Beautiful Jim Key. The Most Wonderful Horse in the World. And the smartest!

Beautiful Jim Key

BEAUTIFUL JIM KEY may be the smartest horse ever. Beautiful Jim Key may also be the smartest horse ever you’ve never heard about. We’re here to rectify that.

Beautiful Jim Key was a famous performing horse around the turn of the twentieth century. Jim could read and write, make change with money, do arithmetic for “numbers below thirty,” and cite Bible passages “where the horse is mentioned.” Read on!

Beautiful Jim Key spelling St Elmo.
Beautiful Jim Key spelling St Elmo.

Beautiful Jim’s trainer, “Dr.” William Key, was a former slave, a self-trained veterinarian, and a patent medicine salesman. Key emphasized that he used only patience and kindness in teaching the horse, and never a whip.

Dr. William Key, veterinarian and trainer of Beautiful Jim Key.
Dr. William Key, veterinarian and trainer of Beautiful Jim Key.

Although wildly popular wherever he was known, Beautiful Jim became a major celebrity thanks to the progressive promotion of A. R. Rogers.

President William McKinley saw Beautiful Jim Key perform at an exposition in Tennessee and declared, “This is the most astonishing and entertaining exhibition I have ever witnessed.” The President also commented that it was an example of what “kindness and patience” could accomplish.

Beautiful Jim Key with Dr. Key. From the Tennessee Virtual Archive.
Beautiful Jim Key with Dr. William Key. From the Tennessee Virtual Archive.

Not only did Beautiful Jim Key perform for nine years around the country to large crowds at expositions, world’s fairs, schools, and other venues, he was also a prominent and highly successful advocate for animals.

As he became the number one box office star in the nation Jim Key energized the worldwide animal welfare movement, making the phrase “be kind to animals” a household ideal, inspiring 2 million kids to pledge never be mean to animals. This was a tremendous accomplishment and a huge boost for the fledgling humane movement which was considered radical during the times.

Beautiful Jim Key Memorial nr. Shelbyville, Tennessee.
Beautiful Jim Key Memorial nr. Shelbyville, Tennessee.

Dr. Key passed away in 1909 at the age of 76. Beautiful Jim retired in 1907 and passed away in 1912.  What a legacy. What a treasure.

Video (20 minutes)

More
•  Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of the World’s Smartest Horse (article at ilovehorses.net) »
•  The Beautiful Jim Key Collection at the TVA Virtual Archives »

Get the Book
•  Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of the World’s Smartest Horse, Kindle eBook at Amazon »
•  Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of the World’s Smartest Horse, Paperback at Barnes & Noble »

Review (Barnes & Noble Customer):

“I fell in love with the irresistible Jim Key while reading his story, and even though I learned he was born in 1889, and both he and Dr. Key have been gone almost 100 years, I cried like a baby at the end of the book. This is a great story, a slice of American history, and shouldn’t be missed. Read it, you won’t be sorry!”

3 thoughts on “Beautiful Jim Key”

    1. We know that horses are very smart but this is one of the most amazing stories. It seems that people underestimate animals simply because they do not have speech in the way we do. They are in step with their Creator much more than we appear to be!

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