As we head into the weekend of the 154th Belmont Stakes, horses are on our minds and in our hearts. The major media focus may be on the racetrack, but as the stories we’ve published show, the equine has filled many a role in cultures around the world and throughout history—as a companion, a co-worker, and an inspiration.

Horses at Work and Play

Essential Quality #14, ridden by Luis Saez, heads to the first turn during the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 01, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Betting on the Longshot

Researchers consistently observe that longshot horses are overvalued by bettors at the racetrack. Why are they willing to risk it all?
Omar Khayyam, the horse that won the 1917 Kentucky Derby

Fast Horses and Eugenics

The breeding of race horses validated those aspiring to belong to an American elite while feeding into racist beliefs about genetic inheritance.
Two horses bred at the Bitter Root Stock Farm in Montana

Racing to Respectability

The bankers and entrepreneurs of Montana Territory turned to the race track to bolster their reputations.
1881: Champion racehorse Iroquis, winner of the 1881 Derby under Fred Archer and property of P Lorillard.

The Myth of the Noble Racehorse

Despite all the whips and spurs involved, nineteenth-century Americans believed racehorses loved a little manly competition.
Allan Pinkerton at the camp at Antietam in September, 1862

A Horse’s-Eye View of the Civil War

Horses and mules played a major role in the American Civil War. In the end, there were about twice as many dead equines as humans.
Horsepower

Why We Still Use “Horsepower”

Horses were omnipresent in the West until only a few generations ago, but then they were replaced by machines and disappeared from our streets as well as our consciousness.

Horses in Art

Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome, Italy

Why Are Cities Filled with Metal Men on Horseback?

The original inspiration for the now-ubiquitous equestrian statue, a classical bronze of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, was almost melted down and lost forever.

The Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries Depict a “Virgin-Capture Legend”

They’re big in elementary school, but unicorn tableaux also have a complex iconographic history that combines religious and secular myths.

The Unicorns of JSTOR

These rare creatures have by turn—and somewhat paradoxically—been associated with purity, fertility, seduction, healing, sacrifice, immortality, and divinity.
Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Personal #Brand

Napoleon didn't like sitting for portraits, and yet artists and mass market prints helped cement his legendary status.

Horses, Yesterday and Today

Wild horses

Mustangs: Celebrated Western Icon or Ecological Disaster?

Mustangs, as the wild horses of the American West are known, represent something different for everyone.
An aerial view of the prehistoric White horse carved into the hillside at Uffington,Berkshire

Whence the White Horse of Uffington?

A white horse of chalk both defines and defies a common understanding of what English heritage is, and is not.
Take

Restoring the Prehistoric Horse

It’s the National Day of the Horse! Do You Know Where the Real Wild Horses Live?
Horse skull

The Horse Skulls Hidden in the Dance Floors of Ireland

Old houses in Ireland often have horse skulls buried beneath the floors, but folklorists and archaeologists disagree on exactly why.
Hannibal's Famous Crossing of the Alps

Tracing General Hannibal’s Path Across The Alps. In Poop.

A new study traces Hannibal's path across the Alps by examining preserved horse poop.

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