North Moldavian Calul and Căiuți

Centred in Botoșani county (stretching south into Iași, Neamț and Bacău counties and north into Herța (now in Ukraine) the most widespread zoomorphic tradition is Calul (horse) in the form of the Caiuți (little horses). Lavric says the horse was seen as representing fertility in the Carpatho-Danube area, but now the Moldavian Caiuți, as a ritual masked character, has become largely a dance for entertainment.[1]

In most localities Calul, Căluțul or Caiuți are not accompanied by another zoomorphic masked character. The entourage of Căiuți generally includes other characters; ladies, knights, old men, officers, emperors, ladies, outlaws, Turks, bridegrooms, doctors, clerks, Arabs or characters taken from the outlaws’ folk theatre play. The show can include literary texts and shouts, or only the dance aspect.[2]

The horse head

Datini si Obiceiuri Broscauti 2019

The horse head (“mask”) is made from light weight wood. The wood is sometimes wrapped in straw, linen, or cotton wool over which there is a white, red or black cloth covering to create the desired shape. When it is bare wood it is usually painted white with the outline of the eyes and mouth painted in dark colours. The head is decorated with beads, the eyes are made of pegs, buttons, beads or mirrors. Numerous ribbons are attached varying in length from 20-30 cm to 2 meters.[2]

The horses can also have a crown of flowers and mirrors above their heads representing the planets, as the horse is considered to be a solar symbol. This crown can be large compared to the head so nearly obscures the origin as a horse head.[1]

Caiuti si capra Tudora – Traditii si obiceiuri – Sarbatori Iarna Moldova FULL HD

The dancer has two wooden hoops (“sieves”) attached to his belt at the front and behind to give the image of the dancer as horse rider. The form of the horse mask can be quite different, ranging from a small horse’s head on a stick that is carried in the hand, or more commonly the horse’s head is attached to the dancer’s belt. In most cases, the horse “mask” is fixed to the attachment on the front of the dancer’s belt. In some cases the horse has become a larger construction around the dancer, the same as a “frame-horse” typical of Western European traditions. The dancer of the horse can wear a local traditional costume, or a red shirt, or a military uniform.


The number of dancers and the formations in which the Caiuți dance depends on the locality. In some cases there are only one or two dancers, in other cases there are many dancers.[1]

Banda de la Satu Nou 2018

A pair of Căiuți dancers most often dance facing each other, or they dance in a pair facing the captain. When there are a greater number of Căiuți dancers they are typically in formations of a single row facing the captain, two rows facing each other with the captain at the end, or as a line entering the dance space or circling the dance space.[3]


In the locations of Dorohoi, Plevna, Satu Nou (Dorohoi) and Trestiana there is a newer urban development, most often under the name “Banda” where the horse head is carried in the hand, but the head is dominated by a decorated crown. The costume has become a shiny cloak and the dance is in a circle but without maintaining unison in step patterns.

Dancers around Calul characters

Căluțul din Mesteacăn 2017-2018

There are a few locations along the river Siret where the performance resembles other ritual traditions more closely in which a number of zoomorphic calul characters make their movements in the centre while a group of boys, holding a stick or sword, dance in a circle surrounding the characters.


The dance steps are performed with great vigour that requires considerable effort by the dancers, especially when holding a heavy frame horse. The “dances” are from two origins;

Каий дин Байраки- 2012 / 2013.

  1. Those that are specific only to the căiuți formations, such as Entrarea-n casă, Calul, Grivițeanca, Toaca, Gânjul, Căprăreasca, Ciobăneasca, Gontăreasca, Tăieta, Hobalanul.[1]
  2. Those from the local folk dance repertoire, such as Polcuța, Mazurca, Sârba, Tânțărașul, Coasa, Galopul, Alunelul, Cărășelul, Rața, Polca.[1]

In some local variants there are also dances specific to characters that accompany the Căiuți such as the officers, the bears, or the clerks.[1]

Obiceiuri de iarnă de la epureni

Although there are various names for the dances, both from the Căiuți and the social repertoires, there are a number of step pattern themes/motifs that are common to many dances. The most typical movements are jumps on both feet and large vertical or lateral movements of the horse head.

There are two rhythms used, the 7/16 (short-short-long) typical of many zoomorphic customs in Moldavia and a straight 2/4.

The main dance comes under various titles of Calul, Jocul căluțului, Jocul căiuților, but the name does not indicate a singular dance in terms of choreographic pattern.

The dances from the social repertoire take the melody and some part of the original step pattern where it is applicable to Căiuți formation and within its limitations, otherwise the Căiuți typical motif of jumps is inserted.

Step pattern motifs Dances [3]
Jumps on both feet Calul p127; Jocul căiuților p145; Căprăreasca p130; Toaca p138
Jumps with alternating foot forward Grivițeanca p135; Cumătrița p102
Jump on both feet apart, jump closing feet often with heel click Jocul căiuților p98, p107, p140
Three step pattern such as 1-2-stamp or jump-jump-stamp Intrarea-n casă p97, p103; Jocul căiuților p98, p109,
Four count pattern such as 1-2-3-stamp Gânjul p139
Bilateral 7 steps pattern Toaca p138; Gânjul p139; Hobalanul p133
Stamping pattern Jocul căluțului p123; Jocul căiuților p107, p112; Ciobăneasca p110, p124; Bătuta p95


  1. Lavric, Dumutru (1976). Folclor din județul Botosani: teatru popular. Botoșani: Comitetul județean de cultura se educație socialista.
  2. Lavric, Dumutru in Andriescu, Vasile (1980). Jocuri populare din Județul Botoșani/Folclor coregrafic Botoșani. Botoșani: Comitetul de cultură și educație. socialista al Judetului Botosani.
  3. Andriescu, Vasile (1980). Jocuri populare din Județul Botoșani/Folclor coregrafic Botoșani. Botoșani: Comitetul de cultură și educație. socialista al Judetului Botosani.
Published on 12th July 2022