Everyone who knows any history at all knows that Hengist and Horsa are the first recorded personal names in our language. Because they are such a strange and stiking pair it is often thought that they were ritual magic names for the leaders of tribes, or perhaps the symbolic figures depicted on their battle standards. In later centuries the White Horse was one of the emblems of the people of Wessex, cut on their chalk hillsides and carried as standards in battle. The word 'hengist' seems to have been so highly venerated that it ceased to be spoken at all. Is only survival in English is in 'henchmen', the man who looked after the 'hengist', but this has given only a few examples of Hensman and cannot have been much used. 'Horse', on the other hand, has remained in general use ever since that fifth-century landing in Kent, but, though it appears in many place names, such as Horsey in Norfolk, it never seems to have been applied directly to a man.
What was it that caused the people of the Middle Ages to refrain from using the names of horse and hound as nicknames, when all the other familiar beasts of field and forest were pressed into service? Were these two animals too dear, too near, too much part of the human family to be seen objectively as typical of any particular qualities? Or is the reason for their omission due to some deep-rooted feeling of sanctity that belongs more to the ethnologist than the historian?