Yeah we’ve all heard of Traditional Easter food… Easter Eggs. Been there, done that.

But have you ever seen cheese horses?

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Cheese Horses are two things: a folk toy with several hundred years of history, and a snack that is loved by both adults and children. 

These bizarre and unique edible toys were invented by the Hutsul people in the Carpathian Mountains, hundreds of years ago.  It’s said that shepherds would make these while watching their flock, so when they return home after a summer spent in the mountains, they wouldn’t be empty handed, but would have a gift for their children and loved ones!
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The craft of making these Cheese Horses is most popular in the mountain villages of Brustury and Kosmach, in the Kosiv district. They are made of a sheep’s cheese that is fermented in a special way. This cheese melts easily in hot water, meaning it can be easily molded to shape. The cheese is pulled into shape, and some pulled into strips, used for making saddles and harnesses. 
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Photos: Yordana Dranchuk

The craftsman forms the head, hind legs, mane and tail with his hands, and then the horse is immediately immersed in a cold saline solution, where the shape of the toy is set. The stronger the salt solution, the longer the sculpture can be stored. Then the craftsman adds the small details such as the harness and saddle, and sometimes puts a Hutsul-horseman on the top! The finished products are placed on a drying rack, then they are ready!

 

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Photos: Yordana Dranchuk
In ancient times, these cheese-horses, and small breads (kolach) were used in significant ceremonies and rituals, such as weddings and christenings. In Christian times, before Easter children were given cheese- horses as toys instead of Easter eggs. In Kosmach, cheese horses were put on the traditional wedding bread, welcoming visitors, and as a symbol of good fortune.
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These cheese horses are made only in the Carpathians Mountains, and locals say that their origin is as ancient as the mountains themselves… The local Hutsuls believe that they are not just toys, but lucky charms and ancient protective symbols. Ethnologists say this is part of the ancient cult of animals that was common in these lands in ancient, pre-Christian times. 

Nowadays, cheese horses are still a good luck symbol, believed to attract happiness, wealth and a long life!
They are often put in Easter baskets, amongst other items to be blessed. Look out for them!

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Learn to make a traditional basket, and discover ancient traditions with us on our Easter in Ukraine Tour.

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 April 27-May 11, 2021

15 days | 14 nights