Horsemanning is a type of photographic technique that creates an optical illusion of a person being beheaded. Originating from the 1920s, this technique requires two participants, where one person hides their head and the other person positions their head in a way that it appears detached from the body. It experienced a resurgence in popularity in the early 2010s due to social media.


The phonetics of the keyword “Horsemanning” is: /ˈhɔːrsmænɪŋ/

Key Takeaways


  1. Horsemanning is a type of photographic illusion or technique that was popular in the 1920s and was a precursor to Planking, a similar trend that swept across the internet in the 2010s.
  2. Unlike other photographic illusions, Horsemanning required two individuals to perform – one hiding his/her body while his/her head is in the frame, and the second hides his/her head while the rest of his/her body is in the frame. This gives the impression of a severed head.
  3. Horsemanning has seen a resurgence in popularity since its introduction, with it being shared on various social networks and has been used to add a sense of fun and creativity to contemporary photography.



Horsemanning is an important term in the realm of social media and digital communication as it refers to a specific type of photographic technique that took the internet by storm. Emerging as a popular internet meme in the early 2010s, “horsemanning” is essentially a style of photograph where two people simulate a beheading. It refers to a trend of taking pictures that create the optical illusion of a severed head. This fad became popular as a form of creative expression and online entertainment. Named after the Headless Horseman, a fictional character from the short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” horsemanning signifies the playful and interactive nature of online communication and provides a clear example of how photographic manipulation can be used in popular culture to engage audiences in novel and entertaining ways.


“Horsemanning” is not a technology term per se, but it is indeed closely related to the era of social media and digital photography. Its purpose and use primarily revolve around bringing an element of creativity, humor, and shock value into the realm of digital photography and internet culture. Rooted in an early 20th-century photography trend, this activity has become a popular pastime for individuals interested in creating unusual and attention-grabbing imagery.In essence, Horsemanning involves posing one or more persons in such a way that it appears someone has been beheaded. The beheaded individual’s body is laid flat while the head is placed in a position where it seems separate from the body. The technique requires careful consideration of perspective as well as smart use of the camera angles to create a realistic illusion. This practice serves as a playful way for people to showcase their creativity while engaging in a global, largely online, community, that shares such uniquely crafted images, fostering social interaction, collaboration, amusement, and a shared sense of participation in online culture.


Horsemanning, or fake beheading, is a popular photo trend that became viral in social media platforms around 2011. The origin of the term comes from an old 1920s era fad where people would pose with their heads in a way to give off the illusion of decapitation. Here are some real-world examples:1. Social Media Trends: In the mid-2010s, horsemanning photos were trending across social media platforms, especially Facebook and Instagram. Users would attempt creative horsemanning photos to generate likes and comments. Sometimes, these photos get shared across various platforms, going viral on the internet.2. Halloween Prop: Many individuals have employed horsemanning techniques for Halloween photos, creating an eerie and fun atmosphere. For example, posing someone behind a pumpkin so it looks like their head has been replaced by the pumpkin is a classic example of horsemanning used in Halloween.3. Film and Television: While not a direct example, horsemanning derives from tricks used in filmmaking and television to imply that a character has been killed or harmed. It has been used in various films and TV shows as a special effect to create an illusion of decapitation, and perfectly exemplifies the horsemanning trend in visual media.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Q: What is Horsemanning?A: Horsemanning is not a technological term but rather a trend in photography that became popular on the internet during the early 2010s. It involves two individuals posing in such a way that one’s head appears detached from the body.Q: How did Horsemanning become popular?A: Horsemanning became popular through social media where people began sharing their own variations of the pose, which typically involves one person hiding their head and another person hiding their body while showing their head at a different location.Q: Does Horsemanning involve any specific tools or skills?A: No. Horsemanning simply requires two participants and a camera. The participants need to pose correctly to create the illusion.Q: Can anyone participate in Horsemanning?A: Yes, anyone can participate in Horsemanning. It’s simple and usually done for fun. However, it’s advised to take pictures in a safe environment as some attempted poses can involve risky situations.Q: Where did the name Horsemanning originate?A: The name “Horsemanning” comes from the Headless Horseman, a character from the short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. The pose imitates the Headless Horseman by appearing to have a detached head.Q: Is Horsemanning related to technology?A: Although Horsemanning itself is not a technology, its spread and popularity can be attributed to digital technology specifically social media and digital photography. Q: Are there any other similar trends like Horsemanning?A: Yes, other similar photography trends have included “planking”, “owling”, and “Tebowing”, to name a few. These trends also involve posing in unusual ways and sharing the images on social media.

Related Tech Terms

  • Photography Trend
  • Social Media Viral Challenge
  • Headless Portrait
  • Illusion Technique
  • 1920s Fad

Sources for More Information


About The Authors

The DevX Technology Glossary is reviewed by technology experts and writers from our community. Terms and definitions continue to go under updates to stay relevant and up-to-date. These experts help us maintain the almost 10,000+ technology terms on DevX. Our reviewers have a strong technical background in software development, engineering, and startup businesses. They are experts with real-world experience working in the tech industry and academia.

See our full expert review panel.

These experts include:


About Our Editorial Process

At DevX, we’re dedicated to tech entrepreneurship. Our team closely follows industry shifts, new products, AI breakthroughs, technology trends, and funding announcements. Articles undergo thorough editing to ensure accuracy and clarity, reflecting DevX’s style and supporting entrepreneurs in the tech sphere.

See our full editorial policy.

More Technology Terms

Technology Glossary

Table of Contents