The last of the U.S. Army Horses, Black Jack
Upon the death of President John F. Kennedy Americans saw
sight of Black Jack, the riderless horse with boots reversed in
The United States Army has used horses for many things
throughout its history, but one of the most unique and well-
known jobs for an Army horse is as the "Riderless Horse" in
The tradition of the "Riderless Horse," representing the
absence of a fallen warrior, has a long history, dating back
at least to the time of the Mongols. In the early days of
this custom's history the horse was sacrificed in order to
make it available to carry the dead warrior to the next
world. Later, its presence in the funeral procession became
simply symbolic and honorary.
Today in the USA, a fallen Army or Marine Corps officer who
was at least a colonel is honored with a caparisoned horse
in his or her funeral procession. This honor also goes to a
President because he or she is the commander in chief and to
the Secretary of Defense because they oversee the armed
forces. Traditionally, the Riderless Horse wears an empty
saddle, pistols and holsters, and a pair of black boots is
reversed in the stirrups.
The most famous of the Riderless Horses that have served the
U.S. military through the years was named Black Jack. He was
named after General John Pershing, General of the Armies in
World War One, whose nickname was "Black Jack".
Black Jack the horse was born in January of 1947 and was the
last of the Quartermaster-issue horses, wearing his Army
serial number and U.S. brand on each side of his neck. Black
Jack was coal black, and his breeding was unregistered as
was that of most Army service horses.
Black Jack served in the funeral of General Douglas
MacArthur in 1964 and in the funerals of three American
Presidents, John F. Kennedy, Herbert Hoover, and Lyndon
Johnson in 1963, 1964, and 1974 respectively.
Over the course of his career he marched as the Riderless
Horse in over one thousand Armed Forces Full Honors
Funerals, most in Arlington National Cemetery. When he died
in 1976 after twenty-nine years of service to his country,
Black Jack was one of just two Army horses who were buried
with full military honors.
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