rusa head (Animal Puppet)

About this object

History of use

The rusa is an animal mask supposed to have an influence on the reproduction and health of horses and cattle. It is known in Slovenia and Europe, especially in areas depending on horse breeding. The rusa makes individual rounds through villages and also performs at organized carnival events, often with the ploughmen. There are two types of rusa- a four-legged and a two-legged. The four-legged rusa, also known as a camel, is animated by two boys. They put on a wooden framework, covered with sackcloth. A head is attached at the front, or it is mounted on a wooden pole to be moved by the first boy. At the back of the frame a tail is attached, underneath which are pig's bladders filled with air, representing scrotums. Some rusas have a rag doll on their back, to represent a rider. A two-legged rusa is very popular in the area of Haloze and Slovenske Gorice. It is also known in the village of Markovci, where it was revived in the 1990s following the local tradition. An individual puts on the framework, which is opened on the top, so the bust of the person assumes the role of a rider. The tail is hung behind and the head, made of wood, is stuck onto a stick. Both hands must be used for head movements: one hand pulls the string and the other makes the head move in a way to make the rusa snatch at people. The rusa is accompanied by a collector and a drover. The three of them storm in on the farmyard. There they try to sell the restless and disobedient rusa to the owner of the farm. The deal fails and the group wishes good luck to the farmer and their family, who, in return, treat the members of the group to drink and offer sausages, as well as money.

Physical description

Animal puppet head on a wooden pole. Head and mobile lower jaw are made of wood, curved ears are made of metal. The oval-shaped eyes, screwed onto either side of the face, are made of wood. The head and upper section of the pole, imitating a neck, have different coloured fur nailed to them. The face and lower jaw are white-grey, the ears are brown-red, and the neck is light brown-orange. Dark brown fur runs down the back of the neck and down the centre of the face. The muzzle of the rusa is painted grey-purple with black nostrils. The wooden eyes are painted black, with the centre front done in white. The mouth is lined with red leather, with a long, matching tongue sticking out from the lower jaw. The mobile lower jaw is operated with a green, plastic string. The string is threaded through both the upper and lower jaw, and then passes down the back and front of the pole. The string has a black handle at the end. Jaw joint consists of a metal hinge and white cloth bands.