. Unicorns are commonly depicted as a striking white horse with a beautiful spiralled horn. However, unicorns haven’t always been portrayed as the beautiful creature we know today, as legends of unicorns were spread through different cultures.
The first tales of unicorns date back to the fourth century, where Greek physician Ctesias document stories from travellers of a large white wild ass roaming India, with white bodies, redheads, piercing blue eyes and horns that were a foot and a half long. Early Europeans also had tales of unicorns that consisted of goat-like creatures with colorful horns that had magical powers. In Asia, there were legends of a unicorn that had a deer-like body with reptilian scales, with a horn covered in signs and magical symbols.