On the first day of May, the ‘Obby ‘Osses come out to play in Padstow, Cornwall. That is, the hobby horses. Yes, children’s riding sticks. But you won’t have seen any quite like these menacing specimens before.
Two dancers are draped in big black tents with 5ft round collars, pointy hats and grotesque masks. A wooden horse’s head snaps its wooden jaw together at the front, ready to lunge at unsuspecting maidens, who are then dragged under the ‘Osses’ black skirts.
The festival is an old fertility rite, and it draws all the townsfolk of Padstow out in costume. Some play accordians and drums strike up the traditional ‘Obby ‘Oss songs.
Family loyalties determine which Oss villagers follow – that is, either the original red Oss, or the newer blue ‘peace’ Oss. And several more little ‘Osses appear later when the kids join in.