From dancing parrots to dogs shaking hands, talented animals are a popular source of amusement. Horses have had their own share of talent, from painting to performing mathematical calculations. In this post, we share the stories of 4 gifted horses.
Cholla: The Painting Horse
Born in Nevada in 1985, Cholla was a copper buckskin mustang-Quarter Horse mix. He had a black mane and tail, a dorsal stripe, and zebra stripes on his legs. After noticing that Cholla followed her around as she was painting his corral, his owner—Renee Chambers, a ballet dancer—decided to try giving him a paintbrush.
Although Chambers put the paint on the brush and stuck it in Cholla’s mouth, he did the painting independently. He appeared to enjoy painting, creating colourful abstract designs.
Cholla’s paintings have been displayed and sold internationally, and he even received an honourable mention for the Italian Arte Laguna Prize in 2008. The contest was open to all artists, although the judges did not realize initially that he was a horse. Cholla died in 2013.
Thor of Hopehaven: The Trick Performer and Painter
This American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft gelding lives on a farm in Georgia. He has a dark coat with a patch of spots around his hindquarters. His owner, Dorinda Hemmings, is a painter and has taught him a number of tricks.
Thor’s tricks include bowing, shaking hands, opening and closing a mailbox, and fetching a drink from a cooler. One day, Hemmings noticed him pick up a paintbrush, so she tried setting him up with a canvas. Hemmings picks the colours then gives Thor the brush.
Clever Hans: The Talented Tapper
In Berlin in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, awed crowds gathered to watch the performances of Clever Hans, an Arabian stallion. Hans answered questions from his trainer—Wilhelm von Osten, a high school math teacher—by tapping his hoof to indicate letters and numbers or by moving his head.
Hans gave accurate answers to math questions, stated the time, spelled names, and identified colours, musical pieces, and more. The German Board of Education studied Hans for a year and a half but did not find any hoax. However, in 1907, biologist and psychologist Oskar Pfungst discovered that the horse was responding to very subtle cues from questioners, in what is now known as the “Clever Hans effect.”
Clever Hans was drafted during the First World War and died in 1916.
Lady Wonder: The Psychic Horse
Lady Wonder, a black mare with white feet and 3 white stockings, was born in Virginia in 1924. Her owner, Claudia Fonda, worked at an iron foundry and raised Lady from a young age. Suspecting that her horse had special abilities, Fonda trained her to move blocks containing letters and numbers.
Fonda built a large, piano-sized typewriter that Lady could press with her muzzle to answer questions. Approximately 150,000 people visited the supposedly psychic horse, paying $1 to have her answer 3 questions about topics ranging from romance to horse race results and the location of missing children.
She gave enough correct answers that many people believed in her powers, even some scientists. Of course, many were also skeptical, attributing her success to unconscious cues or trickery. Lady Wonder died in 1957.
What do you think about these horses’ exceptional abilities? 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.