Animal Guising and the Kentish Hooden Horse

James Frost

with contributions from Geoff Doel and Ben Jones ("George")

Book cover

Hoodening is an ancient calendar custom unique to East Kent, involving a wooden horse’s head on a pole, carried by a man concealed by a sack. The earliest reliable record is from 1735, but little serious research had gone into the tradition between Percy Maylam’s seminal work “The Hooden Horse”, published in 1909 (and reissued by Ozaru Books in 2021), and George Frampton's 2018 update, "Discordant Comicals". The current book, published to accompany a four-month exhibition at Maidstone Museum (8 February — 17 June 2023), further expands the field.

The text, accompanied by over 60 full colour illustrations — many never seen before in print — describes what hoodening was, what the hooden horse is, and how it can be seen in the national context of animal guising. It covers historical records and artifacts, revival groups, "Autohoodening" performances which reimagine the old tradition in a modern context, and related practices such as the Mari Lwyd, Obby Osses, various northern beasts, and stag guising. Appendices contain the text of numerous contemporary verses and plays.

The author, James Frost, is a Lecturer in Performing Arts at Canterbury Christ Church University, as well as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He has also made numerous hooden horses and similar beasts, and performed with the Canterbury Hoodeners.


Tykes' Stirrings (May 2023) wrote:

"Five years ago I favourably reviewed George Frampton’s Discordant Comicals […] this book […] is an equally essential purchase […] generously and informatively illustrated […] a fascinating volume that at once informs, intrigues and entertains"

Folk London (April-May 2023) wrote:

"stands alone as a scholarly re-examination of the Kentish ritual … a detailed account … beautifully and extensively illustrated … right up to date … fascinating and absorbing … a comprehensive bibliography and an extensive appendix [with] a beautifully evocative first-hand account of what it is like to be a hoodener"

Here is the full review:

Format Royal Octavo colour hardback
Published 1 January 2023
ISBN 978-1-915174-06-2
Length 186 pages
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