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37 Wild, Incredible, and Most Unbelievable Horse Facts from History

Last updated October 14, 2023 by Brad Heath

Horses have lived alongside humans for the last 6,000 years of history.  During this time, they have made countless contributions to our society as beasts of burden, plow animals, warhorses, athletic partners, and as symbols of culture and religion.  No other animals have had such a diverse and important role in shaping our human cultures over time.  To celebrate this long partnership, here are 37 wild and unbelievable horse facts from history!


  1. From 1897-1906, a horse named Beautiful Jim Key toured the country to perform in front of millions of Americans.  He was trained to read, write, do math, spell, tell time, sort mail and even recite the Bible!  (Source and Photo Credit: Ilovehorses.net)
    beautiful jim key
  2. The world’s oldest horse stables were created by Ramses II, an Egyptian pharaoh in 1302-1237 BC.  He used the stable to breed horses for war, recreation, and hunting.  The stables were immense, covering over 180,000 square feet and housing 460 horses at a time. (Source: BBC News)
  3. In 1952, American soldiers in Korea bought a mare named Reckless and trained her to carry supplies and evacuate the wounded without a guide.  One particular day, she made 51 solo trips along the supply routes to assist the war effort!  In 1953, she was promoted to sergeant, awarded two Purple Hearts and a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.  (Source and Photo Credit: Wikipedia)Reckless
  4. The first horses evolved around 55 million years ago, long before humans were around.  The planet was much warmer then with crocodiles living off of Greenland and palm forests in Wyoming.  (Source: American Museum of Natural History)
  5. Mrs. Esther Stace didn’t let her side saddle stop her from jumping her horse over a 6’6” obstacle at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in 1915. (Source and Photo Credit: Wikipedia) Esther Stace
  6. Humans first domesticated horses about 6,000 years ago.  Since then, our selective breeding programs have created more than 200 breeds of horses ranging from Thoroughbreds to Clydesdales.  (Source: American Museum of Natural History)
  7. Horse racing was one of the sports of the 33rd ancient Olympic Games of 648 BC held in Greece. (Source: Wikipedia)
  8. 10 million years ago, when the San Andreas Fault was just starting to form, up to a dozen species of horses lived on the Great Plains of North America. (Source and Photo Credit: American Museum of Natural History)

    horse varieties

  9. American Pharoah became only the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown races when he ran in 2015.  Today he enjoys his life at stud covering up to three mares a day for a $200,000 stud fee…each!  This means he earns up to $600,000 per day or $30 million per year for his owners.  Talk about a nice retirement! (Source and Photo Credit: NY Times)
    American Pharaoh NY Times
  10. Before humans learned to ride or train horses, they used to hunt them for food.  Early hunting weapons and horse remains provide evidence for this. (Source: American Museum of Natural History)
  11. The oldest horse to win a major race was an Arabian named Al Jabal, who won the Three Horseshoes Handicap Stakes in the United Kingdom at the ripe old age of 19!  (Source: Guinness World Records
    Al Jabal
    (Photo Credit: All Around Arabians)
  12. You can tell the age of a horse by looking at his teeth.  A famous saying came about in 400 AD when St. Jerome wrote, “Never inspect the teeth of a gift horse.”  Now we say, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth!”  (Source: Phrases.org.uk)
  13. Horses used to play an important role in the rituals of prehistoric people.  Ancient images carved in bones or paintings can be found in the archeological record. (Source: American Museum of Natural History)
    ancient horse art
  14. Traveller was a famous grey American Saddlebred that carried General Robert E. Lee through battle from 1862-1870.  He was known for his strong endurance and brave demeanor.  He is buried at Washington and Lee University where the school ‘safe ride’ program still carries his name. (Source and Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
    robert e lee traveller
  15. Only two horses have ever been given a full military funeral.  One of those honored was Comanche, a horse from General Custer’s cavalry who was found wounded on the field after the Battle of Little Bighorn.  He became the 7th Calvary’s mascot and was draped in black cloth to attend all military ceremonies for the unit.  His preserved body can be seen at the Natural History Museum at the University Of Kansas. (Source and Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
  16. Man O’War was one of the greatest racehorses of all time.  He won all but one of his 21 races and won almost $250,000 in the early 1900’s.  That was a LOT of dough back then!  He was the grandsire of another famous racehorse named Seabiscuit.  (Source and Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
    man o' war
  17. In the 1950s, TV star Roy Rogers was rarely seen without his Palomino named Trigger.  The horse’s original name was Golden Cloud, but Rogers changed it because he was quick with his mind and feet. (Source and Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
  18. The Bucky the Bronco statue outside of the Denver Broncos stadium is actually created from the same mold as a 24 foot statue of Roy Rogers’s horse Trigger. (Source: WereHistory.com)
  19. In the 1960s, Mr. Ed was a talking horse on TV that captivated the American public for 5 years.  They initial used a piece of thread attached to his mounth to make him 'talk.'  Eventually Mr.Ed learned to move his lips when his co-actor touched his hoof with his foot.  That's one smart horse! (Source and Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
    mr ed
  20. Black Jack was the riderless black horse for the funerals of JFK, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson and Douglass MacArthur.  He participated in over 1,000 military funerals and was given a full military funeral himself when he died.  (Source and Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
    black jack
  21. When famous racehorse Secretariat died in 1989, an autopsy revealed that his heart weighed around 22 pounds and was two-and-three-quarters larger than the average horse’s.  (Source and Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
  22. The dawn horse, called Eohippos, stood only 2 feet tall and weighed about 50 lbs.  It lived in the woodlands of North America and Western Europe between 55-45 million years ago. (Source: Dinosaurs.about.com)
  23. Three stallions are given credit for starting the modern Thoroughbred breed.  One of those is the Godolphin Arabian who lived from 1724-1753.  He was once given as a gift to King Louis XV who used him as a mere carthorse.  Later, he became the leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland.  His fictional biography, The King of the Wind, is enjoyed by children across our nation. (Source and Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
    Godolphic Arabian
  24. Another of the Thoroughbred founding fathers was the Darley Arabian who was bought in Aleppo, Syria in 1704.  Today, 95% of modern Thoroughbred racehorses have a Y chromosome that can be traced back to him.  (Source: Wikipedia)
  25. The highest a horse has ever jumped was 8ft 3 ½ inches by Freddie Wettach Jr. Riding horse King’s Own.  He only performed this feat in front of 25 people though so it was not ruled as an official record. (Source and Photo Credit: YouTube)
    King's Own
  26. The official record for the highest jump by a horse and rider is 8 feet 1.25 inches by Huaso ex-Faithful, ridden by Captain Alberto Larraguible Morales of Chile in February of 1949. (Source and Photo Credit: Guiness World Records).
    highest jump
  27. The largest horse parade had over 11,000 horses and riders in August of 2013.  It was part of a Federation of Mongolian Horse Racing Sport and Trainers event and included riders ranging in age from 90 years to a boy less than 3 years old. (Source and Photo Credit: Guinness World Records)
    Mongolian Horse Race
  28. The fastest speed every recorded over two furlongs for a horse was 43.97 mph and was achieved by a horse named Winning Brew who was being raced at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, PA in 2008. (Source: Guinness World Records)
  29. In Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, there is a 22 mile race where runners compete directly AGAINST horse and rider combos! (Source: Guinness World Records)
  30. Desert is a talented grey horse who has been trained to walk extended distances on his rear two legs!  He set a record for the fastest 10 m on hind legs by a horse with a time of 9.21 seconds.  (Source and Photo Credit: Guinness World Records)
    Desert the horse
  31. Horses are not native to Australia.  In fact there were no horses there until the eighteen century when settlers arrived with them. (Source)
  32. Alexander the Great has a horse named Bucephalus, which means “Ox head.”  He was named after the branding of an ox head on his haunches.  The story goes that Bucephalus was untameable and Alexander the Great made a bet that he could tame the wild beast.  The huge horse had a midnight black coat, large white star and a blue wall-eye. (Source and Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
    alexander the great
  33. The oldest horse on record was named “Old Billy” who lived to be 62 years old in is English home.  That’s roughly 173.5 horse years! (Source)
  34. Ancient Persians were excellent horseman and famous for their Nisean horses.  These people also played an early form of polo. (Source: Wikipedia)
  35. An annual race held in Mongolia starts more than 4,000 horses who must cover a distance of 18 km.  The youngest rider to participate in 2013 was only 7 years old. (Source and Photo Credit: Guinness World Records)Mongolian Horse Race
  36. Horses are extremely important in the Islam religion.  Proper horse care is even included in the sacred Hadith.  The Prophet Mohammed is said to have risen to heaven in a halo of fire on a horse-like creature. (Source)
  37. There is a law in Bluff, Utah that states that an unmarried woman can be jailed for riding a horse on Sundays. (Source)

Questions:  Which horse facts did you find the most interesting?

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