There are several horses from ancient and recent history whose names come up again and again. In this post, we share the stories of 6 famous horses so you can know who people are talking about when they say names like Secretariat and Seabiscuit!
This tall, black horse was the beloved steed of Alexander the Great. Born in approximately 355 BCE, Bucephalus was presented as a gift to Alexander’s father, Philip II of Macedon. Philip wanted to send the horse away due to its wild behaviour, but the 12-year-old Alexander managed to tame the animal.
Alexander rode Bucephalus in many battles and promised destruction when Bucephalus was kidnapped (the kidnappers returned the horse). After Bucephalus died in 326 BCE, Alexander founded a city called Bucephala in his memory.
The Godolphin Arabian is considered one of the 3 founding sires of the modern Thoroughbred. He was born in approximately 1724, likely in Tunisia, and was given as a gift to the King of France. This small, bay-coloured Arabian horse was imported to England in 1729.
His name refers to one of his owners, the Earl of Godolphin. This horse was the father of approximately 90 foals, several of whom went on to racing success. The Godolphin Arabian died in 1753.
Man o’ War
This chestnut Thoroughbred, nicknamed Big Red, was born in 1917 in Kentucky. He won 20 out of 21 races in his 2-year racing career, only coming in second place in 1919 to a horse named Upset. By his fourth race, he was carrying 130 pounds (59 kg) as a handicap.
After retiring from racing, Man o’ War moved to a stud farm, where he received hundreds of thousands of visitors. He sired 379 foals and died of a heart attack in 1947.
This small, scrawny horse with his knees turned inward was an unlikely champion. Indeed, Seabiscuit proved difficult to train and did not win any races until his eighteenth attempt. With the switch to a new trainer, Tom Smith, Seabiscuit’s luck started to turn.
This bay horse was born in 1933, and his eventual success provided hope during the Great Depression. His main rider was Red Pollard, a Canadian jockey who was blind in one eye. After an 89-race career, Seabiscuit retired to a ranch in California, where he received over 50,000 visitors and died in 1947.
This small, stocky, dark bay horse was born in 1961 in Ontario. He was the first Canadian-born and -bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby. Northern Dancer won 14 out of 18 races but is most famous for the success of his offspring.
This spectacular stallion moved to a stud farm in Maryland, siring, among others, 147 horses that won stakes races. The fee for a mare to breed with Northern Dancer rose all the way to $500,000. He died in 1990 of colic, and his body was transported back to his home farm in Ontario.
This cocky chestnut horse, nicknamed Big Red just like Man o’ War, was born in Virginia in 1970. In 1973, he was the first horse in 25 years to win the American Triple Crown, which means that he won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.
Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by an astounding 31 horse lengths. He went on to have over 600 offspring and was put down in 1989. After Secretariat’s death, his heart was estimated to weigh a hefty 21 to 22 pounds (9.5 to 10 kg).
Do you know any other famous horses? Let us know in the comments!
Hello, My name is Shelby Gatti, and I am the owner of Shelby Ranch. I love being able to share my passion for animals with you and your family. At Shelby Ranch you can expect a ton of family adventure from horseback riding to mechanical bull riding & axe throwing.