Horse statues

Myth Or Fact: In Horse Statues, the number of feet the horse has off the ground indicate how the rider died.

For thousands of years, humans have been captivated by the beauty of horses and have created some of the most incredible pieces of art based on these magnificent creatures. Horses have played an Important role in history, especially partnered with some of the most famous of leaders and people in command. As a symbol, a horse was appreciated for its power and prestige. The inclusion of horses in some of themost famous statues are symbolic and whoever sits on a horse gets elevated, and there is a saying that qualifies that idea. Horse statues are made of people who were once considered powerful and famous. 

According to the urban legend, if the statue shows the horse posed with both front hooves up in the air, the rider died in battle.  If the horse is posed with one front leg up, it means the rider was wounded in battle or died of battle wounds. And if all four hooves are on the ground, the rider died from causes outside of battle.

After fat checking this urban legend, the idea is found to be purely folk wisdom and definitely a myth; the portrayal of the horse has nothing to do with how the rider died. However it does stem from something very real. In the U.S., these alleged rules apply to equestrian statues that commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg and the American Civil War. However, there is one instance where the rule does not apply, especially for the equestrian statues of Gettysburg.

First, some statues that follow the “rule”:

  • FRANCIS ASBURY: 16th and Mount Pleasant NW (1924). All hooves on ground; died in peace.
  • FIELD MARSHAL SIR JOHN DILL: Arlington National Cemetery (1950). All hooves on ground; died of leukemia.
  • GEN. ULYSSES S. GRANT: Union Square, at the east end of the Mall (1922). All hooves on ground; died in peace.
  • MAJ. GEN. WINFIELD SCOTT HANCOCK: Seventh and Pennsylvania NW (1896). One hoof raised; wounded in battle.
  • MAJ. GEN. JOHN A. LOGAN: Logan Circle, Vermont Avenue, 13th and P Streets NW (1901). One hoof raised; died in peace, twice wounded.
  • LT. GEN. WINFIELD SCOTT: Scott Circle, 16th and Massachusetts and Rhode Island NW (1874). All hooves on ground; died in peace.
  • GEN. PHILIP H. SHERIDAN: Sheridan Circle, 23rd and Massachusetts NW (1908). All hooves on ground; died in peace.
  • GEN. WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN: 15th and Pennsylvania and Treasury Place NW (1903). All hooves on ground; died in peace, pneumonia.
  • MAJ. GEN. GEORGE H. THOMAS: Thomas Circle, 14th and Massachusetts NW (1879). All hooves on ground; died in peace.
  • JOHN WESLEY: Wesley Theological Seminary (1961). All hooves on ground; died in peace.

And now some that don’t:

  • GEN. SIMON BOLIVAR: 18th at C and Virginia NW (1959). One hoof raised; died in peace of tuberculosis.
  • MAJ. GEN. NATHANAEL GREENE: Stanton Square, Maryland and Massachusetts NE (1877). One hoof raised; died in peace, unwounded.
  • MAJ. GEN. ANDREW JACKSON: Lafayette Park (1853). Two hooves raised; died in peace.
  • LT. GEN. THOMAS J. (STONEWALL) JACKSON: Manassas (1940). All hooves on ground; wounded by own men and died.
  • MAJ. GEN. PHILIP KEARNY: Arlington National Cemetery (1914). One hoof raised; died in battle.
  • MAJ. GEN. GEORGE B. McCLELLAN: Connecticut Avenue and Columbia Road NW (1907). One hoof raised; died in peace, unwounded.
  • BRIG. GEN. JAMES B. McPHERSON: McPherson Square, 15th between K and I streets NW (1876). One hoof raised; shot and killed in battle.
  • BRIG. GEN. COUNT CASIMIR PULASKI: 13th and Pennsylvania NW (1910). One hoof raised; died in battle.
  • LT. GEN. GEORGE WASHINGTON: Washington Circle, at 23rd and K and Pennsylvania and New Hampshire NW (1860). One hoof raised; died in peace of cynache trachealis. Washington Cathedral (1959). One hoof raised.

A significant number of horse statues in Washington, D.C. and in London, England, do not follow these alleged protocols regarding leg location on a horse statue. If you conduct more cursory looks at the horse statues, you find that the hoof code does not hold very firmly. If you take the city of Washington DC, his city is an excellent place to test the hoof code since it has more horse statues than any other metropolis in the country. It is only 30% of the statues that follow the hoof code convention.

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