Each Uisge: The Scottish Water Horse

If this is your image of fairies, think again!
If this is your image of fairies, think again!
Each Uisge, from Paranormal Animals of Europe
Each Uisge, from Paranormal Animals of Europe

Today, many people think of elves as the wise, beautiful creatures of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and fairies as cute and mischievous, but basically harmless. In the past, however, many fae were regarded with terror.

One of the most terrifying of all was the bloodythirsty Scottish water horse, the each uisge.

The each uisge lives in lochs and seas. He is related to the each uisce and aughisky of Ireland, the cabyll-ushtey and glashtin of the Isle of Man, the ceffyl dwfr of Wales, and the kelpie, with which he is often confused. (Kelpies prefer running water, such as rivers and streams.)

The each uisge is a shapeshifter. He appears most commonly in the form of a shaggy black horse with a greenish sheen to its coat, sometimes large, sometimes little more than a pony. The each uisge waits near the shores of lakes and seas for unsuspecting travellers to approach. He appears mild-tempered and gentle at first, but beware to the weary traveller who climbs on his back!

The coat of the each uisge is adhesive and as soon as a human climbs on his back, he or she is stuck there, as the each uisge bolts for the water's edge and carries his victim to the depths. When the victim has drowned, the each uisge devours him or her almost completely, leaving only the clothes and the liver, which floats to the surface to warn the people nearby that the each uisge has claimed another victim.

Each uisge can also appear in the form of a handsome, dark-haired young man, who seduces young women and leads them close to the water before seizing them and dragging them under. In human form, the each uisge can be recognized by the water weeds tangled in his hair, but by the time a young woman recognizes the beast, it may already be too late to save herself.

The each uisge can also appear in the form of a large bird, known as a boobrie. It rarely appears in its true form, which has the torso of a human, the teeth of a lion, and the head and legs of a horse. Not exactly inconspicuous, as you can imagine.

Don't Get Too Close to the Water!

Photo by atomicjeep
Photo by atomicjeep

Dealing With an Each Uisge Problem

Taming an Each Uisge

Like their relatives the kelpies, each uisge sometimes appear in horse form elaborately bridled and saddled, often with gold. However, according to some legends, if you can get a normal bridle and saddle on the beast, he will be tame for as long as they remain on. Each uisge can also be treated as ordinary saddle and pack horses inland. However, at the merest whiff of the scent of water, master beware!

Killing an Each Uisge

Although their preference is for human flesh, each uisge will also consume sheep and cattle, and can be lured out of the water with the smell of roasting meat and killed with iron weapons.

An Each Uisge Halloween Costume

For a basic human-form each uisge costume, apply pale makeup with a greenish tint to your skin and drape your hair with "water weeds" such as lengths of green yarn tied with small leaves to resemble duckweed or other aquatic plants. Wear old-fashioned clothing (you can often find peasant shirts and similar styles very cheaply at thrift stores) and have some fun smearing your mouth and clothes with blood. Consider munching on a fake limb or two.

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Comments 10 comments

anime_nanet profile image

anime_nanet 8 years ago from Portugal

Never heard of that one. Interesting...


Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

Interesting creature certainly no flower fairy.


spryte profile image

spryte 8 years ago from Arizona, USA

*spryte sighs in a melancholy fashion*

I remember when people used to be properly terrorized...

Thanks for bringing back some fond memories of the good ol' days!


Chef Jeff profile image

Chef Jeff 8 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

People have used such stories to warn others about some physical danger.  My Scottish grandmother used to tell us stories that I believe once had the purpose of warning people not to wander off in the woods, etc.

The story of Hansel and Gretel was a folk memory about the days of mass starvations in Europe, when parents would often leave new-borns in the forest because there wasn't enough food.

I believe Ring Around the Rosie was also about plague victims.

Great hub coming before Hallowe'en!


kerryg profile image

kerryg 8 years ago from USA Author

anime_nanet and Bob, thanks for reading! They are interesting beasties. :)

Spryte, hee! Speaking as a human, I must confess I hope you don't try to bring them back. ;) But any time fantasy authors want to stop with the boring Tolkein rip-offs for their faery folk will be fine by me!


hot dorkage profile image

hot dorkage 8 years ago from Oregon, USA

Hmmmm... and what of the fear bolg? capailluisce used to scare me but I no longer live close to bodies of water.


spryte profile image

spryte 8 years ago from Arizona, USA

kerryg - Well I must confess at times I feel a bit lonely so I'm not sure who is left to be brought back, but should we ever decide to have a reunion of sorts, I'll be sure to give proper advance warning. Truly though...it's Tolkien's fault that I find myself in my current predicament. Before, people would run in terror when they saw me, mother's would clutch their children to their bosom and wives would tie up their husbands...cuz...well, I'm not sure why exactly...but the husbands didn't seem to really mind. Anyway...nowadays, all I seem to get is a "shut up spryte...why are you so annoying, spryte...can't you behave yourself, spryte...and...would you please stop teasing the dog, spryte." So trust me...I have no love of Tolkien either...and if one more person pinches my cheeks and says, "you are so darn cute"...I swear I will bite them.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis

kerryg: Great hub. I love to learn about Scottish and Irish traditions. Of course, this could just be a ruse...a trick to lure me close into your hub and...say...is that..are those water weeds in your hair???? But I...AAaaaaaaggggh!


RGraf profile image

RGraf 7 years ago from Wisconsin

Never heard of them. Now I have an excuse not to fishing :) Thanks.


mystikal 6 years ago

in my country some ppl seen a flying horse and its a real story I know some of the people that saw the flying horse.the mythology tells that a big snake like a boa (lives only in my country) can change to a dragon lookin like a flying horse. that turning into a dragon can happen only when the snake lives hidden from ppls eyes for 40 years. be4 that the snake gets hair on the back n looks like human hair

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