|The National Museum of Natural History
often receives requests for information on famous horses which
are believed to be part of the Smithsonian's research collection
or on display in the exhibit areas. Several of the horses listed
are part of the Museum's collection; The rest are displayed
or stored at other institutions. The following facts have been
compiled from the files of the Division of Mammals of the Museum's
Department of Systematic Biology, Vertebrate Zoology Section,
personal correspondence, and accession and catalogue records.
Accession No. 121040
Catalogue No. 16020 (entry in cat., Nov. 7, 1878)
The famous race horse, Lexington, was born in 1850, stood 15
hands (63 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. Perhaps his greatest fame was
as sire to numerous brood mares and successful racers, one of
whom was Preakness, namesake of the classic race at Pimlico.
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. Professor N.A. Ward of Rochester, New York, was asked
by the Museum to supervise the disinterment and prepare the
skeleton for exhibit. Currently, the articulated skeleton can
be seen on display in at the International Museum of the Horse
in Lexington, Kentucky
Accession No. 69413
Catalogue No. 32870
General Philip H. Sheridan's horse during most of the Civil
War, Winchester was mounted and presented to the Smithsonian
in 1923 by the Military Service Institution, Governor's Island,
New York. The horse's name, originally "Rienzi," was
changed to Winchester after carrying Sheridan on his famous
ride from Winchester, Virginia to Cedar Creek, Virginia in time
to rally his troops and turn almost-certain defeat into victory.
Accession No. 164991
Catalogue No. 270900
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. However,
because of Kidron's age at the time of his death and because
the body had decomposed rapidly due to hot weather, taxidermists
were unable to mount the skin.
On March 31, 1943, the Office of the Registrar
at the Smithsonian accepted as a transfer from the War Department,
the skin and skull of Kidron. These remains are now part of
the research collection of the Division of Mammals in the National
Museum of Natural History.
Accession No. 52188
Catalogue No. 172454
Also known as the "Pride of the Desert",
this Arabian horse beat 19 Morgan horses winning the Justin
Morgan Cup in Vermont on June 1907.
He was brown, without white markings, stood 14.2
hands high and weighed 960 pounds. According to his owner, Homer
Davenport, the horse was acquired on August 8, 1900, from Nazim
Pasha, the governor of Syria and Aleppo, who had received it
from the supreme sheik of the Anezeh. The origin of the stallion
was cited as Mesopotamia (Anezeh Arabians). He was supposedly
bred by the Gomussa tribe of the Sebba Anezeh. His mother was
the last of the distinguished Maneghi Sbeyel mares, tracing
back more than 500 years, and his sire was a stallion of the
family of Sueyman Sebba of the southern desert.
After Haleb's death on November 10, 1909, at the
age of 8, his skull and partial skeleton, prepared by Ward's
Natural Science Establishment in Rochester, New York, were donated
to the Smithsonian by Davenport. The Division of Mammals assigned
a catalogue number to the specimen on December 9, 1910, and
placed it in the research collection.
Old Henry Clay
Accession No. 10191
Catalogue No. 21876
Old Henry Clay, often called "America's National
Thoroughbred Trotting Horse" or "Father of American
Trotting Horses", 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 15 1/4 hands
high. (61 inches)
Some 14 years after his burial, Old Henry Clay's
bones were dug up and his skeleton mounted by Ward's Natural
Science Establishment in Rochester, New York. The skeleton was
donated to the United States National Museum on April 22, 1881,
by the Honorable Erastus Corning and Henry C. Jewett through
the auspices of Randolph Huntington.
Only the mandible, a part of the skull, remains
as a remnant of Old Henry Clay. It is kept in the research collection
at the Smithsonian's Museum Support Center in Suitland, Maryland.
AMNH No. 204061
Chubb No. 61
The American Museum of Natural History in New
York City (which is not part of the Smithsonian Institution)
is home for the skeleton of famous racehorse Sysonby. From 1904,
as a two-year old, to 1906, his series of victories assured
him a place in racehorse history.
The horse died June 1906 at the age of 4 years
and 4 months, and his remains were donated to the Museum in
July of that year by James R. Keene. Funds for the skeletal
preparation were also provided. In 1908, S. Harmsted Chubb,
anatomist and research associate at the Museum, mounted the
skeleton to demonstrate a phase in the stride of a running horse.
The Chubb series of skeletons are famous as studies in anatomy
Currently, Sysonby is in the storage area of the
Museum with other horses of the Chubb Collection.
The skeleton of Hanover, another famous racehorse,
is at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
Traveller, famous as General Robert E.
Lee's horse, died in 1872, two years after Lee. Initially the
horse was buried, but in response to numerous requests, it was
disinterred and the skeleton mounted and displayed at Washington
and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. After more than 60
years on exhibit, on May 8, 1971, the horse was reburied outside
the Lee Chapel
at the University close to the Lee family crypt.
Defeat rather than victory brought fame to Comanche.
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.
When the Cavalry was ordered to Fort Riley, Kansas,
in 1888, Comanche, aging but still in good health, accompanied
them and continued to receive full honors as a symbol of the
tragedy at Little Bighorn. Finally, on November 7, 1891, about
29 years old, Comanche died of colic.
The officers of the 7th Cavalry, wanting to preserve
the horse, asked Lewis Lindsay Dyche of the University of Kansas
to mount the remains: skin and major bones. For a fee of $400
and on condition that he be permitted to show the horse in the
Chicago Exposition of 1893, Dyche completed the appropriate
taxidermy. Although there is no record of the fee being paid,
the horse was donated to the university's Museum and property
rights are vested in the University through L.L. Dyche.
Comanche is currently on display in a humidity
controlled glass case at the University of Kansas Museum of
Natural History, Dyche Hall, Lawrence, Kansas.
Little Sorrel, or "Fancy" as he was
known, became famous as the mount of General Stonewall Jackson.
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
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. Little Sorrel was stuffed and housed
in a museum at the Veterans Home until 1949 when he was finally
returned to V.M.I. Refurbished twice since 1886, Little Sorrel
is presently on display at the Virginia Military Institute's
Museum in Lexington, Virginia.
Neither a racehorse nor the mount of a famous
general, Trigger, owned by movie star cowboy Roy Rogers,
brought pleasure and excitement to countless motion picture
The golden palomino stallion appeared in all of
Rogers' 90 feature films and 101 television shows. According
to his owner, "He had great rein and could spin on a dime."
Inheriting the best characteristics of his sire, a thoroughbred
racehorse, and his dam, a golden palomino, Trigger had stamina,
beauty, intelligence, and a remarkably gentle disposition.
On July 3, 1965, at the Rogers ranch in Hidden
Valley, California, Trigger, 33, succumbed to old age. Reluctant
to "put him in the ground," Rogers had the horse mounted
in a rearing position by Bishoff's Taxidermy of California.
Trigger, in full regalia - bridle, saddle, and
martingale - is presently on exhibit at the Roy
Rogers - Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Missouri, the repository
for the Rogers memorabilia.
Information on Sysonby, courtesy of the
Department of Mammalogy,
American Museum of Natural History, New York, N.Y.
Information on Comanche, courtesy
of the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Lawrence,
Prepared by the Department of Systematic Biology,
Vertebrate Zoology Section,
National Museum of Natural History, in cooperation with Public Inquiry Services, Smithsonian Institution