Linus the Long Haired Wonder Horse put on quite a show!
Have you ever seen a horse with such a luxurious mane? Linus the Wonder Horse was born in 1884, the result of careful breeding for long hair. Linus was exhibited with a circus act, with promotional materials declaring he was of the “Oregon Long-Haired Wild Wonder horse” breed. His mane was 14 feet long, and his tail 12 feet long!
The” Wonder Horses” of Oregon are remarkable for the great growth of hair in mane and tail, which for length and thickness is not equaled in the world; and since these horses have been bred in captivity this growth of beautiful silken hair has increased with each generation, as will be seen from a comparison of the photographs contained herein. The wonderful endurance and intelligence of this breed of equines is at once apparent to anyone familiar with horses; and now that all trace of the wild nature has bowed to the gentle care and treatment meted out to these animals, they exhibit the utmost gentleness and court the attention of those who come near them. Another remarkable characteristic of this truly wonderful breed of horses is their color, all of them being rich chestnuts, which goes far to prove them a distinct breed, able, by reason of their thoroughbred origin, to perpetuate their blood from generation to generation.’ No doubt the “Oregon Wonder Horses” are the truest descendents of the first horses brought to America by Cortez, the conquerer of Mexico. Probably some escaped at that early period and established this breed hundreds of years ago remaining wild and uncaptured.
The true origins of the Oregon Wonder Horses is more mundane. According to a report in the New Zealand Observer “The first of these long-maned Oregon Wonders came to light in the [eighteen-]eighties, being worked on a farm in Oregon. He was then taken East and put on exhibition, dying in Coney Island in 1887. His son Linus was the only colt sired by him of which there is a record that he had the same superabundance of hirsute [hair] and Linus II was likewise the only one of the sort got by his sire.” That farm horse was actually a mare named Oregon Beauty, who produced a son, Linus, in 1884. Oregon Beauty was indeed exhibited and the New York Times reported that she was killed in a fire on June 17, 1888 at Coney Island (a popular exhibition venue) when “Lightning struck the gable of a roof and glancing off, set a heap of rubbish on fire 10 feet away. It then went through the stable, setting it on fire and killing a very fine mare belonging to M.E. Reid of California. The animal was the celebrated Oregon Beauty, a beautiful dark chestnut, 9 years old. She possessed a fine, large, bushy tail and a heavy mane 10 feet long. She was valued at $15,000. She was well known throughout California and Oregon, having been exhibited in all cities and towns of those states, and her owner had brought her to New York to exhibit to the admirers of horse flesh.”
This original Linus is known to have been three-quarter Clydesdale and one-quarter French (Percheron) and his weight was advertised as 1435 lbs. He was bred in Marion, Oregon, about 1884, then acquired around 1890/91 by brothers CH & HW Eaton from Calais, Maine. Linus was sold to the Eaton Brothers for $30,000 in 1890, but died in 1894 at the age of 10 years. By then, he had sired Aurelius (born Oregon June 1890) and Linus II (born 1894). Aurelius was exhibited at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles as one of the “Oregon Wonder Horses” and was 16 hands tall with “a luxuriant mane and tail”. Some photos of Linus II can also be found labelled as being Aurelius (mane 7 ft, tail 8 ft) who was two-thirds owned by LA Cole and JK Rutherford.
The Eatons became the most successful promoters of the horse. “When about four years old his mane and tail grew so rapidly-often as much as 3 inches a month -that in three years they reached their present astonishing length. His body colour is a glossy golden chestnut, he has white hind feet and a white face, and his mane, tail and foretop are of a soft flaxen colour. His hair, which is ‘done up’ when he is not receiving visitors, continues to grow, though now very slowly. Linus is certainly a beautiful animal. He is proud, carries his head high, and enjoys admiration with all the intelligence and pride of his race. The mane is 14ft, the foretop 9ft and the tail 12ft. When spread and drawn out to their full extent, the display of the beautiful locks is quite impressive. It is washed out with cold water, no tonics being applied to it. Before the horse is placed in his stall the hair is drawn out and divided into several thick strands. From his mane four such strands are made. Each strand is then tied around once every six inches almost to the end. It is then rolled up and put into a bag. For his mane and foretop alone five bags are required. He is exercised in the same guise, a blanket or sheet, if necessary, being thrown over him to conceal the pendant bags. He is exercised every day, either in a ring or out of doors under saddle. The owners will not permit him to be taken into the upper floor of any building for fear of some accident.”
Linus was featured in Scientific American in 1891 where he was described (incorrectly) as a Percheron stallion (Percherons are grey, Linus was chestnut): “He is 16 hands in height, weighs 1,435 pounds and is of chestnut color. The mane is fourteen feet, the foretop nine feet, and tail twelve feet long. When spread and drawn out to their full extent, the display of the beautiful locks of bright hair is quite impressive. The greatest care is taken of the hair. It is washed out with cold water, no tonics being applied to it. Before the horse is placed in his stall the hair is drawn out and divided into several thick strands. From his mane four such strands are made. Each strand is then tied around once every six inches about to the end. It is then rolled up and put into a bag. For his mane and foretop alone five bags are required….During the last two years his mane and tail have grown about two feet.“