Hellish Horse

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search
He even farts fire.

Bad Horse! Bad Horse!
Bad Horse! He's Bad!!
He rides across the nation, the thoroughbred of sin!

AKA My Little Pony on acid; they not only cause nightmares, they sometimes are night mares.

Want to emphasize how Badass a hero or villain is? Simple, given them a truly monstrous looking horse!

Standard fare include wings, Red Eyes, Take Warning, horns, fangs, and split hooves (sometimes claws). Horses that are nothing but skeletons are also popular choices for The Undead to ride, and sometimes the horse can appear either to be on fire or leave burning hoofprints. Usually either truly untameable or ridden by villainous characters, but sometimes subverted into being tamed by The Hero. As these days horses are kept mostly for recreation and are often seen as something of oversized pets for little girls, the idea of scary and dangerous horses might seem a bit silly, as they lack any claws or fangs. But make no mistake, an angry or panicked horse can be truly frightening and easily kill a man with its hooves.

Often goes hand in hand with Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as well as The Wild Hunt. A subtrope of Cool Horse. No relation at all to Hellish Copter. See also Hell Hound.

Examples of Hellish Horse include:

Anime and Manga

  • D's horse in Vampire Hunter D in at least one incarnation is actually some sort of cyborg, but can appear pretty monstrous. A memorable caption in Anime Insider had someone ask D what was wrong with it, and all he could say was "I don't know."
    • According to the light novels his horse is a perfectly ordinary cyborg horse that can be bought from any livery stable in the Frontier, but D's influence will make it gallop faster and longer than any other.
      • Until it's inevitable demise from the wildlife or from D riding it too hard.
  • A lot of playing with this goes on in Reign: The Conqueror, an Aeon Flux style animated story loosely based on Alexander the Great. Alexander's horse is a demonic horse, and at least half the main cast if not more expect Alexander to go the Dark Messiah route, which would make the horse appropriate, but Alexander ultimately rejects that route.
    • Alexander's horse, Bucephalus, really was an unstable horse, according to Plutarch. I would be surprised to learn that this was the first time he was described as a murderous horse.
  • When Hellsing's Alucard pulls out his Soul Slave Army it includes horses. Big, undead horses made of shadows and blood.
  • Entei from Inuyasha.
  • When Lantis from Magic Knight Rayearth first summons his spirit creature, we see that it's a big, black, wild horse. Bigger than the norm actually~
  • The Skull Knight's horse, though much like its rider, it isn't evil
  • Killbeat the lascivious and sadistic bicorn from Legendz Unusual in that she never serves as a villain's mount, instead she's a major villain herself!
  • The horses in the anime short A Country Doctor look pretty damn creepy.

Comic Books

  • One of the reoccurring Doctor Strange enemies, Nightmare, rides one of these.
  • Caleb, the 19th century ex-slave turned Ghost Rider, has one of these as his ride, as do other Riders of the same rough era. As befits the Ghost Riders, these horses are usually on fire.
  • Conan the Barbarian once had to fight the Hell-Hordes of Chaos, led by Prince Gaynor who rode steeds that inexplicably had beaks. And melted in the rain.


  • The mounts of the Nazgul in Lord of the Rings look pretty monstrous (and later they upgrade to riding vulture/dragon "fell beasts") and have been specifically bred to withstand the Nazgul's presence.
  • The Caretaker/old Ghost Rider in the 2006 Ghost Rider movie gets on of these: a burning horse skeleton.
  • The Scarecrow briefly rides around on a police horse in Batman Begins. Due to the hallucinogens covering the area, the horse (and The Scarecrow) appears to be demonic from the point of view of a young boy.
  • The Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow has a horse like this.
    • The horse is especially... noticeable... in the Disney version of Irving's short story in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
  • The spiderweb horse in The Brothers Grimm.
  • Ilmarinen the blacksmith from the Finnish film Sampo (better known as MST3K's The Day the Earth Froze) forges a horse so his buddy can plow an evil witch's field full of snakes. It comes out of the flames a bright and, err, rather fiery red. Yes, this film is based on a folktale, why do you ask?
  • In the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence of Disney's Fantasia, the evil spirits summoned by The Devil Chernabog ride various horrific sorts of supernatural steeds, from airborne goats and boars to horned skeleton horses. One of these horses makes a reappearance in The Black Cauldron.
  • In the Blind Dead horror series, the titular undead monks ride equally undead horses.
  • The undead gunslinger villain of House 2 rides a stop-motion skeleton horse to the climactic showdown.
  • The Puca from Behindthe Waterfall might qualify, even though he desent burst into flames.
  • Avatar has the pa'li and the ikran, and if you're too Badass to be satisfied with those there's the toruk and palulukan.
  • Odin rode a rare heroic example of one in Thor. His horse, Slepnir, is a giant black horse with eight legs. Considering it was shown inside of a pillar of exploding light, it invoke this trope quite a bit.
  • Gaston's horse from Beauty and the Beast.
  • Jafar can be seen riding on one of these at the very beginning of Aladdin.
  • Snowball from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.


  • The Thestrals in Harry Potter as semi-examples, since they look like skeletons, only those who've seen death up close can see them, and to everyone else they're Invisible to Normals. However, they're actually quite gentle and end up significantly aiding the main characters.
  • Spoofed a number of times in Discworld. Death tried to use a demonic horse, but his skeletal horse kept falling apart and his flaming horse kept setting fire to the stables. He eventually settled with the very un-Demonic white pale horse Binky. The new Death in Reaper Man plays it straight, though, with a skeletal horse.
    • Also played straight with Boris from Going Postal. Though he wasn't anything supernatural, it was 10 pounds of angry in a 5 pound bag. Definitely the type of horse you'd describe as "hellish."
    • The unicorn from Lords and Ladies seemed pretty because of its glamour, but if you looked closely (as Granny Weatherwax would tell you to) you would realise the fact that it was a large, angry horse with a huge horn. The "horses" ridden by the elves, meanwhile, are carnivores. We aren't told what sort of meat they prefer...
  • Subverted in Good Omens, where the actual Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse trade in the traditional horses for hogs. Motorcycles, that is.
  • Anor (fangs, claws, eats meat) and the Horse with the Twisted Horn from Mary Stanton's The Heavenly Horse from the Outermost West—fittingly enough, since these are the horse-world's equivalent of the Devil.
  • Susan Cooper novel Silver on the Tree. Will and Bran are menaced by a terrifying skeletal horse.
  • The Hrulgin (singular: Hrulga) of David Eddings' Belgariad universe definitely fall under this. They have claws and fangs, eat meat rather than grass, are intelligent but utterly insane, and travel in herds. Oh, and they're also evil. Enough so that even the team's designated horse-empath reluctantly had to give up on taming one. Oh yeah, and they're all black, but that almost goes without saying...
  • Interesting variation in the Old Kingdom trilogy—the skeletal, fiery horse being ridden by Hedge actually commits suicide by leaping into a river when Hedge is knocked off, because becoming a Hellish Horse put it into so much pain.
  • Karsa Orlong from Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, went and tamed a Jhag horse named Havok. Jhag horses have a tendency to eat people, so that is saying something.
  • The Dresden Files: Summer Knight has Harry making a voyage into Faerie and encountering an unicorn. But since this is the Winter quarter of Faerie, the unicorn has scales and a gigantic corkscrew on its head.
  • In The Riftwar Cycle, the Dark Elf leader Murmandamus rides a horse covered in red scales, whose main and tail are living flame. Naturally, its eye glow red too.
  • In a Shout-Out to Sleepy Hollow, Welkin Weasels features the dreaded manless horsehead, the hovering head of a riderless horse which flies around eating people.
  • Spellsinger's M'nemaxa is a Cosmic Horror in the shape of a winged horse made up of suns, with dragonfly eyes.
  • In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, rathorns (pronounced rath-orn, rather than rat-horn) are carnivorous armored unicorns matching many of these tropes, being fanged, double-horned (nose and forehead), red-eyed, and armored with ivory-like plates on head, neck, chest and forelegs. The armor plates continue to grow as long as the rathorn is alive, so the really old ones are also in constant pain and likely to smother in their own armor. They are notorious man-killers with really bad tempers, and are generally some combination of black and white, from all-black to all-white or various combinations.
  • Quest For A Kelpie by Frances Mary Hendry has a Scottish girl seeking out a Kelpie to ride to grant a wish (see below to see why she Did Not Do the Research on that one).
  • In "The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention", Dorothy L. Sayers describes how Lord Peter Wimsey encounters a mysterious, silent "death-coach" drawn by noiseless, headless horses. Of course, Lord Peter had had a few...
  • It should perhaps be noted that in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving does not describe the Headless Horseman's "goblin horse" as being anything other than "a black horse of powerful frame," though it does have a tendency to vanish in a "flash of fire and brimstone."
  • Roger Zelazny character Dilvish the Damned spent two hundred years unjustly condemned to Hell. When he came back, he rode a fire-breathing, talking horse made of black steel and with cloven hooves. It also turned out to be capable of assuming human form. The "horse" was the demon who helped Dilvish escape Hell ... or maybe not.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, the Mouth of Sauron rides a huge hideous horse, with a face like a skull, and flames burning in its eye sockets.
  • In the Forgotten Realms Drizzt novels by R.A. Salvatore, Jarlaxle has an obsidian figurine which he can use to summon a nightmare from the lower planes. Later on, he gives another figurine to his dwarf companion Arthogate, allowing him to conjure a demonic, fiery war pig hellbeast to serve as his mount. It should go without saying that this makes him the envy of every other height-deprived character in the series.

Live-Action TV

  • Mahou Sentai Magiranger (and its American adaptation, Power Rangers Mystic Force), has Barikion (Catastros), the black horse ridden by the dark knight Wolzard (Koragg). A normal horse at normal size, but can become Humongous Mecha-ish with an Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever spell (much as the Rangers themselves that year, instead of the usual machines.) There is also a good counterpart: Unigolon (Brightstar), a white unicorn ridden by the Red Ranger.
    • He's mass-produced: A villain from later in the series has a chariot pulled by two of the mecha-horsies. The whole thing actually rides up from a pit in the ground that he creates.


  • In the famous ballad Ghost Riders In The Sky a Cowboy sees a herd of Hellish cattle as well as damned souls of cowboys on Hellish Horses telling him to "change his ways".
  • The Nightmare, or rather "Nacht--mar" in At Night It Comes (naturally) by Lost in Oblivion -

Breath of the thunder. Hooves of flame.
Down in the darkness you answer no name...


  • Sleipnir from Norse Mythology, one of the oldest examples, had eight legs and other monstrous features, as well as a pretty sick origin. Despite this, though, it was a relatively gentle and well-behaved horse.
  • The Fairy Raed, also known as The Wild Hunt, has appeared in various forms in European mythology. Generally, the horses being ridden where huge and black, sometimes with demonic features, and together with their riders, who were either the damned or Fae, and hellhounds would hunt the living (or the dying, or the recently dead, depending on who you asked) and drive them to hell. Just seeing the Raed was bad luck, foretelling strife or plague. Depending on the time period and location, the leader of the Raed was either a lost soul or deity. Odin has been associated with the Wild Hunt.
    • The wild hunt as also appeared in numerous works over the years, including poetry, fantasy novels, and videogames.
  • Also appears in Celtic Mythology with the kelpie, who was a beast that appeared to be a horse with shark-like teeth; if anyone mounted it, it would take them underwater and drown and eat them. Kelpies are said to inhabit only running water.
    • Depending on the versions, it could turn into an attractive man/woman to make luring people into the water easier.
  • Older Than Feudalism: The Eighth Task of Hercules was to steal the Mares of Diomedes, who had regularly fed them human meat. Some accounts say they could also breathe fire from their nostrils. At the end, Hercules himself killed Diomedes and fed him to his Mares.
  • The Celtic Puca (or Pookah) is a less fatal version of this: It usually takes the form of a black horse with golden eyes and loves scaring people by taking them on unexpected midnight rides, but it never actually kills them and often leads people away from danger.
  • The Scots have the Each Uisge, or water-horse, a shapeshifting monster inhabiting bodies of water such as lochs. These monsters would often disguise themselves as fine ponies or horses and stand near the water's edge. Once a person mounted the water-horse, its skin would become inescapably sticky and it would plunge into the deepest part of the water, drowning the unfortunate victim, who was then torn apart and eaten (apart from the liver, which would float ashore.)
  • In Brazilian folklore, a woman who fornicates with a priest turns into a Mula-sem-Cabeça (Headless Mule). It's a dreadful black mule that has no head, but somehow, manages to spew fire from it's non-existent nose. It also has iron hoofs that make a horrible noise when the mule gallops. The transformed woman has to ride through seven parishes each night until she returns to the original parish where she sinned, or someone stabs her with a needle.
  • In Greek Mythology the sun god Helios has a chariot pulled by fiery horses - in case you missed that detail their names, Aethon, Aeos, Pyrois and Phlegon, will remind you, as they are Greek words and expressions relating to fire and light. Other sun gods of other indo-european religions share the sun-chariot motif, but much on the steeds isn't specified, an exception being Surya, whose horse is seven headed.
  • The Four Horsemen of The Bible.
  • The Nuckelavee of Orkney folklore was an evil, skinless horse with yellow veins and black blood, often merged with an equally grotesque human rider so that the two were one being. Nuckelavee would spread illness to crops, horses, and humans with its poisoned breath. The only way to escape it was to cross fresh water, which it refused to approach.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons has the Nightmare: a horse-like monster from the Lower Planes that is ridden by Blackguards and powerful Evil creatures. It has glowing red eyes, a blazing mane, burning hooves and fangs. Oh, and they can fly and teleport across the planes. Numerous later fantasy works have later copied the idea, many of them likely not realizing "nightmare" as a horse-thing was a silly pun rather than an actual mythological creature. (The "mare" of "nightmare" is actually a goblinlike creature called a "mara".)
    • In addition, Natara, Commander of the Infernal Charge of Avernus, has a black unicorn with bat-wings.
    • A Dragon (magazine) article introduced the Equars, nine intelligent magical horses from the Outer Planes that represented different alignments. They included the handsome, black Banecourser (Lawful Evil); the sickly, ratlike Roasinante (Neutral Evil); and the monstrous red eyed Charnalbalk (Chaotic Evil).
  • Daemonic mounts in Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000 range from Juggernauts of Khorne, rhino-like critters made out of a combination of iron and hellfire, to Steeds of Slaanesh, unnaturally-captivating serpents mostly comprised of breasts and a really long tongue. At the outer reaches of this trope are the Discs of Tzeentch, which are exactly what they sound like.
    • The Vampire counts in Warhammer Fantasy Battle have mounts called Nightmares, which fits this trope (the exact look of the Nightmare can vary, since it's cobbled together out of corpses, but it tends to be at least vaguely horse-like). There's also the Felsteed, which is a winged Nightmare (and, in previous editions, was named exactly that).
  • Magic: The Gathering has a creature called Nightmare, as well as Thundermare.
  • Orpheus characters who have managed to become Orphan-Grinders can summon one of these as one of their abilities.
  • In Rifts, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride demonic horse-like mounts called Nether Beasts. Though Pestilence's Nether Beast looks like a giant beetle.

Video Games

  • In the Heroes of Might and Magic series the Inferno castle enrolls Nightmares - essentially horses / unicorns FROM HELL! True to their name, their very proximity lowers enemy morale and their attacks have a chance to send the enemy running away in terror.
  • The summon Ixion from Final Fantasy X has been described as a unicorn on steroids, and that's fairly accurate. The horn alone looks more like something one would see on a can opener - a can opener from hell that's used for scalping tortured souls. Fittingly, Dark Ixion from Final Fantasy XI is an endgame Bonus Boss.
  • While not evil, Odin's Gestalt Mode in Final Fantasy XIII qualifies for this trope.
  • Shin Megami Tensei's Horsemen of the Apocalypse each rides one of this. White Rider's covered in eyes.
  • In World of Warcraft, Warlocks can learn to summon and ride Felsteeds and Dreadsteeds. They have flaming hooves and evil red eyes, and glowing red cracks form in the ground beneath it when they're summoned.
    • The racial mount for the Undead is a skeletal horse. There are also two other hellish horses, The Huntsman's Steed and the Headless Horseman's Steed. Both are extremely rare (0.1% droprate) mounts that look like horses with flaming green hooves, burning eyes and green fire on their back. Bonus points for the Horseman's mount for being able to fly.
    • There's also Baron Rivendare's Deathcharger, a skeletal horse available from the eponymous boss in the "dead" side of Stratholme, at an equally rare chance.
    • In an early quest ("early" ignoring that the character's first 54 levels went by before the player is put in control) Death Knights gain an Acherus Deathcharger. Different color scheme, presumably different genealogy, different skin, but similar effect as the warlock mount. They also let out an ear-piercing shriek when summoned that can only barely be recognized as a neigh. Slightly different in that you catch the horse that gets horrifically converted into your undead mount yourself. You Bastard. For maximum comedy, steal the colt.
    • There is also Attumen's steed, not ANY better than your normal epic mounts, but it is a Bragging Rights Reward on its own as it has a very low droprate.
    • Then you can have Invincible, Arthas' Deathcharger, which can fly too, and slightly faster than common fliers. But most of its value comes from merely owning it, which shouts "I KILLED THE LICH KING ON 25-MAN HEROIC!".
  • The Demonic Invaders faction in the Warlords Battlecry series have a unit called the "Nightmare". They look like normal horses, except for the Red Eyes, Take Warning, the body covered with spikes and the fact that they lack skin.
    • So they don't look anything like normal horses, then?
  • Geryon from Devil May Cry 3 is a Hellish Horse boss. It's so Badass that its drawn carriage can fire missiles.
  • Ganondorf, unsurprisingly, rides one of these in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Again in Twilight Princess, where you have to face him in a horseback battle. He's a better swordsman than Link on horseback, but you've got Zelda and her Light Arrows to compensate.
    • The game averts a potentially hilarious subversion. When Ingo took over Lon Lon Ranch, he originally intended to give EPONA to Ganondorf. Imagine seeing Ganondorf riding possibly the cutest horse in the ranch.
  • Red Hare from the most recent Dynasty Warriors. Looks quite hellish in the official art for the game with Lu Bu, but quite gentle in the official art with Guan Yu.
  • A recurring enemy in recent Castlevania games.
  • The first official boss in Final Fantasy XII is the Firemane—a gigantic, spectral warhorse made entirely out of living fire.
    • Later horse-type enemies would have either ghastly, spike-covered, crescent-shaped helms that obscured their skulls, or simply had tentacles sprouting from their manes. The latter tend to be particularly vicious, and were often actual demons.
  • Night Mare from King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, is a black pegasus which Alexander has to charm with a concoction including sulfur, brimstone, and a hair from either Beauty or Cassima (fantasy horses like maidens) for the best-ending sidequest. It also eats deadly nightshade berries for lunch.
  • Torahime from Muramasa: The Demon Blade rides atop a phantom horse with its skeleton visible.
  • Regardless what color the horse originally was, all the horses the Lotus Clan from Battle Realms use (shadow steeds) are coal black and can breathe fire.
  • Ruin of Darksiders, whose rider is none other than The Horseman of War.
  • The Reaper Steeds of Brutal Legend.
  • Pokémon: Ponyta and Rapidash technically, since they're on fire.
  • Red Dead Redemption Has a horse known appropriately as the "dead horse". In addition to being covered in claw marks, it's missing one eye, the lower jaw and half of its left front leg. It can be ridden, but not in normal game play, you have to use a edited save file or mod one yourself, but you can see it laying dead in the mission "Spare the Love, Spoil the Child" if you go to the cave, or in this YouTube video: [1].
  • Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare: There's the Undead Horse, it appears when you whistle for your horse after it has died. It's faster and has infinite stamina, but it's much harder to control.
    • It also has the Four Horses of the Apocalypse. War has a flaming mane, tall and feet, Death causes zombie's heads to explode, Pestilence is Nigh Invulnerable and is surrounded by a sickly green cloud, Famine is trailed by a swarm of locusts.
  • In Dragon Quest IX, the first grotto boss is Equinox, a pretty Badass lookin' horse. He has powers related to darkness and hates humanity. In some of the higher-level grottos, one of the monsters that you can see running around is a recolor of Equinox.
  • For a while in the more recent updates of Dwarf Fortress, kicking was incredibly powerful. Biting still is. Horses can use both attacks. And if you embark in evil territory, you can get attacked by skeletal and zombie horses, which are much harder to kill than living horses... to say nothing of the potential for randomly-generated horse demons and Forgotten Beasts.
  • Shadowmere from The Elder Scrolls games is an immortal, possibly undead horse with sleek black fur and glowing red eyes, owned by an ancient order of assassins.

Web Comics

  • In Girl Genius, shortly after Agatha joins up with the traveling band they unwittingly bring back a demonic horse that attacks the camp, and Lars is so terrified that all he can do is scream "Horse-horse-horse!" for several minutes while having a panic attack — at least, until the calming pie.

Horse! Pie! Horse! Pie! Horse! Pie!

Web Original

  • Bad Horse, the leader of the Evil League of Evil in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is supposedly like this, according to other characters' descriptions, including having a terrible Death Whinny. Please note that he isn't a horse themed villain, as much as an actual horse.
    • Supposedly like this? He's the Thoroughbred Of Sin!
  • My Little Pony: the movie.

Western Animation

  • My Little Pony TV Specials: The pilot for the original series featured the Evil Overlord, Tirac, that kidnapped some ponies and turned them literally into nightmare horses for his own chariot.
  • Futurama plays with this by having a HoloDeck simulation gone wrong and the holographic version of Spirit, a pony Amy wanted but didn't get as a kid (because she had too many ponies already) turn bad and grows fangs—while Atilla the Hun was riding it.
  • Played for laughs when Robot Chicken did a sketch about "My Little Pony: Apocalypse Pony."
  • Young Blood's skeleton horse in Danny Phantom.
    • Don't forget Fright Knight's freaky winged demon horse.
  • Parodied with relish in (of all places) Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer. Stormy's horse Skydancer rages screaming through the clouds, causes lightning to fire off everywhere he stomps, snorts freezing rain, and has the obligatory Goshawk-red mad eyes and Badass attitude. Starlite (essentially a Small Name, Big Ego type as a magical horse) challenges him to a race, overtakes him, and ends the winter in the process. The infuriated Skydancer screams and foams and snorts... a tiny rainbow.
  • In Thundarr the Barbarian, the human heroes ride ordinary horses, while Ookla the Mok rides an "equort," something that looks likes a cross between a horse and a bug.
  • In a Simpsons episode, Mr. Burns tries to bribe Lisa with three beautiful ponies. When Lisa regretfully refuses, they reveal their true nature...
  • In the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, Venger rides a Nightmare (see Tabletop Games, above).
  • In Mulan, the horses ridden by the Huns (particularly Shan-Yu's) have demonic red eyes, thick black bodies, and, of all things, FANGS.
  • Nightmare Moon from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic is a straight example, though instead of a demonic motif she has a shadowy appearance appropriate for a moon goddess, including black armor and a mane that resembles the Milky Way.
    • Played for Laughs in the episode "Feeling Pinkie Keen", where Twilight Sparkle becomes so angry she turns pale and her mane and tail ignite in flame for a few moments.
    • "Hearth's Warming Eve" gives us the Windigos, malevolent winter spirits who feed on hatred and appear as a trio of spectral horses.
    • "A Canterlot Wedding" has the Changelings, black insect-like ponies with several holes in their legs that feed off of love.
  • In the She Ra Princess of Power episode "The Price of Power", there are the Dark Riders. They consist of armored skeletons (with the Horde emblem) riding dark grey bodied, black-maned bat-winged horses with Blank White Eyes.

Real Life

  • Truth in Television, at least in terms of behaviour: Zebras kill more zookeepers than any other animal.
  • There's a mustang statue on the drive to and from Denver International Airport. Drive by this at night and you can get a good idea of this trope.
    • This troper reckons it looks creepy enough during the day.
    • It's called El Mesteno, and to make matters freakier, it killed its sculptor.