Westbury White Horse is a large horse-shaped carving in the chalk earth of a hill on the edge of Salisbury Plain, facing the small town of Westbury, Wiltshire, in the south west of England.
The history of this site, which is the oldest of Wiltshire's horses, is an issue of some debate. The site is known to have been restored in 1778 but the date of the original work remains largely a matter of conjecture. Many believe the initial carving was made to commemorate King Alfred's victory over the Danes at the battle of Ethandune in 878. However, historians can not even agree whether this battle took place in the immediate vicinity; although some associate Ethandune with the nearby village of Edington.
It is however situated a few meters in front of the Bronze Age fortress known as Bratton Castle, and it is thought that when the Danish troops retreated after Alfred's victory over them, that they took refuge behind its ramparts (The Castle being besieged for fourteen days) and that the White Horse was carved to mark their defeat by the Saxons. Now it is little more than a pair of grassy embankments and ditches, one within the other.
The 1778 restoration is now seen as many as an act of appalling vandalism and bears little or no resemblance to the original horse, which faced in the opposite direction (to the right) and was an altogether more sketchy, stylized affair, more reminiscent of a dragon, with a crescent moon above the tail. The "restored" horse faces the left and looks far more anatomically accurate than any of its "younger" peers (Uffington, Pewsey etc.)
(This was especially true one Summer when some local lads climbed up in the small hours and carved it a giant white schlong. Hundreds of tourists took hundreds of photographs under the impression that it was supposed to be there before the local council took action to "repair" the damage.)
Its very whiteness is also no longer authentic, in the early 90s the natural chalk was deemed too eroded and it was resurfaced in white concrete.