Mimi MatthewsMimi Matthews

An Intelligent Horse Delivers the Mail

The Edinburgh and London Royal Mail by John Frederick Herring, 1838.

The Edinburgh and London Royal Mail by John Frederick Herring, 1838.

One night in 1894, while on the mail route from Ramsgate to Dover, the driver of a mail cart was attacked by two armed men.  According to the Leeds Times, he was “cut about the head and face” and then struck in the back of the head with a “heavy implement.”  He was later found unconscious on a roadway near Sandwich.  What the thieves intended to steal from the mail cart is unclear, for they were ultimately thwarted in their goal.  Having seen them attack his master, the mail horse bolted away with the mail before the two villains could catch him.

The horse was apparently familiar with the mail route and, despite having no human to guide him, he galloped straight for the next mail stop at Sandwich and delivered the mail on his own.  He was so efficient in his endeavor that having arrived at Sandwich, an 1894 edition of the Dundee Evening Telegraph states that not a single piece of mail was reported to be missing.

The driver later recovered and “proceeded on his journey.”  The newspapers do not  explicitly say so, but I expect that he reconnected with his horse at Sandwich.  As for the horse, though reports do refer to him as an “intelligent horse” who saved the mail bags, there is no more information about him.

The Last of the Mail Coaches at Newcastle upon Tyne by James Pollard, 1848.

The Last of the Mail Coaches at Newcastle upon Tyne by James Pollard, 1848.

Loose horses, when frightened, will often head straight home to the safety of their stable—no matter how intricate the journey or how burdensome their cargo.  For example, an 1882 edition of the Thetford & Watton Times and People’s Weekly Journal reports on a farmer who was driving a cart of sheep into town.  When he climbed down to latch a gate, his horse bolted away with the cart and the sheep.  As the article states:

“Although there were two or three turns in the road, it passed them all safely, and turned into the gateway of its home without doing the least damage to itself or cart.”

Granted, the mail horse did not live in Sandwich, but it was a regular stop on his route and a place with which he was familiar.  I am in no doubt of the intelligence of horses, but rather than believe (as the newspapers allude) that the mail horse’s work ethic and intelligence inspired him to continue on with the mail delivery, I would argue that he merely galloped to the closest place of safety.  What do you think?

North Country Mails at the Peacock, Islington by James Pollard, 1821.

North Country Mails at the Peacock, Islington by James Pollard, 1821.

Thus concludes another of my Friday features on Animals in Literature and History.  If you are interested in helping a horse in need, I encourage you to utilize the following links as resources:

Equine Rescue League (United States)

RSCPA Horses and Ponies Rehoming and Adoption (United Kingdom)


Sources

“Intelligent Horse Saves the Mail Bags.”  Dundee Evening Telegraph.  September 14, 1894.

“The Mails Saved by Bolting Horse.”  Leeds Times.  September 15, 1894.

Thetford & Watton Times and People’s Weekly Journal.  March 18, 1882.

About Mimi Matthews

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library JournalPublishers Weekly, and Kirkus, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.

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