Water Horse

Legendary Freshwater Monster of the British Isles and Europe.

Variant names: Afanc, Aughisky (Irish), Backahast (Scandinavia), BOOBRIE, Cabyll-ushtey (Manx), Ceffyl dwfr (Welsh), Corc-chlu-asask, Each uisce (Irish), Each uisge (Gaelic), Eel-horse, Glashtin (Manx), Havhest, Horse-eel (in Ireland), Horse's Head, Kelpie, Lake horse, Nykur, Peist, Pooka, Searrach uisge, Shoopiltee (Shetland), Tangie (Orkneys), Vodyany, Water colt.

Physical description: Length, up to 21 feet. As thick as a bull. Horselike head and neck. Maned. Sometimes described as serpentine.

Behavior: Seen most frequently in November. Grazes with normal horses. If someone tries to ride it, it gallops to the nearest body of water and drowns and eats its rider. Eats animals and people, which it consumes under water. Refuses to eat human livers. Kills by constriction. Can change its shape to a handsome man or a giant bird.

Tracks: Leaves a slimy trail when moving on land.

Habitat: Ocean, lakes, rivers, and streams.

Distribution: Scotland, Wales, and Ireland; France; Italy; Czech Republic; Scandinavia; Siberia. Legends have also migrated to Canada.

Significant sighting: In the seventh century, the Irish St. Fechine of Fore compelled an Each uisce to pull his chariot after his horse fell dead.

Sources: Thomas Crofton Croker, Fairy Legends and Traditions ofthe South ofIreland (London: John Murray, 1826), vol. 1, pp. 299-302; William Hamilton Maxwell, Wild Sports ofthe West (New York: J. and J. Harper, 1833); John Francis Campbell, Popular Tales of the West Highlands (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1860-1862), vol. 4, pp. 304-307; Karl Blind, "Scottish, Shetlandic, and German Water Tales," Littell's LivingAge 35 (1881): 811, and 36 (1881): 34-36; John Gregorson Campbell, Superstitions ofthe Highlands and Islands of Scotland (Glasgow, Scotland: J. MacLehose and Sons, 1900); Marie Trevelyan, Folk-Lore and Folk-Stories of Wales (London: E. Stock, 1909); John G. McKay, More West Highland Tales (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1960), vol. 2; R. Macdonald Robertson, Selected Highland Folktales (Isle of Colonsay, Scotland: House of Lochar, 1961); Otta F. Swire, The Highlands and Their Legends (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1963); Katharine M. Briggs, A Dictionary of Fairies (London: Allen Lane, 1976); James MacKillop, Oxford Dictionary ofCeltic Mythology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 29, 47, 66, 83, 164, 254, 281, 367.

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