25 Famous Horses Who Are Loved By Millions

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.

A man rides the famous racehorse Man O'War, 1919.
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Getty Images

In 1920, The New York Times labeled 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.

Connie Hines and Alan Young stand with Bamboo Harvester, who portrayed
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Bamboo was a Los Angeles-born gelding.

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.

C.S. Howard sits on his horse Seabiscuit, during a race.
Getty Images
Getty Images

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.

English actor Andrew Knott portrays Joe Green in the film 'Black Beauty', 1994.
Keith Hamshere/Getty Images
Keith Hamshere/Getty Images

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 real horse Spirit (left) is pictured next to the animated one (right).
Ally Woolslayer/Pinterest
Ally Woolslayer/Pinterest

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.

While commanding the American Army, George Washington rides his horse, Blueskin.
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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.

Members of the Marines feed Sergeant Reckless cake.
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Getty Images

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.

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 stands with her horse, Misty.
Theo’s Little Bot/Wikipedia Commons
Theo’s Little Bot/Wikipedia Commons

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.

Potoooooooo, the 18th century racehorse, is depicted in this drawing.
Galopin~commonswiki/Wikipedia Commons
Galopin~commonswiki/Wikipedia Commons

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.”

Jackie Jenkins, Elizabeth Taylor, and Mickey Rooney riding horseback in a scene from the film 'National Velvet', 1944.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

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.

Ann Judge Wegener rides Denver Broncos mascot
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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.

Roy Rogers stands with his horse, Trigger.
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© Bettmann/CORBIS/Bettmann Archive

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.

In this motif, Alexander the great rides his horse Bucephalus.
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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.

Red Rum competes in a race in 1978.
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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.

Derby winning racehorse Shergar is guided to the stables, 1981.
Micheal Daines/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Micheal Daines/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

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.

Shadowfax appears in The Two Towers movie.
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

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.

Dally and Spanky attend the 2016 World Dog Awards.
Brian Gove/FilmMagic
Brian Gove/FilmMagic

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.

A rider rides on the racehorse Nearco, 1985.
Gary Mclean; Elizabeth Dobbie; David Porter/Fairfax Media via Getty Images
Gary Mclean; Elizabeth Dobbie; David Porter/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

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.

In this 19th century photograph, General Robert E. Lee sits atop his horse, Traveler.
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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.

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.

Touchstone Pictures
Touchstone Pictures

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.

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.

In this 1802 painting, Napoleon rides Marengo.
Art Images via Getty Images
Art Images via Getty Images

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.

Florida State's Chief Osceola and Renegade celebrate a touchdown.
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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.

Secretariat runs during a race, 1973.
Focus On Sport/Getty Images
Focus on Sport via Getty Images

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.

Queen Elizabeth II rides her horse, Burmase, during the Trooping the Colour ceremony.
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

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 speeds toward the finish line during a 2015 race.
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Rob Carr/Getty Images

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.