Since humans have been riding horses for thousands of years, it is no wonder that racehorses and war horses have made history. Many people will recognize Mister Ed or the horse from the movie Spirit. Even fictional horses, such as Black Beauty, are based on real horses. These are the most well-known horses in history; how many do you recognize?
Man O’War, One Of The World’s Greatest Racehorses
Man O’War was one of the best racehorses of all time. His career began just after World War I, and he won 20 out of 21 races. By the end of his career, he received the modern equivalent of $3.2 million.
In 1920, The New York Times labeling Man O’War as an outstanding athlete alongside Babe Ruth. Several magazines have called him the greatest American racehorse of the 20th century.
Mister Ed, The Horse Behind The Screen
If you watched CBS in the 1960s, you might remember Mister Ed. This sitcom included a talking horse by the same name, voiced by Allan Lane. However, you might not know that the real horse’s name was Bamboo Harvester.
Bamboo was a Los Angeles-born gelding. After the show, he, unfortunately, suffered from age-related ailments and died in 1970.
Seabiscuit, One Of America’s Most Famous Racehorses
Seabiscuit is one of the most well-known American racehorses to date. This thoroughbred became the top-winning horse of the 1940s. His most famous win was beating the previous Triple-Crown winner, War Admiral, in 1938.
Seabiscuit became a symbol of hope for Americans who suffered through the Great Depression. Since then, he has become the subject of multiple books and films.
Black Beauty, And The Inspiration Behind Him
Although Black Beauty is not a real horse, it is impossible to discuss famous horses without mentioning him. He (since he was male in the original book) is the subject of Anna Sewell’s novel, which became one of the highest-selling books of all time.
Black Beauty was inspired by Sewell’s own family horse, Bess. Bess was said to be spirited and spunky, and Sewell treated her as a family member.
Spirit, The Real Horse Behind The DreamWorks Movie
If you’ve ever seen the DreamWorks movie Spirit, you might believe it’s fiction. It is–but the main character was inspired by a real horse with the same name.
The animators wanted to make the movie seem as real as possible, so they spent countless hours observing the Kiger mustang. After the movie was released, Spirit moved to the Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary.
Blueskin, Who Fought In The American Revolution
Although you may not have heard of Blueskin, you’ve likely seen him before. Blueskin was George Washington’s half-Arabian grey horse, which he is often seen riding in paintings.
Blueskin witnessed much of the American Revolutionary War. After the war, he retired and lived at Washington’s plantation, Mount Vernon. Washington’s other main horse was Nelson, but he is not depicted in most artworks.
Sergeant Reckless, The Only Horse Member Of The U.S. Marines
Sergeant Reckless was a Mongolian horse who worked with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War. She is the only decorated horse to hold a rank within the Marines.
Sergeant Reckless had the same freedoms as a soldier. She was allowed to freely roam the camp, entire others’ tents, and would eat almost everything from chips to Coke.
Hidalgo, The Poster Child Of Mustangs
Frank Hopkins was one of the most popular horse riders of the early 1900s. His races with his mustang, Hidalgo, encouraged Americans to preserve mustang populations.
Hidalgo quickly became the poster child of mustangs and horse conservation. In 2004, the film Hidalgo allegedly retold his life’s story, where Viggo Mortenson played Frank Hopkins.
Misty of Chincoteague, The Real Horse Behind The Book
Marguerite Henry’s children’s book, Misty of Chincoteague, chronicles the Beebe family as they work to raise a foal named Misty. The novel was inspired by a real Chincoteague Pony of the same name.
Marguerite Henry purchased Misty as a weanling in 1946. She published her novel the next year, which immortalized Misty and put her in the hearts of many.
Potoooooooo, The Best Racehorse Of The 1700s
Potoooooooo, also spelled as Pot-8-Os, was one of the best racehorses of the 18th century. He won over 30 races and defeated some of the best competitors at the time.
You might be wondering about his strange name. According to owner Willoughby Bertie, the fourth Earl of Abingdon, he wanted to name the horse Potato. But the stableboy misheard that Pot plus eight O’s.
The Pie, The Horse From National Velvet
According to the Library of Congress, National Velvet (1944) was one of the most “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” movies of the 20th century. Many might recognize Velvet’s horse, “The Pie.”
The film was based on a 1935 novel by the same name. In the movie, The Pie was portrayed by a thoroughbred named King Charles.
Thunder, The Denver Broncos’s Mascot
Fans of the Denver Broncos football team might recognize Thunder. He is the mascot for the NFL team.
The original Thunder’s real name was JB Kobask. Since him, two other horses have taken on the stage name. All three are grey, purebred Arabians. Broncos fans believe that it is good luck for the opposing team’s fan to pet the horse.
Trigger, “The Smartest Horse in the Movies”
Originally named Golden Cloud, Trigger was Roy Rogers’s palomino horse. Rogers rode this horse in several Western movies from the late 1930s to the early ’50s.
Trigger was nicknamed “The Smartest Horse in the Movies” for his easygoing temperament and intelligence. He often visited hospitals and shelters to provide encouragement for the people there.
Bucephalus, Alexander The Great’s Steed
Alexander the Great’s horse, Bucephalus, is one of the most well-known horses from antiquity. He was described as a massive black horse with a star on his brow.
Historians believe that Bucephalus was a Akhal Teke, a breed which still exists today. Bucephalus carried Alexander through many battles, but he died during the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC.
Red Rum, Who Never Fell During 100 Races
Red Rum is one of the greatest racehorses in history. A thoroughbred steeplechaser, he won the Grand National in 1973, 1974, and 1977. For those who don’t know, the Grand National is widely regarded as the world’s most difficult race.
Even so, Red Rum frequently won with his fantastic jumping abilities, and he never fell during 100 races. When he died at age 30, it made front-page headlines.
Shergar, The Racehorse Who Vanished
Shergar is one of the most well-known racehorses in Ireland, having competed in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Shergar is famous for not only his successful career but for what happened afterward.
In 1983, Shergar was kidnapped. His captors demanded £2 million in ransom. When it was not paid, Shergar was never seen again.
Shadowfax, And The Horses Who Portrayed Him
In The Lord of the Rings, Shadowfax is “the lord of all horses.” He was described as silvery-grey in daylight but barely visible at night. Until The Two Towers movie was released in 2002, Shadowfax was only a fictional character.
In the film, Shadowfax was played by two horses: Blanco and Demero. Both were Andalusian stallions that Sir Ian McKellen rode.
Spanky And Her Co-Performer, Dally The Dog
When members of Rother Horsemanship purchased the miniature horse Spanky, she was hostile to both humans and animals. But after a few years, she became more docile and started performing tricks.
Spanky later befriended a Jack Russell Terrier, Dally. The two compete together, have their own book, and have appeared on popular shows such as the David Letterman Show.
Nearco, The Undefeated Sire Of Many Racehorses
Nearco, the Italian thoroughbred racehorse, was one of the greatest racehorses of all time. Between 1937 and 1938, he won 14 1000 m to 3000 m races, making him undefeated.
Nearco also sired some of the best racehorses in Europe. This includes Arkle, Ireland’s most famous horse, and Frankel, a famous British racing horse.
Traveller, Robert E. Lee’s Famous Warhorse
Traveller belonged to Robert E. Lee, the most famous general of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. This grey American Saddlebred became famous for his speed and courage.
Traveller outlived his owner by one month and trailed Lee’s casket during the funeral. He later died of tetanus. Traveller’s bones were displayed at Washington and Lee University.
Marengo, Napoleon’s Courageous War Horse
Marengo is another warhorse that you might have seen in paintings. He belonged to Napoleon I of France. Napoleon named him after the Battle of Marengo in 1800, during which he carried his rider to safety.
Marengo was a grey Arabian horse who was imported from Egypt. Despite being wounded eight times in battle, Marengo survived all of them. His skeleton is on display at the Household Cavalry Museum.
Renegade, The Mascot Of The Florida Seminoles
Renegade is the mascot of the Florida State University Seminoles. This gorgeous Appaloosa horse is one of two mascots; the second is Osceola, the 19th-century leader of the Seminoles.
Since the mascot appeared in 1978, six different horses have portrayed Renegade, and 17 riders have played Osceola. Many residents of Florida would recognize Renegade on sight.
Secretariat, Who Still Holds Several World Records
Secretariat, also called Big Red, competed as a racehorse in the early 1970s. To this day, he maintains the fastest time records in all three races of the American Triple Crown.
Widely regarded as one of the world’s best racehorses, Secretariat was second only to Man O’War. He won five Eclipse Awards and was syndicated for a record-breaking $6.08 million (which is $35.4 million in 2020).
Burmese, Queen Elizabeth’s Horse Of 17 Years
The beautiful black horse Burmese was a gift to Queen Elizabeth II. This Police Service Horse belonged to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who gave it to the queen in 1969.
For 17 years, Queen Elizabeth rode Burmese during the Trooping the Colour. Burmese later retired and lived the rest of her life at Windsor Castle.
American Pharoah, A Modern-Day Marvel
American Pharoah is one of the most popular modern-day racehorses. In 2015, he won all four of the American Triple Crown and was the first horse to win the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing.
American Pharoah only competed in 2014 and 2015, but he managed to win multiple awards in that time. When he won American Horse of the Year, the vote was unanimous.
Ron Howard’s western The Missing is harrowing, dramatic, and full of action. After Maggie Gilkeson witnesses her teenage daughter being kidnapped by Apache Rebels, she has no choice but to ask for the help of her estranged father, Samuel. The two have to work together if they hope to rescue Lily before she is sold into slavery south of the border.
The film garnered positive reviews. It’s said to be one of Ron Howard’s best films to date, with fantastic acting and a thrilling plot that keeps audience members on the edge of their seats.
Open Range brings the beauty of Western cinema into the 21st century with its scenery, plot, and character development that covers everyone from friendly cattle drivers to revenge-driven cowboys. The film follows the story of Boss Spearman and his two right-hand cowhands Charley and Mose, as they herd their cattle across the countryside.
But when Mose ventures into a village and doesn’t come back, it’s up to Boss and Charley to rescue him and get revenge on whoever is holding him captive. Film critic Roger Ebert said, “[the movie is] an imperfect but deeply involving and beautifully made Western.”
In La Belle, New Mexico, a mining accident left the western town with a population of primarily women. Now, the town is governed by the hardened women, so when word gets out that the infamous criminal Frank Griffin and his gang of misfits are on their way to town in search of an “ex-brother,” the women band together to take them down.
Godless has been praised for taking the traditional Western genre and modernizing it with a predominantly female cast in a male-dominated genre. This fresh take was highly regarded and helped the mini-series land the title as one of the best shows of 2017.
The Magnificent Seven
Set in the Old West town of Rose Creek, The Magnificent Seven follows the story of a greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue and his bandits who take control of the small town in their quest for gold. When they feel as though their town and livelihoods are at stake, the residents call upon Sam Chisolm, a skilled bounty hunter.
With the help of a group of gunslingers, they take on Bogue and his miscreants in hopes of taking back control of Rose Creek. The film is praised for the work of Denzel Washington as Chisolm and the amazingly choreographed action sequences.
The three seasons of the hit television show Deadwood are full of raw language, lawlessness, and more than one shoot-em-up scene. Set in a post-Civil War mining town, Deadwood is lawless and attracts the worst types of people — those who want to get rich or die trying.
Ian McShane, who plays foul-mouthed saloon owner Al Swearengen, has been praised for his performance in the series, and creator David Milch’s writing has been noted as well. The series is highly regarded as one of the best television shows of all time.
The Hateful Eight
Leave it to writer and director Quentin Tarantino to make a western thriller set in the middle of a blizzard. Following the story of eight strangers who hole up at a stagecoach stopover to wait out a snowstorm, The Hateful Eight brings together Tarantino’s typical film formula of over-the-top violence, humor, and a whole lot of action.
Film critic James Berardinelli said, “[The Hateful Eight] is a high-wire thriller, full of masterfully executed twists, captivating dialogue, and a wildly entertaining narrative that gallops along at a pace to make three hours evaporate in an instant. Best film of the year? Yes.”
Broken Trail brings together two historical events, the transporting of Chinese women to central America to become ladies of the night and the British buying horses in the west. The mini-series follows Prent Ritter and his nephew Tom Harte as they set out to drive horses from Oregon to Wyoming.
Only things aren’t as simple as they appear. Along the way, the two rescue five Chinese women who have been sold into slavery. Of course, their “keeper” isn’t too happy with losing their possessions and sets a gang of killers after the two cowboys and the girls.
After outlaw Tom Chaney murders her father, young Mattie hires lawman Rooster Cogburn to find him and bring him to justice. True Grit follows the story of the unlikely duo as they journey to find the outlaw, add Texas Ranger LaBoeuf to their crew, and find themselves in hostile territory looking to dish out some Old West justice.
The film was nominated for multiple awards, including an Academy Award for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and more. Young Hailee Steinfeld even won a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Young Performer.
Wind River is a moving, neo-Western mystery that pulls at viewers’ heartstrings. The story follows the death investigation of a Native American woman who dies close to a reservation in Wyoming. And while each scene in the film is said to be perfect, the most beautiful moments are the long conversations between wildlife officer Cory Lambert and grieving father, Martin Hanson.
The film has been praised for its all-star cast, including Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, and Gil Birmingham, as well as its smart writing. According to a poll by PostTrack, “[viewers] gave the film a 90% overall positive score and a 70% “definite recommend.”‘
The western crime drama Longmire has had a loyal following since its first season aired in 2012. It follows the story of Walt Longmire, the sheriff of fictional Absaroka County, who wants nothing more than to keep the peace through the county. The thing is, he’s also suffering from emotional wounds and now has to deal with major crimes.
Although the series has modern elements, such as cellphones, it is still considered a neo-western, and a good one at that. According to The Wall Street Journal’s Nancy DeWolf Smith, “if it weren’t for a few modern conveniences, like cellphones and trucks, it might as well be 1875.”
Starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, and Wes Studi, Hostiles is one western film you’re not going to want to miss. Set in 1892, New Mexico, the movie follows the legendary Army Capt. Joseph Blocker as he escorts a dying Cheyenne war chief and his family back to their native homeland in Montana.
Of course, crossing all of that land isn’t exactly safe, and the group soon finds themselves banding together to survive the harsh landscape and hostile people they encounter. The film garnered positive reviews, especially for the performance Bale put on.
Based on a novel of the same name by Robert B. Parker, Appaloosa follows the story of two men traveling the 1880s Southwest, bringing justice to towns who have no other choice but to hire them. But when Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch find themselves in the mining town of Appaloosa, things get complicated for the duo.
They’re tasked with ridding the town of rancher Randall Bragg and his cronies, but when widow Allison French arrives, they’re dynamic is shaken. The film is praised: “A traditional genre western, Appaloosa sets itself apart with smart psychology, an intriguing love triangle, and good chemistry between the leads.”
The father and son duo of Donald and Kiefer Sutherland come together in the western drama film Forsaken. It’s 1872, and John Henry Clayton has decided to put away his gun and return home to mend his strained relationship with his father, Reverend Samuel Clayton.
But when a gang hops on the train that runs through their tiny town, Clayton has to decide if he’s done with his violent ways. Or if he should return to being a gun-slinger in order to save those he loves from the people terrorizing the town.
Justified follows the story of Raylan Givens, a deputy U.S. Marshal who has his own brand of justice he likes to dish out. But when he is reassigned to his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky, Givens faces more than one foe who is trying to take him out.
This includes a crime-boss named Mags Bennett who serves poison-spiked “apple pie” moonshine to people attempting to disband her “company.” Critics have praised the modern-day western for its colorful characters and intriguing storytelling, as well as its humorous dialogue.
The Ballad Of Lefty Brown
Five years after his first Western, writer-director Jared Moshe proved he’s not letting the western genre take a backseat in cinema. The Ballad of Lefty Brown is beautifully shot, entertaining, and an old-fashioned drama with an unsuspecting twist: Lefty Brown, an underachiever, goes gunning for justice once his Wild West legend of a partner is killed.
Jeffrey M. Anderson from Common Sense Media said, “Writer/director Jared Moshe clearly loves and appreciates the Western genre, and here he’s created one that’s not only classical, skillful, and unpretentious but a fresh angle on an old story.”
Expectations were high when actor Tom Selleck and director Simon Wincer teamed up once again for a film adaptation of Louis L’Amour’s novel Crossfire Trail. The film surpassed expectations, following the grim tale of Rafe Covington. After making a promise to his friend to look after his Wyoming ranch and wife after he’s passed, Covington finds himself rehabilitating the land.
But things get a bit crazy after a fatal shooting, and Covington is told he needs to leave town. The film has been praised for its beautiful score and lovely cinematography that is custom to the western genre.
Hell On Wheels
Following the story of Confederate Army veteran Cullen Bohannon, Hell on Wheels goes from a revenge story to a full-blown epic in five seasons. After the events of the Civil War, Bohannon can’t seem to put the war behind him, especially after the death of his wife at the hands of a Union soldier.
During his journey, the army veteran comes across a town called Hell on Wheels, and follows the construction of the first transcontinental railroad. Hank Stuever of the Washington Post said, “Hands down, the most intriguing show on the fall slate. Though imbued with epic sweep, Hell on Wheels is a western at heart.”
Hell Or High Water
Hell or High Water follows four main characters. On one side of the coin, we have Toby and Tanner Howard, two West Texas brothers who will do pretty much anything to stop their farm from being foreclosed, including robbing more than one bank.
On the other side, there is veteran Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton and his partner Alberto Parker, two men who will stop at nothing to bring the two brothers to justice. Bouncing off an Oscar-nominated screenplay, director David Mackenzie masterfully entertained the fate of the four leads. But you’re going to have to watch the film to see how the modern western ends.
First airing in 2018, the Paramount Network hit series Yellowstone has since gained a loyal following. The western series follows John Dutton, a sixth-generation rancher who has to operate in a world of corrupt politicians who make choices based on influential lumber and oil corporations.
The series is full of drama, unsolved murders, always-shifting alliances, and constant conflict for the main character’s ranch. When the two-hour premiere episode aired, Yellowstone became the most-watched original series ever telecast on the Paramount Network.
Director Simon Wincer once again proves he’s an all-star director when it comes to western films with Monte Walsh. The story follows the title character Monte Walsh, a man who finds his cowboy way of life fading due to an ever-expanding civilization.
Now, Walsh has to decide if he wants to keep his lifestyle on the open ranges, or if he wants to stay with his sweetheart and join Colonel Wilson and his traveling Wild West show. In 2004, the film was awarded the Western Heritage Awards Bronze Wrangler for Outstanding Television Feature Film.
The Proposition is a 2005 Australian Western film directed by John Hillcoat. The film stars notable actors such as Guy Pearce, Emily Watson, Ray Winston, Danny Huston, among others.
The film tells the story of Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce), one of the notorious Burns Brothers who is captured along with his younger brother Mikey (Richard Wilson), and ordered to track and kill his older brother Arthur (Danny Huston) or else Mikey will be hanged. Known for its violence and impossible moral paradox, the film is a roller coaster of a Western.
The Devil’s Rejects
An absolutely twisted take on the Western genre, The Devil’s Rejects, is considered to be a neo-Western horror film in the Firefly film series and a sequel to House of 1,000 Corpses. The stars Sig Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, and Leslie Easterbrook, focusing on three members of a psychopathic family on the run that is now viewed as criminal protagonists.
Released in 2005, the film had minimal commercial success and mixed reviews, although it has now garnered a cult following. It was the last film to feature Matthew McGrory before his death that same year.
3:10 To Yuma
3:10 To Yuma is a 2007 Western directed by James Mangold and stars Russel Crowe and Christian Bale in the lead roles. The film tells the story of an impoverished and injured farmer who takes on the dangerous job of transporting a notorious outlaw to justice.
A remake of the 1957 film of the same name, which makes it the second adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s 1953 short story “Three-Ten to Yuma.” The film received positive reviews from critics, grossing $70 million worldwide.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Released in 2007, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is considered to be an epic revisionist Western film adapted from Ron Hansen’s 1983 novel of the same name. Directed by Andrew Dominik, the film dramatizes the relationship between the historical figures Jesse James (Brad Pitt) and Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), leading up to James’ assassination.
Known for its artistic style and unique storytelling, the film was nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Actor for Affleck and has been considered by some critics and Pitt’s and Affleck’s best performances to date.
No Country For Old Men
A neo-noir Western, No Country For Old Men was written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen, and based on Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel of the same name. Starring Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem, it follows a Texas Vietnam War veteran in 1980 who discovers a cash of gold and is then relentlessly chased by hitman for it.
In 2007, the film was featured on more critic’s top ten lists than any other film and is considered to be the Coen Brother’s best work. In 2016, it was voted the 10th best film of the 21st century.