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RE: Vestigial horse toes - Follow-up.
I've finally dug up some source material, and I'm embarrassed to admit that
I've implicated the wrong European emperor - Julius Caesar had a polydactyl
horse. NOT Napoleon!
As I indicated before, the source I was referring to was "Hen's Teeth and
Horse's Toes" by Stephen Jay Gould (In the essay of the same name).
He quotes Suetonius: "[Caesar] used to ride a remarkable horse, which had
feet that were almost human, the hoofs being cleft like toes. It was born
in his own stables, and as the soothsayers declared that it showed its owner
would be lord of the world, he reared it with great care, and was the first
to mount it; it would allow no other rider."
Adding a tiny bit of dinosaur info to this post about horses (and hens),
there is a paper referred to in Gould's essay:
Marsh, O. C. 1892 "Recent polydactyle horses."
American Journal of Science 43:339-55.
Yes, that O. C. Marsh. Gould's essay includes a figure from Marsh's paper
of the "horned horse from Texas". This shows a horse with 3 toes on the
rear legs (digits II, III, and IV), and 2 toes on the front legs (digit II,
and III). [Note: 'Normal' horse has only digit (toe) III]. The horse is
very similar (in form of its toes at least) to its ancestor, _Mesohippus_.
This drawing is the basis for my slightly mistaken memory, although my
description of the size and position of the vestigial toes was essentially
According to Marsh, and a later German study (not listed in the
bibliography); in two-thirds of these horses, the extra toe was a duplicated
digit III, but in the other third, the extra toes were fully developed
versions of the normally vestigial splints of digits II and IV (or only II).
In other words, this third were showing atavisms.
Gould also talks about some work done to cause hen's teeth to grow, as well
as some related topics. Even though the publication is 16 years old, it
still has some valuable insights and information.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]On Behalf Of
Sent: Sunday, August 27, 2000 4:20 PM
Subject: Re: Vestigial horse toes (short comment)
What references are we looking at for Naploeon's horse have an unusual
number of toes?
I see no extra hooves on any portrait of any of Napoleon's actual horses
at a collection of napoleonic art at:
info on Napoleon's favorite horse from FINDAGRAVE:
Marengo d. 1832.
Napoleon's favorite horse. An Arabian horse obtained during the
Egyptian campaign in 1799 after the Battle of Aboukir. Napoleon named
the horse after a victory in Italy and rode it at the Battle of
Austerlitz in 1805 and to Moscow in 1812. Captured after the Battle of
Waterloo in 1815, it was taken to England and put out to stud. After its
death in 1832, the skeleton was articulated by Surgeon Wilmott of the
London Hospital and presented to the Royal United Services Museum, now
the National Army Museum. Two of the hooves were made in to snuf boxes.
(note; no mention of having EXTRA toes being made into snuff boxes-
Is this a horse history trivia thing that simply hasn't come my way
before, or is this a very old urban legend?
> Concerning my comment on Napoleon's 3-toed horse:
> The toes were not merely bumps on the side of the main toe, they appeared
> be about 3 or 4 inches (7-10 cm) long, protruding from each side of the
> toe. They were not functional, since they appeared about 8-10 inches
> cm) above the ground. (This is based on a drawing of the horse that I
> seen). I know that at least 2 of the horse's legs had these twos - I
> remember if all 4 legs did.
> As to whether these toes were "polydactyl-like" mutations - based on the
> location of the toes, I think that these are genuine re-expressed genes,
> new mutations.
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