Dragged to the Depths: The Beautiful and Deadly Kelpie

Sep 20, 2022 | Mysterious Creatures

September 20, 2022
9 min read

If you find yourself in Scotland, and come upon a beautiful horse, standing alone near a lake, you’d better be careful not to get too close. It could be a deadly Kelpie.

Identifying a Kelpie

The Kelpie has been a figure in Scottish folklore and mythology for centuries. While these myths might differ on the details, they have one thing in common, the Kelpie will kill you if it gets the chance.

This shapeshifter, that is said to haunt the lochs and rivers, will usually appear as a black, white, or grey horse. Sometimes they appear to be green with black hair. Sometimes the Kelpie can appear as a human, ready to lure you in like a siren. No matter the form, the Kelpie’s hair or mane will always be wet and typically has seaweed in it.

The Kelpie, Herbert James Draper, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Typically, Kelpies will appear in their horse form. They appear tame and innocent, sometimes wearing a saddle and bridle to make the unsuspecting believe they could be ridden. If you touch a Kelpie, you will be stuck immediately. Their power will glue you to them as they gallop straight into the water, dragging you to the bottom to drown and eat you.

They are said to be as strong as 10 ordinary horses and have mystical powers besides. Kelpies are powerful enough to summon floods to drag people into the water, and they say that the sound of their tail hitting the water creates a roar of thunder.

If a Kelpie takes on their human form, they are said to be beautiful men with hooves or women. Sometimes they appear as a large hairy man who can grab and crush victim’s to death. Their hair will always be wet and usually have seaweed in it, from living in the water.


Unsurprisingly, most old folktales were created to serve as warnings to listeners, and the story of the Kelpie is likely to keep children away from dangerous water, they also spread the terrifying lore of these dangerous creatures.

The Kelpie and the Ten Children

A Kelpie had lured nine children onto it’s back who were now stuck and doomed to be drowned and eaten. It was now chasing a tenth child who had managed to evade it so far. Finally the Kelpie got near enough and the child touched the Kelpie’s nose. He immediately became stuck. Unable to pry himself free, he resorted to cutting off his own finger. The Kelpie galloped straight into the water with the nine children, who were never seen again.

The Kelpie and the Fairy Bull

A family lived near a loch, and had a farm with many cattle. They had a bull that was all black with red nostrils and a terrible temper. One day, the farmer’s daughter was walking near the loch and came upon a beautiful man. He asked her if she had a comb that he could borrow. The girl decides to help the man comb his hair.

As she does, she noticed how wet his hair was and that there was seaweed all through it. Suspecting that he may be a Kelpie from the myths she had heard, she decided to sing him a song in hopes he would fall asleep. Once he was asleep, she bolted for home.

She ran for her life from the sound of pounding hooves chasing her. As she got closer to her home, the bull came running past her and attacked the Kelpie. The girl watched the fighting until eventually both the Kelpie and bull fell into the loch, never to be seen again.

The Kelpie and the Laird of Morphie

A Laird (wealthy land owner) captured a Kelpie and put it to work. The Laird took advantage of it’s incredible strength and used it to carry heavy materials needed to build his grand castle. When he finished construction, the Laird released the Kelpie. Not one to forgive or forget, the Kelpie cursed the man for what he had done. They say that the man’s family line became extinct due to the curse.

Kelpie of Corrievreckan wearing a horned helm, riding a gray horse, snatches up a girl named Jessie on the seashore. Author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Kelpie and the Flood

One night a man is on his way home. He has to cross a river, but when he comes upon it, he finds it too flooded to cross. As he looked for a way to cross, he came upon a beautiful horse standing on the riverbank. Thinking that the horse may be his only chance to cross, he climbed atop it. The second the man sat down, the horse immediately dragged him into the river where he was drowned and eaten.

The Kelpies and the Thirteen Men

Thirteen men were walking through the country side when they came upon a small, empty cottage. They went inside, lit a fire and began eating and drinking. Soon they began dancing, as one of the men played the flute. They wished that their wives and girlfriends were with them to dance. Suddenly, thirteen beautiful women appeared and began dancing with them. The piper was the only one not dancing, and he noticed that the women had hooves instead of feet.

Knowing he was in danger, he told the beautiful woman that had paired up with him that he wanted to go outside for a moment but she protested. He took off his belt and gave her one end of it, and said to hold onto it, and he would hold the other end so she would know he hasn’t run away. He stepped outside and tied the belt to the outside of the door and made a run for it.

As soon as he reached the horses he mounted one and the woman was already at his side. The horse quickly galloped away, taking the man to safety. The next day, he and a rescue party returned to the cottage, only to find the remains of the twelve other men.

Surviving the Kelpie

Is it possible to survive a run in with a Kelpie?

Yes. The Kelpie’s bridle is it’s weak spot. If you are able to grab it, you can control it. In other tales, they say that you must possess a magic bridle that you must put on it to control it. If you remove the Kelpie’s bridle, you take away it’s source of power and life. It’s rumored that if the bridle is not returned to the Kelpie within 24 hours, it will die.

If you come upon a Kelpie in human form, you can still fight it as well. They say you can steal the bridle from the human, and you will have mastery of it. In some legends, if a woman steals the bridle of a male Kelpie, he would have to marry her. Also rumored, is that if you strike a Kelpie in human form, it will revert to horse form and run away.

The Kelpies Sculpture

Located in Falkirk in central Scotland, is a massive 30 meter (about 100 feet) high sculpture paying tribute to the Kelpies. The two horse heads are the largest equine statues in the world and weigh 300 tonnes (about 660,000 pounds) each. If you’re looking to safely see a Kelpie in real life, this might be your best bet.

Mike McBey, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons



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