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The Uffington White Horse
What's it all about?

The Uffington White Horse seen from the air -  Nash Ford Publishing

  • The Uffington White Horse is a huge white picture of a horse cut into the grassy side of a hill at Uffington, near Faringdon. This type of picture is called a hill figure.
  • It is over 100 metres long. That's the length of ten double-decker buses! It can be seen from a very long way off.
  • It doesn't look much like a horse really. It could be the horse for a 'stick-man', but it has a strange beak like a bird.
  • For centuries, people wondered how long it had been there. Archaeologists have now used new dating methods to work out that it is about 3,000 years old! That means it was carved by Bronze Age people in prehistoric times.
  • They probably came from Uffington Castle. This is a hillfort right next door. It also dates from the Bronze Age.
  • Horses became very important at this time because it was when people first started to ride them.
  • But why make a big picture of a horse? Most people think it was the symbol of a prehistoric pagan god. It is supposed to have magical powers!
  • In Iron Age Celtic times, Uffington Castle was made bigger by a tribe called the Atrebates. They may have linked the horse with their sky-god, Beli. His symbol is the wheel (possibly from a chariot) and he rode a horse.
  • A small hill below the horse is called Dragon Hill. It has a flat top. This might have been an open-air temple.
  • Archaeologists have found that there was no-one living in Uffington Castle during Roman times. However, there were still big festivals held there every year. They were probably to do with the worship of Beli and the horse.
  • When everyone became Christian, they said it was St. George's horse. It had been carved to show that he had killed the dragon on Dragon Hill.
  • There continued to be celebrations at the horse when it was cleaned every 7 years.

View from the head of the Uffington White Horse towards Dragon Hill -  Nash Ford Publishing

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