Photo courtesy of Caro Senour
Beautiful Jim Key’s trainer, Dr William Key, was a former slave and self-trained veterinarian at the turn of the 20th century. Dr Key would ask his horse Jim to bring him a card with a certain letter on it. If he brought back the right one, Jim would be rewarded with sugar. He learnt to answer questions with a nod of his head, and Dr Key even tried to teach Jim to recognise passages of the Bible that referred specifically to horses. But Jim’s talents didn’t stop there. He could make correct change from a cash register, and learned how to take coins out of vases filled with water using only his tongue!
What is perhaps most touching about Beautiful Jim Key’s relationship with his trainer, is that Dr Key used only patience and kindness in teaching the horse, he never used a whip. In the process, Dr Key became an early role model for humane training and treatment of animals.
Beautiful Jim Key and his trainer toured the US, even performing at New York’s Madison Square Garden. President William McKinley saw Beautiful Jim Key perform at an exposition in Tennessee and declared, “This is the most astonishing and entertaining exhibition I have ever witnessed.” He also commented on how it was an example of what kindness and patience could accomplish.
Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman is set to play Dr Key in a future biopic about the man and his horse, which will no doubt make Beautiful Jim Key a household name again.
What tricks have you managed to teach your horse to perform Globetrotters?