This is a story that’s the stuff of legends…the mixed breed horse with unknown ancestry, who rode at the notorious Battle of the Little Big Horn, received seven bullet wounds, had arrows sticking out of him, and lost a lot of blood, but survived.
His story began in 1868 when the US Army bought him in St. Louis, Missouri after he caught the attention of Captain Myles Keogh of the 7th Cavalry. His ancestry and date of birth were both uncertain, but Captain Keogh liked the 15 hands gelding and bought him for his personal mount, to be ridden only in battle. In September of that year the horse was wounded when the Army fought with the native Americans on the plains of Kansas. Despite his injuries, he continued to carry Keogh in the fight. Keogh (pictured) named the horse “Comanche” to honour his bravery. Records show that Comanche was wounded many more times but always exhibited the same toughness.
But the true test of his bravery came on June 25, 1876, when Captain Keogh rode Comanche at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, led by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer. The battle was notable as their entire detachment was killed. US soldiers found Comanche, badly wounded, two days after the battle. After being transported to Fort Lincoln, he was slowly nursed back to health. After a lengthy convalescence, Comanche was retired.
The horse known as ‘Comanche,’ being the only living representative of the bloody tragedy of the Little Big Horn, June 25th, 1876, his kind treatment and comfort shall be a matter of special pride and solicitude on the part of every member of the Seventh Cavalry to the end that his life be preserved to the utmost limit. Wounded and scarred as he is, his very existence speaks in terms more eloquent than words, of the desperate struggle against overwhelming numbers of the hopeless conflict and the heroic manner in which all went down on that fatal day.
As the commanding officer of Company I will see that a special and comfortable stable is fitted up for him, and he will not be ridden by any person whatsoever, under any circumstances, nor will he be put to any kind of work.
Hereafter, upon all occasions of ceremony of mounted regimental formation, ‘Comanche,’ saddled, bridled, and draped in mourning, and led by a mounted trooper of Company I, will be paraded with the regiment.
Reports said that all but Comanche were killed in the battle of Little Big Horn. The horse received seven bullet wounds, had arrows sticking out of him, and lost a lot of blood, but survived. Comanche died in1891 and was given a military funeral.
In truth, quite a few Seventh Cavalry mounts survived, probably more than one hundred, and there was even a yellow bulldog. Comanche was he was stuffed and to this day remains in a glass case at the University of Kansas. So, protected from moths and souvenir hunters by his humidity-controlled glass case, Comanche stands patiently, enduring generation after generation of undergraduate jokes. The other horses are gone, and the mysterious yellow bulldog is gone, which means that in a sense the legend is true. Comanche alone survived.