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 while screaming and shaking his head around 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. It has since been taken down for violating the site's terms of service.[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]

A unicorn mask from Archie McPhee


Although the modern horse head mask meme began with the Archie McPhee rubber mask in 2003, there have been earlier antecedents. In 1997, the British satirical news miniseries Brass Eye briefly showed a horse head mask in the second episode titled "Drugs".[22]


  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". Associated 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.
  22. ^ Michael Cumming (1997). "Drugs". Brass Eye. Retrieved December 9, 2018 – via Vimeo.

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