If you have children, or were possibly once a child yourself, you’ve seen a Disney movie. They are next to impossible to avoid, unless you live on a remote rock in the middle of the ocean. But if you’re also an equestrian, chances are that you watched these movies while also critiquing the horses, comparing them to real life.
For me personally, now being a parent, and forced to watch these movies anyway, it’s all I can focus on. I spend much of the movie analyzing these horses every time they are on screen. Are they realistic? Does it even make sense?
To be fair, I actually do that to pretty much any movie with a horse in it, so of course I’m going to do it for these movies, too. It just happens these are cartoons, who may or may not have been created by someone who knows about horses.
Let’s get started.
Although Emir is not a main character, he is featured in the beginning of Aladdin. The snotty Prince rides him in, getting into a tussle with Aladdin, calling him a “street rat.”
This horse is clearly modeled off of the Arabian breed. The exaggerated, dished profile, high neck and tail carriage, with that high knee action, all say Arabian.
Using this impressive analysis, Aladdin takes place in the 15th century, in the Ottoman Empire, which is now modern day Turkey. Arabians horses were widespread in this area at that time, with many local tribes breeding different varieties. One stallion from this area even ended up being one of the foundation stallions of the thoroughbred breed.
Arabian horses have long been considered a status symbol for the wealthy, both back then and today, so it would definitely make sense for a prince to arrive on one.
As for the color… well, it’s an interesting choice. You may think at first glance that he is a grey, but he actually has a brown mane and tail. I’m not saying it isn’t possible, but I don’t know any horses that color.
Beauty and the Beast
Philippe, the family horse, is primarily used for pulling the carriage and doing farm work, but he’s also a riding horse. He looks exactly like a Belgium draft horse. He’s a big chestnut (their primary coat color) who is also docile and kind, all thing that Belgium drafts are known for.
Beauty and the Beast takes place in France, neighbors to Belgium, where the Belgium originated. Although France did have their own heavy draft breeds, Belgium kingdoms did bleed into France, so it would make sense that Belgium drafts would end up with French owners.
Belgium Drafts are the most direct line descendants of the “Great Horse,” the horses used to carry knights into battle in the medieval times. Over the years, they were developed into massive farm horses they are today.
With a large, imposing frame, and huge, powerful muscles, Angus is a Shire, a draft horse from England.
Shires are descendants of the English Great Horse, which itself was a descendant of the “Great Horse,” mentioned above. They were developed as war horses to carry knights into battle. When Henry VIII, known for beheading wives, but also a huge horse enthusiast, enacted his breeding laws that restricted breeding small horses, the English Great Horse was created. From there, the horses were increasingly used for farm work, resulting in breeding orientated towards heavy bodies.
The term “Shire” was not used until the mid-seventeenth century, with the official foundation stallion of the breed, “Packington Blind Horse,” standing stud from 1755-1770.
Which means, at the time Brave, in the 10th century, Shires did not exist yet. The closest would have been their ancestors, the “Great Horse.” Angus is very clearly meant to be a Shire, though. We’ll just have to suspend our disbelief on this one.
He’s a stocky, dun horse, with that very distinctive mane – he’s definitely a fjord.
Sitron is Prince Hans’ horse, introduced in the begining, and then used again when they are sieging the ice castle. Although his name is not mentioned in the film, the writer of the film confirmed Sitron, “Lemon,” is his name.
Disney nailed the horse casting in this one, as it fits perfect with the rest of the Nordic theme. The setting for the movie is Norway itself, with many of the locations based on actual places. The outfits worn by the characters are also Norwegian.
The Fjord horse is one of the world’s oldest breeds, with a history dating back at least 2,000 years. These horses were used by the Vikings as war mounts, and for working in the mountain terrain. While they only come in the color dun, there’s actually 5 different varieties of dun they can come in.
Technically not an actual horse breed, as it’s a water spirit. It’s water, that takes the shape of a horse.
I don’t feel like I should have to say this, but you never know. There’s no official horse breed that is made of water. However, the Nøkk (and a few other names for it) are shapeshifting water spirits in Scandinavian folklore. They were male spirits that played enchanting songs on the violin to lure women and children to their deaths. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what was happening in the movie.
There is an actual Scandinavian spirit called a bäckahäst or bækhest (‘brook horse’), and it follows a similar pattern. He appears as a beautiful white horse next to the river, and people are drawn to him. They climb on to the horse’s back, and then they are stuck fast. He then jumps into the river and drowns the rider.
It seems to be a common theme – In German folklore there is a spirit called a nykur. This spirit presents as a small, beautiful horse, who just wants a little pet. Naturally, everyone is going to pet the pretty little horse. But, it was all a clever ruse, as the people become stuck to the horse and he drags them down in the water to their deaths.
So the real lesson to be learned here is don’t take joy rides on strange horses, especially if they are standing next to a body of water. No matter how cute they may be, it’s just not worth it.
It’s a lot of fun to compare horses and look back on what went on historically with them. There’s so much background on horse breeds and cultures that I wasn’t aware of, and it’s interesting to see how Disney choose to portray them.
If you enjoyed this, stay tuned for part 2 – There were too many Disney horses to analyze in one go!