History Humor

The Smartest Horse Ever?

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This is not an April Fools Day joke. It is just a great story.

While searching for something on the web, I came across this intriguing story. It’s the story of a remarkable horse named Beautiful Jim Key, raised and trained by a man named Bill Key, who was born into slavery and became a free and very successful man. The story is told by David Hoffman, who bears a slight resemblance to Bernie Sanders.

The story is too complicated to summarize in a few sentences, but suffice it to say that the horse was exhibited many times to audiences of thousands to demonstrate his amazing intelligence and his seeming ability to count and spell.

I went to Wikipedia, where I found this entry:

Beautiful Jim Key was a famous performing horse around the turn of the twentieth century.[1] His promoters claimed that the horse could read and write, make change with money, do arithmetic for “numbers below thirty,”[2] and cite Bible passages “where the horse is mentioned.”[3] His trainer, “Dr.” William Key, was a former slave, a self-trained veterinarian, and a patent medicine salesman.[1] Key emphasized that he used only patience and kindness in teaching the horse, and never a whip.[4]

The horse became a celebrity thanks to the progressive promotion of A. R. Rogers. The horse performed at large venues from Atlantic City to Chicago.[1]

Beautiful Jim Key and his trainer periodically toured the United States in a special railroad car to promote the fledgling cause of the humane treatment of animals. They performed in venues in most of the larger American cities, including New York’s Madison Square Garden. The horse was among the most popular attractions at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Beautiful Jim Key was supposedly intelligent enough that he could calculate mathematical problems, possibly even trigonometry.

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.” The President also commented that it was an example of what “kindness and patience” could accomplish.[5]

The horse was made an honorary member of George Thorndike Angell‘s American Humane Association.[6] He also got 2 million kids to gather to pledge never to be mean to animals.

This is an education blog. The story is about the education of a horse.

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