Horse head mask

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"A person wearing a Horse Head Mask looks downright disturbing," according to the original manufacturer Archie McPhee.[1]

The horse head mask is a latex mask representing a horse head originally manufactured by novelty purveyor Archie McPhee, and now widely available from other manufacturers. The mask covers the entire head and is typically part of a Halloween costume, or at other times to be funny, shocking, incongruous, or hip, or to disguise one's identity. It has also become an internet meme.[2]

Origin and meme history[edit]

The horse mask was originally sold by novelty purveyor Archie McPhee as a Halloween costume since at least 2003.[2] It is marketed under the name "Horse Head Mask" and is made of "realistic brown latex with faux fur mane."[1] McPhee claims "a person wearing a Horse Head Mask looks downright disturbing" and the mask "has become a worldwide phenomenon".[1] Other manufacturers have since closely copied the look and design.

It is unclear when the mask transitioned from a novelty item to a meme, but there were a number of "accelerants" according to Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post.[2] In 2003, the Japanese anime Full Metal Panic? introduced the character Pony-man, "a horse-headed villain who pursued schoolgirls with a hairbrush".[2] Pony-man resembled someone wearing the McPhee horse mask and since the masks were already being sold "pony-man kept cropping up".[2] In 2005, Lonely Planet recommended wearing a horse mask while traveling in its Guide to Experimental Travel.[2] Soon after, comedian/actor Tom Green wore a horse mask for an episode of his Internet talk show, Tom Green's House Tonight.[2] In January 2008, a performance artist named Wotaken filmed himself picking, cooking, and eating psychedelic mushrooms while completely naked, wearing a horse head mask and dancing to the Final Fantasy soundtrack "Dancing Mad".[2] This film was uploaded to YouTube and reached over 2 million viewers and propelled the horse head to a wider audience.[2]

Photographs of President Obama and a person in a horse head mask went viral in July 2014[3][4][5]

After Wotaken's naked psychedelic cooking video, the horse head mask became a more common Internet meme.[2] Examples include a 2010 Scottish man known as "horse boy" captured by Google Street View;[6][7][8] During Hurricane Sandy, in Washington, D. C., a man was filmed jogging through a live news shot shirtless but wearing a horse head mask.[9]

In July 2014, President Barack Obama was photographed in the streets of Denver shaking the hand of a horse headed bystander resulting in national press exposure of the mask including a series of articles in The Washington Post about the meme's history and cultural influences.[2][10][3][11]


Some YouTube video contributors have chosen the horse head mask as their trademark, including Sir Sebastian of "Sir Sebastian's Candy Corner,"[12] a candy and chocolate reviewer, as well as a Berlin street performer, "The Neigh Kid Horse,"[13][14] who has been photographed by hundreds of amateur and professional photographers, and who is known for only wearing the mask and his underwear.[15][16][17]

Unicorn head mask[edit]

Distinctly horselike unicorn head masks are also sold by Archie McPhee[18] and others. Unicorn head masks have been used by Arizona State Sun Devils fans as part of program to distract opposing free throw shooters.[19][20][21]


  1. ^ a b c "Horse Head Mask". Archie McPhee. Retrieved July 11, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Caitlin Dewey (July 9, 2014). "A very short history of the very weird horse mask meme". Washington Post. Retrieved July 10, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Melanie Eversley (July 9, 2014). "Obama shakes hands with supporter wearing horse head". USA Today. Retrieved July 13, 2014. 
  4. ^ Catherine Thompson (July 9, 2014). "Here's Obama Shaking Hands With A Man In A Horse Head Mask (PHOTOS)". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved July 18, 2014. 
  5. ^ Jeremy P. Meyer (July 11, 2014). "Meyer: Horse head gag jumped the shark during Obama visit". Denver Post. Retrieved July 18, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Mystery surrounds 'horse-boy' on Google Street View". BBC Scotland. June 24, 2010. Retrieved May 6, 2013. 
  7. ^ Wilson Rothman. "Google spurs 'horse boy' mystery". NBC News. Retrieved May 6, 2013. 
  8. ^ Tom Chivers (July 2, 2010). "'Horse Boy' reappears on Google Street View in Aberdeen". The Telegraph. Retrieved May 6, 2013. 
  9. ^ Garance Franke-Ruta (October 29, 2012). "Shirtless Jogger in Horsehead Mask Photobombs Hurricane Sandy TV News". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 6, 2013. 
  10. ^ Abby Phillip (July 10, 2014). "Your tax dollars are hard at work … editing the 'Horse head mask' page on Wikipedia". Washington Post. Retrieved July 10, 2014. 
  11. ^ "President Obama comes face-to-face with a horse head man at Denver pizza, pool night". Associates Press. July 9, 2014. Retrieved July 13, 2014. 
  12. ^ Sir Sebastian's Candy Corner Retrieved August 30th, 2013.:
  13. ^ "The Neigh-Kid Horse". Facebook. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  14. ^ "Alltag - Prenzlberger Ansichten". Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  15. ^ Diana. "The Neigh-Kid-Horse der Straßenmusik". Ruhmsucht. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  16. ^ Oyster Travel: Charlie Brophy's Europe | Fashion Magazine | News. Fashion. Beauty. Music. |
  17. ^ Un om cu cap de cal și un saxofonist Archived 2013-10-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ "Magical Unicorn Mask". Archie McPhee. Retrieved February 18, 2015. 
  19. ^ Daniel Engber (February 17, 2015). "Curtains Up". Slate. Retrieved February 18, 2015. 
  20. ^ Zach Woosley (February 7, 2015). "Unicorns make out in Arizona State student section to distract FT shooters". SB Nation. Vox Media. Retrieved February 18, 2015. 
  21. ^ Zach Woosley (February 7, 2015). "ASU unveils twerking animals as free-throw distraction". SB Nation. Vox Media. Retrieved February 18, 2015.