I’ve been reading up on nineteenth century English thoroughbreds for the piece I’m currently working on, and have stumbled across some lovely little anecdotes about horses with non-equine best friends.
There was Lanercost, whose best friend, a dog, was so upset when the stallion was moved from one training stable to another that he left home in search of the horse. Somehow the dog found his way to the new stable, despite never having been there before. Their reunion was ‘most affecting’, to the point where the trainer had to introduce a cat to the stable yard to get the dog to leave the stable. I’m not sure history records what the cat thought of such a manoeuvre.
Then there was the filly Kincsem, whose companion of choice was a cat. On one trip to France, when Kincsem disembarked but the cat was nowhere to be found, the filly refused to move, neighing disconsolately and constantly, until after two hours the cat came running. At that point, apparently, the filly allowed herself to be loaded onto the waiting train and taken to the racecourse.
The story that melted me, though, is that of the handsome bay stallion Waxy, whose stable mate was a rabbit. The trainer John Kent, Snr. (1783-1869) told his son about the doe, who ate oats from Waxy’s manger and would nestle up to him when he lay down. According to Kent, Snr., the doe made her nest in the middle of Waxy’s stall, where “…family after family was reared in this risky home, and no harm ever befell one of its members from any action on the part of the horse. The old horse would thrust his nose into the nest, as though he would fondle its tiny and helpless occupants.”*
And of course, there’s always Dungannon and his beloved sheep. They were such good friends that Stubbs’s portrait of Dungannon includes them both.
*(Quote taken from Thoroughbred Heritage.)