There was horseplay going on in Alton Barnes today, when pranksters turned the historic White Horse into a zebra.
Desperate to earn their own stripes, the mischief maker – or makers – chose April Fool’s Day to give the 200-year-old chalk horse a makeover.
The 166ft-long horse, which faces south over the Pewsey Vale from Milk Hill – the highest peak in Wiltshire – was carved in 1812. Local squire Robert Pile paid John Thorne – also known as Jack the Painter – £20 to carve the horse, but he ran off with the money and was later hanged for other crimes.
The horse was finally completed by John Harvey from Stanton St Bernard.
There is a tradition of lighting the horse. It was surrounded by candles on the winter solstice from 2001 to 2011, and a lighting culminated in a spectacular fireworks display on a damp June 30, 2012 – marking the 200th anniversary of the carving.
In 2010 the horse underwent major renovation by the landowner Tim Carson and Alton Barnes Parish Council, when 150 tonnes of chalk was delivered to the site by helicopter.
However, it won’t take too much work to get the white horse back to its proper colouring: the stripes appear to be made from black plastic sheeting which has been pinned in place.