Pantomime horse

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Actor with pantomime horse from 1869 or 1870

A pantomime horse (there are also pantomime cows and other animals) is a theatrical representation of a horse or other quadruped by two actors in a single costume who cooperate and synchronize their movements. One actor plays the front end, including the horse's head and its front legs, in a more-or-less upright posture and with a reasonable field of view afforded by eye holes in the horse's head. The other actor, playing the rear end of the animal, must bend at the waist so that his torso is horizontal like that of a horse, and put his arms around the waist of the first actor. He can see little, although there are normally eye holes in the bottom part of the horse's torso to enable him to see where he is putting his feet and to enable him to breathe. Pantomime cows also usually have comically prominent udders.

Pantomime horses and pantomime cows feature in Christmas pantomimes, mainly in the United Kingdom. A skilled pair of performers can dance as a pantomime horse. Pantomime horses feature prominently in an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus titled "Blood, Devastation, Death, War and Horror". In the "Merchant Banker" sketch, two pantomime horses are forced to fight to the death for their job. Another sketch features a pantomime horse as a James Bond-esque secret agent, chasing its enemy around the world in cars, rickshaws, and even riding actual horses. The episode also features a pantomime goose and a pantomime dame Princess Margaret, which later appeared in the video for the George Harrison song "Crackerbox Palace".

In the 1984 comedy Top Secret!, a real bull attempts to copulate with a pantomime cow with devastating consequences for the actor inhabiting the rear of the two-piece costume.

A song on British pop group Suede's eponymous debut album is called "Pantomime Horse".

Secretariat

The American late-night talk-show host Craig Ferguson has a recurring sketch with a pantomime horse named after Secretariat that originally appeared every time a doorbell rings, accompanied by a frenzied dance performed by onlookers who rapidly and repeatedly extend their arms. When the program moved to a new studio, an on-set stable was built for Secretariat. This pantomime Secretariat has begun to appear on other CBS programs.


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