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Interview with Mr. Ed - Horse Facts and Horse Trivia

Alan Young and Mr. Ed

Alan Young and Mr. Ed

Horse Facts and Horse Trivia

After writing about cows and pigs, there was a third domestic animal I wanted to write about – the noble horse. But this time I was determined to learn the facts from the source – straight from the ‘horse’s mouth.’ So I donned my wizard’s hat, my sorcerer’s robes and retrieved my crystal ball from Storage-R-Us. After several hours of concentrated conjuring with no results, I was exhausted and went to bed.

In the morning as I drove out of the garage, I saw a handsome, golden Palomino horse with a white mane standing by the curb. It was none other than the former equine television star – Mr. Ed.

Palomino horse

Palomino horse

Interview with Mr. Ed

me – What a coincidence! I was thinking about you last night, Mr. Ed.

Mr. Ed – That’s why I’m here. I have ISP.

me – You mean ESP?

Mr. Ed – No, ISP – Internet Service Provider. Our mutual friend, Hippolyte the Hippopotamus, sent me an email that you wanted to interview me. Do you have time this morning?

me – Of course. Just follow my car to the little park down the street, Mr. Ed.

Mr. Ed – No problemo. And you can call me Ed.

Eohippus - the first horse


me – I wanted to interview you, Ed, to get the facts about horses. How long have they been in existence?

Ed – According to fossil records, the horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small creature about the size of a large fox into the large animal of today with a single toe or hoof on each foot.

Those first horses called Eohippus – the Dawn Horse – were small, standing about 14 inches high and weighing only 12 pounds. Instead of only one hoof to a foot, they had four toes on each front foot and three on each hind foot.

Size of horse relative to six-foot tall man


To determine how tall a horse is, measure the horse, in inches, from the ground in a straight line up to the highest point of the withers.

me – I guess the expression, ‘big as a horse,’ wasn’t very valid then.

Ed – Spot on. Horses today can weigh from 120 to 2,200 pounds. And stand up to 18 hands.

Me – What does that measurement, ‘hands,’ mean?

Ed – Tape measures were not invented yet so people had to use what was handy (pun intended). The height of a horse was measured with a man’s hand with each hand equal to four inches. 18 hands equal 72 inches or 6 feet.

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me – Are horses carnivores – do they eat meat?

Ed – No, horses are herbivore mammals – grazers – and eat short, juicy grass, and hay. Working horses like those on a farm also enjoy foods like barley, corn, oats and bran. But don’t give us peanut butter!

Mr. Ed and his Lip Synching Talent

Allan 'Rocky' Lane

Allan 'Rocky' Lane

Ben Hur chariot with 4 Horsepower

Ben Hur chariot with 4 Horsepower

me – Have you eaten peanut butter?

Ed – Unfortunately, yes! When I was the star of my TV show, my trainer fed me peanut butter. It stuck to the inside of my gums and I was continually moving my mouth as a result. That’s how they made me look like I was talking.

me – That’s despicable. If you were not really talking, who was?

Ed – So happy you asked that question since I always wanted to give this guy credit. He was a former B-movie cowboy star named Allan 'Rocky' Lane. He provided my distinctive, deep voice but was never credited during my television series from '61 to '66.

I spend most of my time these days doing research about equines and I have learned that in the beginning, all those 50+ million years ago, all horses were wild. They were hunted for meat as well as their skins.

Around 3000 B.C., people began taming horses and using them as beasts of burden. And around 1700 B.C., horses began to be used to pull chariots. Like in the movie, ‘Ben Hur.’

Alexander the Great astride Bucephalus

Don Quixote and his steed  Rocinante

Don Quixote and his steed Rocinante

me – You watch movies?

Ed – On Gnatflix – Charlton Heston was so macho. You know, of course, that humans and horses have an ancient relationship. Asian nomads may have domesticated the first horses and we remained essential until the advent of the gasoline engine. Horses still hold a place of honor in many cultures and are often linked to heroic exploits in war.

You probably remember Alexander the Great and his horse, Bucephalus (‘ox head’ ), and El Cid and his steed, Babieca (‘stupid’ ).

me – What about Napoleon and his horse, Marengo, or Don Quixote and his scrawny steed. Rocinante?

Palomino mare and foal

Palomino mare and foal

Horse Facts You May Already Know

Ed – Here are some horse facts many people already know:

• A male horse is called a stallion. • A female horse is a mare. • A baby horse is called a foal usually for the first year of its life. • A young female horse is a filly. • The father of a horse is the sire. • The mother of a horse is the dam. • A young male horse is a colt. • A castrated male horse is a gelding. • A fully-grown small horse is called a pony. • A farrier or blacksmith provides horseshoes.

• It only takes a foal about 1 to 2 hours after birth to stand up and walk by itself.

• The hoof of a horse is like a fingernail. Since it keeps growing, it needs to be clipped regularly.

• Most horses have four gaits: walk, trot, canter and gallop.

• A horse may be black, brown, chestnut, cream, white or gray – or a mixture of those colors. (I’m a Palomino – a light cream body with a white mane.)

• No two horses are identical.

• Mares always give birth at night or in a quiet, secluded location.

Wild mustangs

Wild mustangs

• A horse’s teeth can be examined to estimate its age.

• The left side of a horse is called the ‘near side’ and the right side is the ‘off side.’

• A horse typically sleeps 2 ½ to 3 hours a day. (As a television personality, I generally required longer ‘beauty sleep’ to look fully rested. lol)

• A horse is a member of the 'equus' family. Other animals belonging to this group include the donkey, zebra, onager (wild Asian ass), and some cross breeds such as the mule and zedonk (zebra/donkey).

• Most horses are domestic but others remain wild. These feral horses are found in many countries around the world. One example is the North American mustangs that are the descendants of horses brought to America hundreds of years ago.

• There are more than 350 different breeds of horses and ponies that specialize in everything from pulling wagons to racing.

me – Did you ever race, Ed?

Ed – No, before my TV stardom, I was a parade and show horse named ‘Bamboo Harvester’ foaled in 1949 in El Monte, California.

Understanding Horses


Horse Facts You May Not Know

Ed – If you know most of the following facts, you can call yourself an equine expert:

• The head of an average size horse weighs almost 12 pounds.

• A horse's heart weighs 9 to 10 pounds.

• A healthy adult horse should have a resting pulse of between 36 and 40 beats per minute.

• A horse can drink 10 gallons of water per day.

• Horses use their facial expressions to communicate. Their moods can be gauged by their nostrils, eyes and ears.

(The producers of my TV show knew that – the reason for my continual forced consumption of peanut (ugh) butter.)

• Almost any kind of small white mark that appears on the forehead of a horse is called a star whether it resembles one or not.

• The average age of a horse is about 25 to 30 years although some can live up to 5 years more.

Arabian thoroughbred horse

Arabian thoroughbred horse

Stallion Protecting Harem from Wild Horses

• A horse has approximately 205 bones.

• Arabian horses have one less rib, one less lumbar bone, and one or two fewer tail vertebrae than other horses.

• A horse has two blind spots – one is located directly in front while the other is located directly behind.

• Horses sleep longer in the summer than in the winter.

• Horses generally dislike the smell of pigs. (I don’t think pigs are too crazy about the smell of horses either.)

• It is estimated there are about 75 million horses in the world.

• Horses have five highly developed senses: taste, touch, hearing, smell, and sight. They also have an enigmatic sixth sense – heightened perception – which is very rare in humans. (I’ve been telling people that for years.)

• Wild horses generally gather in groups of 3 to 20 animals. A stallion protects and defends the group which consists of mares and young foals. When young males become colts, the stallion drives them away. The colts then roam with other young males until they can gather their own band of females. (Much like me in my early dating days.)

Przewalski Horse of Mongolia

Przewalski Horse of Mongolia


Horse Trivia

• Although the horse evolved in North America, it became extinct for some obscure reason, returning only to the continent of its birth when Christopher Columbus first landed the animals from his ships on Haiti in 1493.

• The oldest surviving form of horse is the Poljakoff or Wild Horse of Mongolia discovered by Colonel N. M. Przewalski, a Russian explorer, in a remote region of the Gobi Desert in 1881. It exists today only in captivity.

• The Pony Express (1860-1861) didn’t just use ponies; it also used many horses. The differences between ponies and horses are often blurred, but generally, ponies are smaller than horses and can be smarter and more stubborn. (That’s what I keep telling ‘em down at the stable – the stubborn part, that is.)

• The term, horse, is derived from the Old English hors, related to the Proto-Indo-European kurs, which is the source of the Latin currere, ‘to run.’ This replaced the original root ekwo from which the Greek hippos and Latin equus derived, both meaning ‘horse.

Demeter - Goddess of the Harvest

Demeter - Goddess of the Harvest

Poseidon - God of the Sea

Poseidon - God of the Sea

• The horse was a status symbol in the early Persian Empire, and only aristocrats could own them. Horses were also used to play early forms of polo. They still are.

• Islam is said to have been “founded on the hoof prints of the Arabian horse.” The Prophet Mohammed is reported to have ascended to heaven in a halo of fire on a horse-like creature.

• The Greek goddess, Demeter, (the goddess of fertility, the harvest, and the pure) had as her image a black mare’s head, and her priestesses were considered her ‘foals.’

• White horses were sometimes drowned in honor of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea and the creator of horses.(Who also happened to be the brother of the almighty Zeus.)

• Hindus associate the horse with the cosmos, and a white horse was considered the last incarnation of Vishnu.

Shire draft horse

Shire draft horse

Thumbelina - smallest horse

Thumbelina - smallest horse

Akhal Teke horse of Turkmenistan

Akhal Teke horse of Turkmenistan

Falebella horse of Argentina

Falebella horse of Argentina

Little Pumpkin - smallest pony

Little Pumpkin - smallest pony

Training Horses

• The oldest horse on record is Old Billy, a barge horse born in England who lived to the age of 62.

(The first year of a horse’s life is roughly comparable to 12 human years, the second year is comparable to 7 human years, the next 3 years are comparable to 4 human years, and subsequent years are comparable to 2.5 human years.

Do the math. That means Old Billy was roughly 173.5 in human years.)

• The largest horse in recorded history was probably a Shire horse named Mammoth who was born in 1848. He stood 21.2½ hands high (86.5”), and his peak weight was estimated at 3,300 pounds. (Now, that’s a horse of a different color, I mean weight!)

• The current record holder for the world's smallest horse is Thumbelina, a fully mature miniature horse affected by dwarfism. She is 17 inches tall and weighs 57 pounds.

• A breed of Russian horses from southern Turkmenistan called Akhal-Teke, golden in color with a metallic sheen, can go for days without water or food. Even more remarkable is their intelligence and sensitivity. They have the unique ability to respond to mental suggestions made by humans. I kid you not!

• The Falebella of Argentina, is the smallest breed of horse 28 to 32 inches tall.

Little Pumpkin, the smallest pony in history stood 14 inches and weighed 20 pounds.

• Horses enjoy music but are selective in their taste. They prefer calming or cheerful instrumental music, but are often agitated by loud rock music. (I’m partial to Bon Jovi myself – his hair is/was the same color as mine.)

• Horses can sleep standing up by a special arrangement of locking joints in their legs.

• Horses have a strong band of muscles around their esophagus. This band is so strong that a horse’s stomach would typically burst before it would allow it to vomit. (That’s why I would have made such a great TV political analyst. lol)

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Beautiful - both the girl and the Palomino

Beautiful - both the girl and the Palomino

Crazy Laws Regarding Horses

These are actual laws still on the books in these various states. I did not make them up:

• In the state of Arizona, it is illegal for cowboys to walk through a hotel lobby wearing their spurs.

• One cannot pile horse manure more than six feet on a street corner in California.

• It is illegal to bring your horse or pack mule above the ground floor of any building in Cripple Creek. Colorado.

• It is illegal for women over 200 pounds to ride horses in shorts in Chicago. Illinois.

Is it illegal if the women are wearing shorts? Or the horses are?

• In Marshalltown, Iowa, horses are forbidden to eat fire hydrants.

• The state game rule prohibits the use of mules to hunt ducks in Kansas.

• Donkeys are not allowed to sleep in bathtubs in Brooklyn, New York.

• Any motorist who sights a team of horses coming toward him must pull well off the road, cover his car with a blanket or canvas that blends with the countryside, and let the horses pass.

If the horses appear skittish, the motorist must take his car apart, piece by piece, and hide it under the nearest bushes in Pennsylvania.

• Horses are not allowed into Fountain Inn unless they are wearing pants in South Dakota.

• Stealing a horse is punishable by hanging in Tennessee.

• An unmarried woman could be jailed for riding a horse on Sunday in Bluff, Utah.

Someone better hurry and tell this beautiful single woman that it's Sunday in Bluff.

Playing Ping Pong

Playing Ping Pong

Playing chess

Playing chess

Ed – You already know I was the talking–horse star of the 1960s television series, ‘Mr. Ed.’ But did you know I had to learn a number of tricks for my role?

me – What sort of tricks?

Ed – I learned how to answer a telephone, open doors, hold a ping pong paddle, move chess pieces, write notes with a pencil, and unplug a light. Occasionally, I would have to pretend to have a fit of temper, as befitting my star status. I would then stand perfectly still, wheeze perhaps, and refuse to move. I loved that part. It used to drive my human co-star, Alan Young, crazy!

Have to run, now. Here’s a hot tip for the youngsters: “If you want your parents to get you a puppy or a kitty, start out by asking for a horse.” Works every time.

The words to Mr. Ed's theme song:

A horse is a horse, of course, of course, And no one can talk to a horse of course. That is, of course, unless the horse … is the famous Mister Ed.

Go right to the source and ask the horse, He'll give you the answer that you'll endorse. He's always on a steady course. Talk to Mister Ed.

People yakkity yak a streak and waste your time of day, But Mr. Ed will never speak unless he has something to say. A horse is a horse, of course, of course., And this one will talk 'til his voice is hoarse. You never heard of a talking horse? Well listen to this: "I'm Mister Ed.”


Edwards, Elwyn Hartley. The Encyclopedia of the Horse. New York, NY: Dorling Kindersly, Inc., 1994.

McBane, Susan and Helen Douglas-Cooper. Horse Facts. London, England: Quarto Publishing. 1992

Raber, Karen and Treva J. Tucker, eds. The Culture of the Horse: Status, Discipline, and Identity in the Early Modern World.. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillian. 2005.

Waring, George H. Horse Behavior. 2nd Ed. Norwich, NY: Noyes Publications/William Andrew Publishing. 2003.

© Copyright BJ Rakow, Ph.D. 2012. All rights reserved.

Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So"

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