The Lovely Bones

Amanda Ronan gives us a glimpse at some of the most interesting horses in history… and how museums honored them.

Recently my daughter has become interested in skeletons. She loves them, she wants to go to museums to look at them, she draws them, she hopes to dig one up in our backyard…

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Which all got me thinking about horse skeletons.

One I’ve personally seen, displayed at the International Museum of the Horse, is Lexington, famous 19th century racehorse.

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Lexington, born in 1850, set a record on April 22, 1855 at a New Orleans racecourse by running 4 miles in 7 minutes, 19 ¾ seconds. But his greatest claim to fame may be through his progeny, one of which was Preakness… who later had a tiny little race named after him. After being buried in 1875, then exhumed in 1878, Lexington’s owner A.J. Alexander donated the horse’s bones to the United States National Museum.

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One of the more famous “research skeletons” is a horse by the name of Sysonby, a very successful racehorse from 1904 to 1906.

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In 1908, S. Harmsted Chubb, anatomist and research associate at The American Museum of Natural History in New York City, prepared the skeleton to demonstrate the stride of a running horse.  The Chubb series of skeletons are now famous as studies in locomotion.

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Probably the most famous non-racing horse in American history is Comanche, known as the sole survivor at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.

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Comanche was born in 1862, of Mustang lineage, captured in a wild horse roundup, gelded and enlisted in the U.S. Army on April 3, 1868. He was bay, 925 pounds, stood 15 hands high, and was the favored mount of Captain Myles Keogh of the 7th Cavalry. He sustained at least 12 wounds during skirmishes with the Regiment.

Two days after Custer’s infamous defeat, a burial party found the horse severely injured. He was transported to Fort Lincoln, 950 miles away, where he spent a full year healing.  Comanche remained with the 7th Cavalry, under orders excusing him from all duties. Comanche relocated with his Regiment to Fort Riley, Kansas in 1888 where he finally passed away in 1891 of colic.

The officers of the 7th wanted to honor Comanche by preserving his remains. He was donated to the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, where he is currently displayed.

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Comanche during the taxidermy process with actual bones preserved.

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Go Riding!


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