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Fast Facts:

  • Origin: Scotland
  • Role: Faerie

What is the Kelpie?

The moors were dark, a haze rising from the nearby river gave the impression that smoke was rising from some hellish gape in the earth. The man walking the lonely road wished he had some faster way to travel. As if the Folk of the land were listening, a pale, saddled horse appeared near the water. The man approached it, reaching tentatively. The horse’s nicker did not indicate fear, but rather sounded like an invitation. Using the saddle horn to pull himself up, the man could not believe his luck. Suddenly the horse burst into a run, heading straight for the river. The terrified man tried to dislodge himself from the horse, but some supernatural force kept him in place. The water didn’t seem to slow the horse, in fact its touch seemed to give it speed. The man realized this was no horse at all but a kelpie, just at the moment his head went below the surface, never to return.


The kelpie is a Scottish creature often associated with the realm of faerie. It also falls into the classification of water horse, although this one is decidedly malevolent. It most commonly appears as a beautiful horse near or in running water, and can be identified by the mane that seems to be constantly dripping wet. Females will sometimes appear as a beautiful woman dressed in green, bent on luring lustful men to their watery doom.


Kelpie would seem like an easy thing to avoid, thus keeping oneself safe from the doom it presents. However, when encountered they are alone, bridled, saddled, and ready to ride. This presents an enticing invitation to a weary traveler. There are other reasons to seek out these dangerous beasts, too.

A kelpie is said to have magical powers that someone who captures it can use to their advantage. They have the strength of ten normal horses, and endurance far beyond that. The key to capture is the bridle. If one can use a kelpie bridle on the beast, then it has no choice but to serve the master of the bridle. Clan MacGregor is said to possess such a bridle, although whether they have a kelpie bound to it is a mystery to all but the MacGregors. But capturing and holding a kelpie, or any other member of the realm of faerie is considered to be a dangerous prospect.

Merely touching these creatures activates one form of its magic, the ability to adhere a human’s flesh to its own. There is a tale of a child that was enticed to stroke a kelpie’s nose, and while he managed to escape, he had to cut his own finger off in order to do so.

This is not the only thing a kelpie can do to defend itself from capture or drag an unwary human to his doom. The kelpie has a tail that can be smacked on the water with such force that a clap of thunder is emitted. The resulting flood can drag a human into the water, where the kelpie will drag them to their death.

Current Influence

As the kelpie is a water horse, many legends of Scotland can be attributed to its race. Even the famous Loch Ness Monster could be a kelpie. Nearly ever river, stream, or lake in Scotland has a kelpie legend, so this dangerous creature cannot easily be avoided for the unwary traveler.