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On the eve of Maundy Thursday hobby horses in all colours – white, black, brown, bay and piebald – gallop through the streets of Appenzell. They frolic up and down the village to the rhythm of the drums as the bells on their bridles ring in wild abandon.
Appenzell and outlying districts
Maundy Thursday (and evening before) to Ash Wednesday
Fasnacht in Appenzell, the capital of Innerrhoden, begins with the traditional «Ommetrommere» (drumming). Drummers of all ages together with the «Botzerössli » (hobby horses and riders) gather on the afternoon of the Wednesday at the Landsgemeindeplatz (main square).
The «Botzerössli» are a special breed of wooden Fasnacht horses. Riders in uniform «climb onto» the horses through the hole in their backs and keep «in the saddle» thanks to the leather straps that go over their shoulders. The legs of the riders are hidden beneath a coloured «skirt» that also cover’s the horse’s body. In their exuberance mount and rider often create alarm amongst onlookers and many of the animals have to be taken to the fountain to quench their thirst.
The custom of «Botzerössli» comes originally from southern Germany. Apparently, in the second half of the 19th century the language of the riders in military uniform was at times extremely coarse.
Today the «Botzerössli» can only be found in Appenzell Innerrhoden. They were in danger of extinction until the Fasnacht association restored some of the old hobby horses. Again today herds of «Botzerössli» in all sizes and colours strut around well in advance of the main Fasnacht procession on the Saturday and are an important fun element of the children’s procession on the Thursday afternoon. The girls and boys as well as the adults wear old fire brigade uniforms and decorate their faces with moustaches, freckles and red cheeks.