The phooka is a tricksy shape-shifting goblin of Irish lore. He can take on various forms such as a dog, bull, or even an eagle. Most frequently, however, he appears as a black horse or pony with glowing eyes. He approaches unwary travelers and offers them a ride on his back. Once he has them, the phooka then takes them on a harrowing gallop across the countryside before unceremoniously dumping them into a ditch or mire. Then he laughs at them. If he had fingers, I imagine he’d point, too.


The phooka seems to be a benign cousin to the kelpie, who also appears as a horse to carry unwary travelers upon his back. However, unlike the phooka who seems to be just having a bit of fun, the kelpie will take his passengers to a lake or river and drown them.


Source: Froud, Brian; Lee, Alan, Faeries, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1978.


Supernatural AtoZ


  1. Note to self – avoid all horses with glowing eyes who offer you a ride on their back – no good will come of it ;P
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    • Sara C. Snider

      You’d think more people would refuse transportation from solicitous horses with glowing eyes, but apparently not. πŸ˜‰

  2. You would think people would avoid a horse with glowing eyes, wouldn’t you – kind of a give away :). The only time I’ve heard the word pookha it was spelt slightly differently as you can see and was in Anne McCaffrey’s The Rowan – it was a comforting presence for a traumatised child.
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    • Sara C. Snider

      Haha, yeah. That was pretty much my response to Sophie. I haven’t read The Rowan. It sounds interesting, and I like Anne McCaffrey.

  3. I will be avoiding these horses with glowing red eyes. Run like the wind and hope the dickens I don’t get caught.

  4. LOVE Phookas.

    The first Phooka I ever knew about was Harvey from the movie.

    Timothy S. Brannan

    • Sara C. Snider

      I haven’t seen that movie, which I may need to remedy. Jimmy Stewart is cool.

  5. Djinnia

    Great post.

    Just read a trilogy by Sarah prineas that had a phooka clan in it, but they used a bone in their mouth to change from horse or dog.

  6. I’ve heard of a kelpie, but not a phooka. Interesting!

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