Here is a beautiful and intriguing painting (roughly 18" x 24") we purchased from a woman in North Chatham, New York in 1958, depicting a horse. Not just any horse. But the horse with the longest hair in the world. Supposedly.
I'm pretty sure that title was bestowed on the animal by our then-Director Lou Jones, who was a folklorist by trade and loved tall tales. Looking at this painting, it's easy to see it as a product of an artist's imagination or some flight of fancy on the part of the person who commissioned the painting. Over the years, scores of visitors to the Fenimore Art Museum have thought otherwise, and have filled our research files with candidates for the identity of this horse.
The most compelling case is that of Linus, a Percheron stallion who was featured in Scientific American in 1891. In fact, the engraving of Linus that appeared in the journal (above) was possibly the source for the painting's composition, as opposed to the artist painting the picture from life by viewing the real horse.
Here is what Scientific American had to say about Linus: 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.
Some years ago someone sent this photograph of Linus, an even better image of him to compare with the painting.
Is this enough to re-title the painting? Perhaps. We haven't done that yet; the title "Horse with the Longest Hair in the World" is hard to let go of.