It’s cool to kōrero — September

September 27, 2023

Hōiho — horse

Three wild Kaimanawa horses standing in the tussock grass of the desert plateau. The Kaimanawa herd originated in the 1870s from Exmoor and Welsh Mountain ponies released into the wild. They were joined over the years by escapees from farms, cavalry horses released from Waiouru and unwanted horses dropped off in the area. The herd now includes bloodlines of Clydesdale, standardbred, thoroughbred and Arab horses. The herd, whose numbers are carefully managed to prevent damage to the local ecosystem, is associated with the Ngāti Tūwharetoa people. Photo: iStock
A horse kite joins other creatures in the sky in a Matariki kite-flying exhibition. Matariki celebrations can include the ritual of making and flying pākau — traditional Māori kites. Pākau are seen as a link between Papatūānuku, the earth mother, and Ranginui, the sky father. Photo: Adobe Stock

The potbellied seahorse, Hippocampus abdominalis, is found in coastal waters around Australia and New Zealand. In te reo Māori it has several names: kiore moana, manaia and inamoki. Photo: iStock

Haere mai — welcome to the September kōrero column. Te hōiho, the horse, was first brought to these shores by missionary Samuel Marsden more than 200 years ago.

On first seeing them, Māori were astounded by these large four-legged creatures, but quickly came to see their usefulness, adopting them for transport and farm work.


Rural Māori children often learnt to ride at an early age, and right through the 20th century, many would ride to school on horseback — some still do.

Māori were also keenly involved in horse-racing, organising their own race meetings from the 1870s, usually in iwi groups. These sometimes included a wāhine’s race — in the 19th century Pākehā women rode side-saddle but Māori wāhine tied their skirts to their ankles and sat astride, as men did.

The Ōtaki-Māori Racing Club describes itself as the last remaining Māori racing club in the country. Thoroughbred horses were introduced to the district in the 1840s and the club was formed in 1886. At that time, few Europeans lived in the area and at big race meetings, attended by 3-4000 people, only around 200 would be non-Māori.


Kupu hou (new word)
  • Hōiho (horse) — pronounced “haw-ee-hor”
  • I eke hōiho ki te kura a tōku matua. — My father used to ride a horse to school.

More words related to hōiho:

  • pereki hōiho — to break in or train horses
  • purei hōiho — horse racing
  • kiore moana — seahorse
  • tera — saddle
  • tanapu — to rear up (of a horse)
  • haeana — horse shoe
  • hōiho poka — gelding
  • hōiho uwha — mare
  • punui hōiho — foal

E mihi ana ki a Titihuia Pakeho rāua ko Mairi Lucas.

  4. Keane, B. (2015). Hōiho – horses and iwi. Te Ara — the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.