Salisbury Hare

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The Salisbury Hare is an English folk legend originating from the county of Wiltshire. The legend tells of a hare that dances during a full moon, and that anyone who sees the hare is said to have good fortune for the rest of his or her days.[1]


The Salisbury Hare folk legend is believed to have originated in pagan Anglo-Saxon England. Some sources contend that the legend dates from Celtic times, as the hare is linked to the goddess Ceridwen.[1]

The first known recorded mention of the Hare is from 1318 AD,[1] when its appearance to John Godwin, a shepherd on Salisbury Plain was noted in the Parish church records of Imber.[2] The form of the Hare's dance according to Godwin's account, was one of ever increasing speed in which the Hare would stamp its hindquarters whilst continually encircling him.[2] The Hare is believed to appear only to those of an innocent nature, these people the Hare sees as vulnerable to tricksters and therefore in need of its protection.[3] An alternate interpretation is that the Hare is sent by God to those who are of "troubled spirit", its dance being designed to lighten the soul. This though is likely a Christian attempt to overwrite earlier pagan beliefs.[2] The Salisbury Hare remained a popular Wiltshire folk legend for over 500 years, frequently being mentioned during wassailing, its invocation was used as blessing of good fortune.[2] The Industrial Revolution led to a rapid decline of local folk legends, the Salisbury Hare was no exception.[3]

On 7 May 1967 the Salisbury Journal featured an account of a farmer who claimed to have witnessed the Dancing Hare while he was out late at night attending a lambing.[4]

A dancing hare is also mentioned in a Native American Zia folk legend. The tale of Coyote as a hunter, originating from the New Mexico area.[5] Welsh artist Barry Flanagan created a bronze dancing hare sculpture specifically based upon the legend.[6]


  1. ^ a b c A Bibliography of Folklore. Folklore Society (Great Britain). 1961. 
  2. ^ a b c d Folklore: vol 15. Folklore Society (Great Britain). 1904. 
  3. ^ a b Leach, Maria; Fried, Jerome (1949). Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend vol.1. 
  4. ^ Johnson, Paul (7 May 1967). "Hare we go, a strange encounter". Salisbury Journal. 
  5. ^ Berry Judson, Katherine (2009). Myth and Legends of California and the Old Southwest. 
  6. ^ Flanagan, Barry (1983). Barry Flanagan: recent sculpture, October 28-16 November 1983.