Science estimates that horses became domesticated about 5,500 years ago. No animal except the dog have shared and suffered so much together with mankind.
In all that time, some horses have become so famous that they are talked about today with admiration from all who love horses. Some horse owners hope their steeds emulate famous ones by giving them famous horse names.
Horses and ponies win fame in a variety of ways. Some are well-known horses of battle, have performed an astounding feat in history or legend. Others have won fame in sporting competitions – especially racing.
Some horses have never existed except in song, story or the movies. Even fictional horses provide great famous horse names for modern owners to choose from.
Famous Horse Names of Native Origin
The mythology or local legends of the world provide a rich source of famous horse names. Some horses or ponies were famous in their countries of origin. There also are others who became famous throughout the world.
Below you can find some names used worldwide.
- Pegasus: the winged horse of Greek myth, born from the blood of the Medusa, steed of heroes and then bringer of thunderbolts to the Greek supreme god, Zeus.
- Lampon, Demios, Xanthos and Podagros were the famous man-eating mares owned by Diomedes that Hercules has to tame.
- Abraxas, Bronte, Aithon and Euos pulled the sun's chariot according to ancient Greek myths.
- Kanthaka: was the legendary favorite white horse of the Buddha who was reincarnated as a scholar.
- Sliepnir: was the super-fast eight-legged horse of the Norse god Odin who could safely travel to Hell and back.
Some famous horses in mythology never had individual names. But the names of their special breed could be used as interesting and different famous horse names. They include:
- Hippogrif: A creature that is a cross between an eagle and a horse.
- Centaur: Half-man and half-horse, where the man's body joins at the waist to the withers and shoulders of a horse.
- Chollima: Hinged magic horses from Chinese mythology said to travel 400 km in a single day.
- Tulpar: Winged horses and faithful companions to the heroes of Turkish mythology
Famous Horse Names From Competitions
Race horses are the most famous horses of modern times. Their names and nicknames can be found in many present-day horses and ponies. They include:
- Eclipse: Undefeated thoroughbred stallion from England. It lived in the 1700s and became one of the breed's most influential sires.
- Red Rum: Arguably the best race horse to ever run in the world's most famous and most difficult steeplechase, the Grand National. Red Rum won the race three times and came second in two other years.
- Big Red: This was the famous nickname of the two most famous American racehorses of the twentieth century – Man o' War and Secretariat.
- Greyhound: Grey Standardbred gelding considered the fastest trotter in American history.
- Regret: The name of the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby.
Other sources of famous horse names come from Olympic sports medal winning horses and the show ring such as:
- Stroller: The only pony ever to compete in Olympics in show jumping. The gelding won silver for Great Britain in 1968.
- Gem Twist: Enigmatic grey Thoroughbred gelding. Won silver in the 1988 Olympic Games and numerous World Cups.
- Snowman: Another grey show jumper saved from the truck that would have sent him to a slaughterhouse.
- Midnight Sun: A pure black Tennessee Walking Horse foaled in 1940 that not only thrilled spectators in the show ring but was an influential sire.
- Khemosabi: Champion bay Arabian stallion and influential stallion who had his own fan club.
- Skowronek: The most famous Arabian stallion to ever live in the UK. It regularly received fan mail.
Famous Names From Other Areas
The arts are a great place to find famous horse names. Many fictional horses and ponies are far more famous than real horses. Famous horse names from stories and novels include:
- Black Beauty: Name of the beloved horse and novel by Anna Sewell from the 1800s. It helped launch the animal rights movement.
- Flicka: Beautiful and half-wild filly that becomes a boy's best friend. The book My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara also inspired two movies.
- Shadowfax: The horse of Gandalf the Wizard.
- Rosinante: The long-suffering steed of Don Quixote.
Famous horse names from the large and small screen include:
- Trigger: Smart and beautiful palomino stallion of movie cowboy Roy Rogers.
- Champion: Flashy and intelligent chestnut mount of movie cowboy and songwriter Gene Autry.
- Fury: Star of a short-lived television series in the 1950s. This told the story of a wild black stallion that became friends with one boy.
- Mr. Ed: Palomino gelding that starred in a comedy series about a talking horse in 1960s America.
Horses that shared the horrors of war have also become famous throughout history and inspire many horse names today.
- Bucephalus: The favorite horse of Alexander the Great, Bucephalus means ox-head in Greek.
- Traveler: The favorite horse of General Lee, the leader of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
- Commanche: The only living thing – man or horse – in General Custer's army that survived the Battle of the Bighorn in 1876.
Thoughts on Names
Before giving a horse or pony a famous horse name, check with the registry or breed association the horse or pony is a part of to see what the naming rules are. Changing a horse's official or registered name can be expensive.
Remember that horse owners can always give their steeds nicknames (called barn names) that can be vastly different from their registered name. Check online with friends to get opinions and suggestions for horse names, too.
Images via Pixabay