Frederick the Great's Horse

If you happen to be in Germany this summer, check out the Frederick the Great exhibition in Potsdam. You'll find the skeleton of Frederick's last and most favourite horse, Conde. 

Apparently Frederick was a touch horse-mad.  He usually kept no less than 40 saddle horses in his stable.  In 1754, he had more 100 horses.  Frederick had a number of favourites, but Conde, a piebald gelding, was something special. Frederick fed him with sugar, melons, and figs. Conde even followed the king into the Palace and is reputed to have broken several squares of marble in the hall. Even more particularly, Conde never accompanied Frederick into battle. He was too special for that.

After the king's death, Conde was placed in the royal stud and then transferred to the Veterinary School in Berlin with the charge that particular care be taken of Frederick's favourite.  Apparently this order was followed extremely well -- Conde lived to the great age of 38.  After his death, his skeleton was articulated and preserved at the Veterinary School, and his skin was stuffed separately.  Unfortunately, the skin went up in smoke and flames during a WWII raid, but the skeleton --as you can see-- has survived the centuries just fine.

The exhibition is presented by the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Goundation Berlin-Brandenburg to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Prussian king's birth.  It runs from April 28th until the end of October.

If you read German (I don't):

Check out the exhibition's site here:


Napolean's horse Le Vizir

levizir.jpg Of Napolean's many horses, perhaps the most famous was Le Vizir, a gift from the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in 1808 during Napolean's second exile on the island of Saint Helena. The horse died in 1829, eight years after Napolean.  Here he is stuffed at the Musee d'Armee de l'Hotel des Invalides in Paris. He looks a little scrawny, but it really is Le Vizir.

Notice the rump branding.



World's Largest Horse


The world's largest stuffed horse is reputably "General," on display at the Virginia State Farm Museum in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.  According to Roadside America:

"General," who looks like Mr. Ed, was the third heaviest (2850 pounds) and third tallest (six feet, six inches) horse ever recorded. And he is still the world's largest stuffed horse, at a cost of $10,000, according to one of the many helpful signs around the stable. Despite his size, another sign insists that General was "gentle as a puppy." Yet another sign claims that his stuffed hide is valued at $25,000, a low estimate in our eyes. A newspaper clipping from 1982 quotes a local bigwig as saying that General, once stuffed, would make a sure-fire tourist attraction.

Check out all the delights of the museum including a two-headed calf that froze to death in the winter of 1926.  [Go +]



Cattelan's Hanging Horse

cattelan_horse.jpgNever a dull moment with Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan: his stuffed racehorse was bought for £619,750 at Christie's London auction house to a mystery bidder in 2001.  After Tiramisu - the racehorse - died of natural causes, Cattelan had her stuffed, but only partially: the pelt was stretched over a frame to keep the mare from weighing too much since Cattelan had the plan of hanging the horse from the ceiling. The legs were deliberately elongated, to add to the pathos. The work entitled La Ballata di Trotsky first went on display in the Museum of Modern Art in Castello di Rivoli, Turin, in 1997.  It was also included in the Tate's controversial Abracadabra show along with Cattelan's suicide squirrel.

In an article for the Independent, Louise Jury writes that Cattelan claims he doesn't mean to shock: a highly suspect claim.  As Jury quotes, when Cattelan started using animals in his art, he wasn't interested in "the morbid relationships that seem to tie people to animals. My animals were intended to be characters, images, things. But the more I work with animals, the more perverse the relationships between animals and human beings seem to be. People seem to be really intrigued, disturbed and charmed by my animals."  [read article +] 





As legend has it, the sole survivor of the infamous Battle of the Little Big Horn was Comanche, Captain Keogh's horse. As the Members of the besieged group of soldiers from the Reno Hill picked their way through the dead and destruction on Custer Hill, they heard a faint whinny from what was left of Comanche. The blood and gore spattered horse had at least seven wounds, but none of them fatal, and Comanche lived for another 15 years. When he died, Comanche was stuffed and put on display at the Dyche Hall of the Natural History Museum in Kansas, where he still stands today.  


While I have a problems with stuffing a hero (be it human or
animal) what it even more morbidly sensationalist is the series
of photographs documenting the process of stuffing Comanche. 

The image was taken from Garry Owen's web narration of his quest to see Comanche.  Not being an American, I can't fully understand the emotion, but as Owen writes, Comanche "stands as a physical link for all of us to Custer, Keogh, the 7th Cavalry, the Little Bighorn, and to that intangible inner spirit that defines us as Americans." 


In other words, Comanche has become what Judith Pascoe terms an "association object," that is, "a means of literal and imaginative transport" back in time to a particular moment or event. There is always something sensationalist in the association object especially if it - like Comanche - is on public display.  Like tours to murder scenes or displaying the body parts of heros and criminals, Comanche is physical evidence of a real historical event and its human and animal players.  But however real the Battle of the Little Big Horn was, Comanche like all souvenirs is laden with a culture's fantasies and reveries about what that particular event has come to embody. 

Read about Comanche's big move +