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The Legend of Zelda is one of gaming’s most beloved series. The 30-year-old franchise is one of Nintendo‘s most successful, and the characters and storylines it contains have inspired and entertained fans for decades.
One of the quintessential parts of The Legend of Zelda is Link’s faithful steed, Epona. This loyal horse has been with Link since nearly the beginning, and her steadfast presence has become something that fans rely on. In light of that, let’s take a closer look at the best horse in Hyrule.
10 interesting facts about Epona from The Legend of Zelda
1) Epona’s name originates in Celtic mythology
Epona is the goddess of horses and fertility in Celtic mythology. Her name originates from the Celtic roots “epos”—which means “horse”—and the suffix “ona” which simply means “on.” Nintendo game designer Yoshiaki Koizumi, who named Epona, said in an interview “when you name something, it increases your affection for it, so I worked hard to make her a good horse.” Mission accomplished, Koizumi.
2) Epona isn’t just any horse—she’s a silver bay
Bay horses are characterized by their reddish-brown coats, typically accompanied by a black mane, tail, and ear edges. A silver bay trades that dark mane and tail for a light, silvery blonde. Epona’s build and height look like she could be a light draught horse breed like a Noriker, which would make her the perfect mount for the mountainous terrain that is common in Hyrule. Her stocky build and short legs make her look more suited to hauling than racing. Her loyal temperament—once you have wooed her affection by playing her song, of course—and sure-footedness allow her to maintain the even gait necessary for the mounted combat that Link so enjoys.
3) Epona was added into the games due to Shigeru Miyamoto’s love for westerns
When asked in an interview about the decision to add in a horse, Koizumi said that they started considering the possibility of adding in a horse during the development of Super Mario 64. Legend of Zelda and Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto explained that his motivation came from the cowboy movies he grew up watching.
“[Westerns] had a big influence over me,” he said. “And the drinking spouts at elementary school always had aluminum cups. We used to flip those over and knock them against the concrete in rhythm so it sounded like a horse galloping. That’s how much we all loved horses when we were kids. That rhythm is ingrained into us. That’s why I really wanted to make it so you can ride a horse in the Ocarina of Time.”
4) They had to make cut scenes for every possible exit from Lon Lon Ranch in Ocarina of Time
In order to make gameplay easier, the developers decided to give Epona auto-jump. Anytime the player approaches an obstacle that Epona can jump over, she will jump automatically. The first instance of this being used is when Link and Epona are escaping from Lon Lon Ranch in Ocarina of Time. Game developers came across a problem, however, when they realized the gate was not the only possible exit from the ranch. Because Miyamoto the game to break into a cut scene as Link and Epona flee, developers had to make an animation for each possible exit, just in case players decided to switch it up.
5) Miyamoto suggested adding carrots for the sake of enjoyment
With blatant disregard for his requirement that “a Legend of Zelda game doesn’t need any difficult actions,” Miyamoto decided to add in the carrot-based speed system to make horseback riding more entertaining.
“Miyamoto-san said that just riding around on a horse wouldn’t be very fun game-wise. He wanted to put in some sort of action, so he added carrots,” Koizumi said. Cracking the whip gives Epona a burst of speed, but each whip crack costs a carrot. When you use up all of your carrots Epona tires for awhile, and you lose the ability to crack the whip or jump over barriers for a time.
6) You can only summon Epona once in Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild has been blowing players away with its gorgeous graphics and expansive world since it was released earlier this year. Nintendo seriously upped the ante in its most recent release, building a more complex world with roaming wild horses the player can tame. Though Epona is available to unlock, she is not easy to get. There is an amiibo you can purchase to scan Epona into the game; however, unlocking her is not the end of it. Once you have obtained Epona, you need to immediately go to a stable and register her or she could be lost forever. If she is lost or killed before you register her, you will not be able to scan her back into the game again, and you will have to make do with the other mounts the game provides. Once you do register Epona, she has fours across the board in strength, speed, and stamina, and her gentle temperament makes her an excellent companion.
7) In Breath Of The Wild Epona is the only horse that does not need to be tamed
The newest installment in the Legend of Zelda deviated from the formula of prior Zelda games in several ways, from its open-world setting to the ability to find, tame, and ride wild horses. Breath of the Wild allows players to select whatever horse they want for their stable; however, first they must be caught and tamed. Once Epona has been unlocked, however, she is yours. No need to sneak up on her or go through the effort of breaking her, she is all yours as soon as she spawns. After all, you’ve already been on many adventures together over the years.
8) There is an Epona-inspired bike in Mario Kart 8
There is a bike that looks oddly familiar in the latest Mario Kart installment, decked out in little triforces, the Hylian Shield, and even sporting a very horse-like head. Nintendo’s Twitter account gave the bike’s origins a coy nod when it noted that it has “plenty of horse power.” The bike has a variety of names depending on your country, from America’s “Master Cycle” to France’s “Destrier de Légende” or “Legendary Steed.” The bike takes a minute to get started, but once it does it has the highest speed of any in the game, and its superior handling makes it one of the best vehicle choices.
9) Epona is a villager in Animal Crossing New Leaf
One of Nintendo’s more adorable series, Animal Crossing, has several installments that allow players to live in a city with precious little anthropomorphic animals. In New Leaf, which was released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2013, players take the role of the mayor of a new town with the goal of making it a better place to live. The Welcome Amiibo update, released in late 2016, introduced amiibo compatibility and several new characters, including Epona. Epona’s charming little bipedal character is peppy and sweet, and can be scanned into the game with a Link Rider, Sheik, Majora’s Mask, or Ocarina of Time Link amiibos.
10) Epona’s birthday is the same day as the original release of Ocarina of Time
Animal Crossing New Leaf revealed Epona’s birthday, which she shares with the classic Zelda game Ocarina of Time. Arguably the most popular game in the franchise, Ocarina of Time was first released on Nov. 21, 1998. This was also the first game to feature Epona, so it seems quite fitting that her birthday corresponds with its release.
Nahila Bonfiglio reports on geek culture and gaming. Her work has also appeared on KUT's Texas Standard (Austin), KPAC-FM (San Antonio), and the Daily Texan.