The History of the Most Famous Horse Tattoos of All
These horse tattoos have been galloping around the world for over 100 years and show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Some people get neo-traditional horse tattoos, some get tattoos of carousel horses in the watercolor style, others get kawaii My Little Pony tattoos, but real lovers of equestrian visual art and traditional tattoos go with the most famous horses of all — the Pharaoh Ramses' horses.
This iconic image of three wild-eyed steeds charging into a stormy sea references the the story of the Red Sea parting for Moses in Exodus and wiping out Pharaoh’s army. While the subject matter is deeply entrenched in the Western canon, the controversy behind the design’s authorship is a major part of what makes it so remarkable.
For nearly 150 years, J.F. Herring’s 1848 painting “Pharaoh’s Chariot Horses” was largely agreed upon as the originator of this now-widespread motif. Herring modeled his famous painting on Queen Victoria’s favorite grey stallion, Imaun — a highly intelligent horse that was trained to perform all kinds of tricks.
It wasn’t until 1987 that originality of this iconic painting was challenged.
At a flea market, of all places, a painter named Randy Tyree purchased an unsigned piece that was strikingly similar to Herring’s. Upon inspection, a number of forensic historians dated the it as being up to 100 years older than Herring’s. Though this discovery is still highly debated, it indicates that the image has been around for a very long time. After more than two centuries, Pharaoh’s Horses are still charging their way through the world of art, especially in tattoos.
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To see more superb traditional body art, gallop over to these tattooists’ Instagram. Should you want a depiction of the famous horses, regardless of where the image truly originated, have one of them execute it.