The hairless blue horse of South Africa

By | March 26, 2010

From Flying Toads to Snakes with Wings : From the Pages of Fate MagazineFrom the book From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (Llewellyn: St Paul, 1997)

… While in South Africa during 1860, a merchant by the name of Lashmar encountered a feeding herd of quaggas – those odd-looking relatives of zebras that were striped only on the front half of their body and which became extinct in 1883. As subsequently reported by C.O.G. Napier in the long-vanished English magazine Land and Water (February 22 1868), while observing them Lashmar suddenly spotted in their midst a strange-looking creature that was drastically dissimilar in appearance from the others, and discovered to his astonishment that it was not a quagga at all, but was instead a hairless blue horse!

Once he had convinced himself that this ethereal entity was indeed real, he was quick to recognize its great worth as an outstanding novelty for exhibition purposes, and thus lost no time in successfully capturing it – after which he was able to study its extraordinary appearance closely, recording the following details.

Its skin was smooth and delicate in texture, feeling to the touch like india-rubber, and very warm, and forming curious wrinkles when the animal moved – recalling to mind the more ornate, ostentatious creases and loose folds of skin sported by that increasingly popular breed of mastiff-related dog known as the shar-pei. Unlike the latter, however, the horse was wholly hairless, not even possessing any hair roots. In color, its skin was blue-mauve over most of its body, but with a buff face and a large patch of the same color extending over half of its back with numerous blotches. Its tail resembled that of a pig. In overall appearance and when seen at a distance, this singular steed looked as if it had been sculpted from some rare variety of oriental blue marble.

… After capturing it, Lashmar sent it to South Africa’s Cape Colony, from where it was brought over to England in 1863. There, it was broken in at Astley’s, and ridden for three parts of the season with Lord Stamford’s hounds. It was also examined by Professor Spooner of the Veterinary College, London, who delivered a lecture concerning its unique appearance to his students. Purchased by a MrÁMoffat, in February 1868 it was exhibited in London’s famous Crystal Palace, but its original blue coloration had been gradually fading ever since its capture, transforming into a rather more nondescript isabelline-grey. According to Moffat, the horse stood 14.2 hands high (i.e. just under five feet tall), was symmetrically shaped, and performed well in harness, but required warm clothing on account of its hairless nature. Moffat washed it each day, to keep it in good health.

Since its Crystal Palace days, nothing more seems to have been documented regarding this strange animal – its ultimate fate, therefore, is unknown, and prior to this present account its very existence had long since been forgotten. …


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