The topic of this research project is the symbolism of horses in Amish culture. My study poses the questions of how the horse both unifies and divides the Amish, and how the role of horses has changed within an economic context. The literature reviewed in this study takes a deeper look into Amish culture, and examines key animals in other cultures. To interpret my data I looked at the theoretical models of both Clifford Geertz and Victor Turner, within the field of symbolic anthropology. The methods I used to conduct this study were in-depth interviewing and participant observation. To obtain my data I interviewed eight Amish individuals. In my findings I discuss how the horse unifies the Amish through their transportation to church, slow pace of life, agrarian tradition, socialization of children, rites of passage, language, and horse auctions. I then illustrate the social and cultural distinctions reflected in horses through gender, age, affiliation, and 'horsey-ness'. Finally, I discuss the horse in a changing economic context in relation to occupational change, recreation, horse training, and horse-related accidents. In my discussion I conclude that horses serve as a unifying symbol in Amish society, reflect internal social differences among the Amish, and has changed its role within a social and economic context.


McConnell, David


Sociology and Anthropology




colby, mills, mcconnell, horse, amish, culture, symbol

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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