Horse 12: an unnamed hero

Just a quick post this week, regarding an object in the collection of the Smithsonian Museum. It seems Australian museums are not the only ones partial to a commemorative horse hoof, though the story behind the hoof of Horse 12 is somewhat more unusual than most!

You see, Horse 12 was part of the District of Columbia Fire Department, in Washington DC (presumably it was not the practice of the Fire Department to name their steeds, merely to number them). One night in March 1890, Horse 12 and his companion in the traces (Horse 11? Horse 13?) were delivering the fire hose to the site of a fire, when they collided with another Fire Department vehicle (also horse-drawn), this one carrying the steam engine.

With no one apparently injured, the two vehicles proceeded to the site of the fire, almost a mile away. By the time they arrived, however, Horse 12 was limping badly, and pulled up lame. Upon investigation, the driver of the hose cart realised that Horse 12 was MISSING HIS ENTIRE LEFT REAR HOOF! The poor yet undoubtedly noble beast had continued on in his duty, despite missing an entire (and rather essential!) appendage. Horse 12 was promptly euthanised, though according to the Smithsonian it was ‘through the tears of attending fire-fighter and policemen’ [1] that this occurred.

The cauterized hoof of Horse 12, which appears to have been ripped from its shoe as well as his leg, is now held by the Smithsonian Museum. At some point it was coated with black enamel, making it somewhat less horrific to behold, yet the violence with which it was wrenched off is still very evident in the twisted shoe and bent nails.

The hoof of Horse 12. Taken from the website of the Smithsonian, photo by Richard W. Strauss

The hoof of Horse 12. Taken from the website of the Smithsonian, photo by Richard W. Strauss

You can read more about this object on the Smithsonian’s website.


[1] ‘O Say Can You See: Stories from the National Museum of American History’, accessed 4 May 2015


2 thoughts on “Horse 12: an unnamed hero

  1. So sad that this beast didn’t have a name. A name implies a special appreciation and care for the animal. >sigh<

  2. I agree, Maria. More than that, a name implies individuation; whereas the giving of a number demarcates the animal as nothing more than a piece of property. Of course, that doesn’t exclude Horse 12 from having been cared for, or his loss mourned by those he worked with.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s