Comanche: Once the Most Famous Horse in the U.S.

It’s seems ironic that the reported Seventh Cavalry’s “sole survivor” of battle of Little Big Horn should be a horse named Comanche. He was given the name in honor of his bravery in a fight against the Comanche in 1868, in Kansas where he was struck in the flank by an arrow.

Comanche was a handsome bay gelding, standing 15 hands. He was of mustang/morgan breeding and was captured with a herd of wild horses and sold to the army. Captain Myles Keough paid $90 to make him his personal mount for battle.

According to stories at the time, “Comanche, was found with his owner Lt. Col. Myles Keough, Commander of Company I, on Custer Hill. While all around him soldiers slaughtered their horses to hide behind and shoot, evidence and oral tradition shows that Keough crouched between Comanche’s legs, holding onto his reins, while he was fighting. Keough was killed, but his hands still clutched Comanche’s reins. Warriors left the horse alone; it would have been bad medicine to take a horse so closely tied to his owner that the man held the reins even in death.” [Source: Comanche was not truly the only equine survivor; other horses were rounded up by the native Americans while Comanche remained wounded on he battlefield.

After a lengthy convalescence, Comanche was retired and orders were given that he should never be ridden again. As an honor, he was made Second Commanding Officer of the 7th Cavalry. At Fort Riley, he became something of a pet, occasionally leading parades and indulging in a fondness for beer.

For many years after the Battle of Little Big Horn, Comanche was the most famous horse in America. He became a symbol survival in the face of defeat and toured the country appearing at patriotic gatherings and in parades. Comanche died in 1890 at the age of 29. He is one of only two horses in United States history to be buried with Full Military Honors, the other being Black Jack, the last of the United States Army Quartermaster issued horses.

Today, Comanche can be seen at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum, where he is still a big attraction. He died at the age of 29 while at Fort Riley and was sent to the museum where the best taxidermist in Kansas worked. Unfortunately, the officers never bothered to pick him up so he stayed at the museum.

Read more about Comanche on some other equestrian blogs:

4 thoughts on “Comanche: Once the Most Famous Horse in the U.S.

  1. Too bad I didn’t make it to the museum in KS when I lived there. I did make it to the Roy Rogers Museum when it was still in CA. As a teenager, I found the Trigger display to be a bit disturbing. And then I realized that every other horse he owned and every animal he ever shot was there, too! A little over the top, but very interesting.

    On the old photos of horses note…my great-great grandfather had about 70 horses in the 30’s and 40’s, and my great grandma took photos of just about every one. She has more photos of herself on horses than she does of her own daughter :B Someday I’ll get them all scanned and put them online.

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