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Performing Horses

Updated on December 18, 2015

Educated Horses

This hub is devoted to vintage photographs and postcards of amazing performing horses. Not horses that just perform physical tricks, but those who can perform feats of arithmetic, spelling of other educated acts. Horses like these have led many people to conclude that horses have human levels of intelligence, they just lacked an effective way to communicate with us!

Clever Hans (pre1891 - post1912)

Clever Hans initially belonged to William von Osten. It seems that Trotter genuinely believed the horse, and all horses, really were as intelligent as people--but most lacked the ability to communicate.

Hans could provide answers to various arithmetic problems as well as report the time. He answered by tapping his hoof the appropriate number of times for each digit.

A researcher by the name of Oskar Pfungst determined that the horse needed to be able to see people who know the correct answer in order to provide it. This ability of horses and other animals to read unconscious body language is kn0ow know as "The Clever Hans Effect".

Hans was last heard of in 1912 and the date of his death is unknown.

Other pictures:

Germinal (this picture: 1907)

Rouhet owned and trained a number of horses, but the best and most famous of them was Germinal. Germinal was a stallion who could do traditional physical tricks such as sitting to have dinner or balancing on a drum.

He was also said to be able to spell words and solve mathematical problems by holding a chalk in his mouth.

Other pictures:

Prince Albert (this picture: 1909)

Prince Albert was owned by Ida Cuthbertson.

I have not found a written account of the horse's abilities as yet, but the pictures suggest he could spell by indicating card and give solutions to arithmetic problems.

Other pictures

Lady Wonder (1924–1957)

Lady Wonder was a supposedly psychic horse that could spell out the answers to questions. She was called on not only to give answers that people in the audience knew (such as the date on a coin pulled from their pocket), but unknown matters such as where a body might be found.

Lady Wonder's abilities were studied by the renowned paranormal investigator, Dr. J. B. Rhine from Duke University. Rhine was convinced that Lady Wonder was not reaching her answers by reading human body cues.

Serrano (1934-1971)

This rather poor quality postcard shows "Serrano, the psychic horse with the college education". Serrano. This horse would answer questions of all types from the crowd by spelling out the answers with wooden blocks. He could reported tell people their name, weight and home address.

Shiloh (2009--2013)

A modern example in the same tradition is Shiloh a quarter horse cross. You can follow Shiloh on Youtube and Facebook. Shiloh can spell and do arithmetic,

So How Do They Do It?

The basis of these acts is now known to be the astounding ability of some horses to read human body language. When asked to select a letter or number as part of an answer to a question, they proceed until they reach the result which causes the questioner and/or audience to subconsciously relax, as it is the correct answer.


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