While horses have been used throughout history as a friend and mode of transport to man, not all horses have a myth or legacy. Certain horses however, horses who have performed unbelievable feats or simply been in the right place at the right time, have become the protagonists of folk tales that continue to be passed down thought he ages. Here are some of those horses, and their stories.
In this inventive 1877 English novel, a horse named Black Beauty narrates the tale. Throughout the book, Beauty tells his life story, from being born on an English farm, to his move to London where he pulled taxi cabs.
The story teaches lessons in animal welfare through the life-like narration of Black Beauty and the many good and terrible people he encounters throughout his life.
This huge, black horse belonged to Alexander the Great and helped him during his campaigns in Persia. The legend goes that Alexander was given the horse at age 13, because no one else was able to tame the wild beast. Alexander promised that he would pay the asking price, should he be unable to break him. Alexander succeeded in taming him, and Bucephalus became his life-long partner.
If you haven’t seen the major motion picture about Seabiscuit, then you probably don’t know his inspiring tale. This thoroughbred horse was born in the ’30s, during the height of the Great Depression. As a colt, he was weak, small, and prone to napping for long periods.
When Seabiscuit got hooked up with the right trainer, Tom Smith, he shed his not-so-brilliant past and became an incredibly successful race horse. The horse’s early trials and later success became a symbol of hope for many people during the depression.
Don’t let this horse’s humble name fool you. In 1901, this former milk-wagon horse became used as a vessel for producing diphtheria antitoxin serum, which was then distributed as a vaccine to the public. Unfortunately, after Jim contracted tetanus, his era as a boon to public health was over, and he had to be put down.
Old Billy is the longest lived horse on record. Born in England in the 1760s, he lived until the ripe old age of 62.
During his lifetime, Billy was used to pull barges up and down the English canals, before the rise of steamboats. His taxidermied head can be seen on display at the Bedford Museum in England.
The famous race horse, Lexington, was born in 1850, stood 63 and inches 3 inches high, and on April 2, 1855, set a record at the Metaire Course in New Orleans by running 4 miles in 7 minutes, 19 3/4 seconds.
Lexington died July 1, 1875, at Woodburn Farm, Woodford County, Kentucky and in keeping with his status, was buried in a coffin in front of the stables housing his harem. Finally, in 1878, his owner, A.J. Alexander, through the auspices of Dr. J.M. Toner, donated the horse’s bones to the United States National Museum.
Kidron became famous as General of the Armies John J. (“Black Jack”) Pershing’s horse. Historic photographs show Pershing riding Kidron triumphantly through the Victory Arch in New York City at the end of World War I. The horse died October 10, 1942, in Front Royal, Virginia. Hoping to have the horse mounted, the War Department, Front Royal Quartermaster Depot, Remount of Front Royal, Virginia, turned over the remains to the U.S. National Museum.
Old Henry Clay
Old Henry Clay was foaled on Long Island in 1837 and purchased by Colonel William W. Wadsworth of Seneso, Livingston County, New York. When his days as a famous trotting horse were over, he was used for breeding and finally died at Lodi, New York in the spring of 1867. In life the horse stood 61 inches high.
Little Sorrel Captured at Harpers Ferry by the Confederates, he was chosen initially for Mrs. Jackson but eventually commandeered by the General when his own horse, Big Sorrel, proved unreliable in battle.
In 1863, at Chancellorsville, Jackson, while riding the horse, was wounded by his own men and died a few days later. At first Little Sorrel was pastured at Mrs. Jackson’s home in North Carolina, later sent as a mascot to the Virginia Military Institute where the General had taught cadets he led to battle, and then in response to requests from many Southern States, was shown at fairs and exhibitions.
In 1885, ancient and infirm at the age of 35, he was retired to the Confederate Soldier’s Home. The following year he died when the hoist used to lift him to his feet slipped; he fell breaking his back.
He was known as the sole survivor of General George Custer’s command at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876.
Of mustang lineage, he was born about 1862, captured in a wild horse roundup, gelded and sold to the U.S. Army Cavalry on April 3, 1868, for $90. The bay, 925 pounds, standing 15 hands high with a small white star on his forehead, became the favorite mount for Captain Myles Keogh of the 7th Cavalry. He participated in frequent actions of the Regiment and sustained some 12 wounds as a result of these skirmishes. Two days after the Custer defeat, a burial party investigating the site found the severely wounded horse and transported him by steamer to Fort Lincoln, 950 miles away, where he spent the next year recuperating. Comanche remained here with the 7th Cavalry, never again to be ridden and under orders excusing him from all duties. Most of the time he freely roamed the Post and flower gardens. Only at formal regimental functions was he led, draped in black, stirrups and boots reversed, at the head of the Regiment.
Comanche is currently on display in a humidity controlled glass case at the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, Dyche Hall, Lawrence, Kansas.