Great Horses of History - No 232

Henrietta the Accountancy Horse

Many and varied are the stories of remarkable animals and their extraordinary talents. One recalls Jep, the Welsh Border Colley who was famed throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century for its ability to talk. Then there was Arthur, the skateboarding duck of Arkansas, who was exhibited by Barnum and ultimately retired to a golden gem-encrusted duck house, a very rich duck indeed. And obviously there are innumerable stories of horses that could apparently count, signalling the answers to complex mathematical conundrums by clopping out the answers with their hooves.

Invariably, many of these equine marvels were exposed as fakes. But not Henrietta, the Bakersfield Wonder, an Arabian mare working in Wisconsin in the 1920s. Not only was she able to answer questions without interference from any human agent, but she could also solve quite complex mathematical puzzles. In fact, she was so numerically adept that she set up an accountancy business and boasted some extremely influential clients. Until, that is, she was busted for tax fraud in 1931. After serving ten years, she ended up as a turf accountant, before finally overdosing on horse tranquilisers and liniment in an unfurnished single-bedroomed apartment in Brooklyn.

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