Long-haired horses have been revered throughout history. The first famous long-haired horse was a Percheron called Prince Imperial. First owned by Napoleon’s nephew, Emperor Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte III, Prince Imperial was bought by Jacob Howser, who took him to the USA to improve local bloodlines. Credited with having the longest forelock and mane in the world, Prince Imperial was exhibited at horse shows and fairs all over the USA. After his death in 1888, his body was taxidermied and the Howsers continued to exhibit him during sideshow season for many years. These days, he can still be seen on display in Marion, Ohio.
After Prince Imperial’s success, long-haired horses became increasingly popular attractions at circuses, freak shows and fairs, dubbed ‘wonder horses’ and given elaborate backstories. The craziest backstory is that of Linus, a name actually given to three horses, likely all from competing troupes!
The legend goes that the hills of Oregon were once home to a herd of sixteen mares led by ‘an enormous chestnut stallion, whose mane and tail were so abundant and of such length as to almost envelop the entire animal in a wealth of flowing hair’. These traits were shared by the mares, who the stallion kept well away from the eyes and ropes of men until the day he died. Unprotected, the mares were caught, but only one was capable of foaling, a mare with ‘extraordinary powers for perpetuating the peculiarities of her race’. The ‘Oregon Queen’ gave birth to a filly, Oregon Beauty, who, along with her son, Linus, became one of the biggest draw-cards the fairs had ever known. Tragically, Oregon Beauty was struck by lightning. But Linus matured into a fine successor, with hair even longer and thicker than his ancestors’.
A photograph of Linus (or one of them!) can be seen above.
The true story goes something like this:
Oregon Beauty was a farm horse whose incredible growth of hair was discovered in the 1880s. With a long, bushy tail and a 10-foot long mane, she was exhibited until she was killed in a fire caused by a lightning strike. Her son, Linus, survived and succeeded her. He was a chestnut Clydesdale-Percheron cross and had two sons, Aurelius and Linus II, who were exhibited around the USA and Britain as ‘Oregon Wonder Horses’. Linus II’s tail is said to have been 19 feet long!
So there you have it, globetrotters: one of the more bizarre stories to emerge from the equine history books!
Image credits: Vintage Everyday, Historical Times, Messybeast.