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Revealed: Google 'horse-boy' exclusive interview

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 01 July 2010

Mysterious hooves, teenage pranksters or art students with a YouTube account? Channel 4 News has tracked down the shady equine figure that is Google horse-boy (aka Dobbin Horsome) for this exclusive interview.

Google 'horse-boy' in the street seconds before he cantered away. (Credit: Dobbin Horsome)

Can you prove you are Google horse-boy?
No problem, passport available upon request. Or you can find me on the national DNA database if you had a sample of my DNA, which only the police have, held on the national DNA database.

Whether I really want to be readily identified is perhaps the more pertinent question. All this attention is certainly fascinating but I quite like lurking in the shadows for now. I'm monitoring the "internet sensation" as it progresses.
To engage with those interested - this interview, for instance - is brilliant.

Google Street View sparks 'horse-boy' mystery

What were you doing in those Google Street View pictures and how did you come to be in them?
Pure luck. And blatant opportunism. But so much luck.

Having just been heading back to the pub to see my recently-wedded Scottish mate with the infamous mask in my hand, only to spot a famous Google car, in a split-second moment of thinking "I'll only regret this if I don't at least give it a go".

Did you intend to get photographed by Google?
Yes, but only at a few moments notice, as outlined above. The funny thing is that I only found out as one of my "inner circle" of pals got in touch with me as the original BBC Scotland story broke recently.

I'm not from Scotland and, in all seriousness, I'd not followed up on the incident since I don't know the streets (so wouldn't really know where to check on Google Street View), plus I'd dismissed it from my mind as I'd presumed the Google photographers would have taken another shot and published that, not me!

What is your real name?
Dobbin Horsome.

What do you do for a living?
Whatever keeps me snug and fed in bales of hay. I do love making people smile. And occasionally cower. But mostly smile. I love that flicker around someone's lips when they're trying not to laugh.

(Horse-boy: "Me and the groom rocking out for a few seconds")

Incidentally, I do think fear and humour are closely intertwined. Especially when I'm around: when I'm first spotted it's about a 50/50 chance of a shriek of laughter or nervous shock. But almost always a shriek.

You can see me working at my office on my YouTube page (username dobbinhorsome).

Jeremy Kyle appearances and deep sea diving expeditions also tide me over. You'll see more of my adventures in the forthcoming documentary. On a more mundane level I do a lot of business analysis specialising in technology and communications.

Are there any others like you out there?
Others like me? Well, there are others who like to wear a horse's mask and lark about, so in a sense the answer is yes and I try to collate videos of these on my YouTube channel.

That said, Dobbin Horsome is a unique character with his own personality. Of course, I wouldn't and couldn't restrict the power of horse-boy to one vessel.

When did you start doing this?
I and a co-hort began working on various productions under the banner of Oh Cheers Productions in 2008. In conceptual terms, Oh Cheers acts as the agent for Dobbin Horsome's shenanigans.

Dobbin Horsome's inception was around spring 2009. Later in 2009 he started a Twitter stream and a YouTube account. He also joined Facebook.

During the above period, one of our affiliates - a film-maker - expressed an interest in making a documentary. This remains in progress as Dobbin's story continues to unfold, but the rushes are looking good and we are pleased to have captured the culmination of his earliest days. In March 2010, Dobbin started his blog - Bloggin' With Dobbin.

This then brings us neatly up to date of June 2010, when reports of a "horse-boy" were picked up and went viral. And we are so, so pleased.

(Horse-boy: "You can see my silhouette from 0:01 then the kilted groom prancing around from 0:08. And an amusing ending. I was "blinkered", I suppose you could say")

Why did you start doing this?
As with any project there are often multiple intentions. Firstly, for sure, is for fun; for japes and entertainment. Secondly, it has been an experiment in social networking and communications. For example, we would never have anticipated that someone from Channel 4 News would be interested in our work.

That said, we make no secret of hoping for this kind of thing to occur. We revel in the thrill of the unpredictable. We have always wanted to go viral, create a meme. To pick up a Metro on a weekday morning and to see a big "DOBBIN HORSOME" headline.

How often do you go out as Google horse-boy?
Whenever there seems to be the chance to cause a few surprised looks. Dobbin Horsome is quite sociable but also quite picky with his frequency of going out.

How many people know your secret? 
Not too many. My close inner circle of acquaintances.

Why Aberdeen?
It coincided with my Scottish pal's wedding. As I said in questions 2 and 3, it was a combination of luck and prior research. I am Dobbin Horsome and I want to be known for who I am.

Were you disappointed it took so long for everyone to spot you on Google maps?
Not at all. To be picked up at all has been excellent. I feel vindicated for what some might consider eccentricity.

Are you part of an organised group that is trying to get caught by Google's cameras?
Now that is a good idea. I think you'd need someone working on the inside to do it right. Thanks for the suggestion. I will research drivers routes and timetables. A bus driver job application seems like a sensible place to start.

View Larger Map

When do you intend to stop being horse-boy?
I think Dobbin Horsome is here to stay. He might have periods of respite, of course, but only so as not to over-expose himself and thus undervalue the unique shock-factor when he enters the room.

That's how he gets his kicks. In short, I ain't quitting on this side of the apocalypse. Or should that be aCLOPalypse? Clippety clop.

Do you know who the drivers are who were photographed in the other Google pictures?
No. They just seemed to be doing their job and I'd neither seen them before the event nor since. Darkened windows made them difficult to make out anyway.

They probably felt reassured to be in relative safety from the unusual entity they were photographing. If I were them I would have locked my doors.

What is your galloping speed?
I don't tend to gallop so much as canter.

Can you jump hurdles?
I wouldn't like to try. Perhaps I could with a hover board. Dobbin Horsome riding a hover board would be a cool site to see, don't you think?

What does your family think?
My father is actually proud while my mother just chuckles and I can't be sure what she thinks. Perhaps she knows better than anybody why I do this. She'll tell me one day, perhaps. My wife is bemused, but sometimes she is horrified when Dobbin makes a random appearance, which is great.

Do you work for Google?
No. Perhaps another way to look at is to ask if they offered me work, would I consider it? In the same way as an ex-computer hacker would work for IBM? Yes.

Where is the rest of your horse suit?
You understand the metaphor of a birthday suit? Well, like most other clothed beings, the rest of my horse "suit" is under my horse clothes, just as the rest of a human suit would be under their human clothes.

(Google horse-boy: "My silhouette in the 'big space' at Tate Modern")

Are you a member of a group of pranksters or do you work alone?
If in a group, how do you communicate (online?) and do you organise group events? We are a small group. We communicate using various technologies.

We're not so much "internet pranksters" as more broadly-reaching comedic chancers. There are a small handful of us and we're quite close and have known each others for years.

Are you always a horse, or do you have other alter-egos?
There will always be alter-egos. There are other projects and other ideas. One day, I might even be human. One day.

What are you trying to draw attention to by being caught on camera? Do you have an agenda or a message?
Not explicitly so, but we certainly have a set of interests. In a sense our efforts are subversive. We strive to be part of the wave that reverses the traditional "chain of command", if you will, which determines what is and what is not popular.

That old business model is gone. Kaput. Finito. And good riddance. This "internet sensation" malarkey does seem to indicate an interest in Dobbin Horsome, our "product", and this project sure beats watching the X-Factor on a Saturday night.

So I suppose you could see it as a comment on how we are becoming more active and involved as communicators - as an entire species.

This is the beauty of the internet: it facilitates true democracy, where a click equals a vote. Having said all that, we do just love that sinister glint in that horse's eye.

And that immediate startled response to any onlookers not expecting what they see as turn find themselves nose-to-nose to our most excellent friend, Dobbin Horsome.

If you think you know the true identity of Google horse-boy contact Channel 4 News at @channel4news on Twitter.

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