Hound History with Tami Harbolt: Continuing Education About the Human Animal Bond

April 2021

Interspecies Friendships

Don’t you love videos about cheetahs and their dogs? Or orangutans and their dogs? What about horses and cats?

A very famous horse, named Godolphin Arabian, had a best friend in his long and tumultuous life. Grimalkin, a tabby. The horse was one of the three founding stallions of the Thoroughbred horse breed. His regular name was Sham, or Shamin. He was thought to have been foaled in Tunisia and given to the King of France as a gift. He was so unruly and temperamental that he did not win many friends in the King’s barns and was sold to an Englishman named Edward Coke in 1729, when he was about 5 or 6. After Coke died, the stallion changed hands twice more, winding up in the barns of the Earl of Godolphin.

Although most Thoroughbreds today trace their lineage to Darley Arabian, Godolphin’s Arabian produced the bloodline which created such horses as Man o’ War, Seabiscuit, and War Admiral. The interesting thing about this lineage is that these horses inherited genetic anomalies that made them have a longer stride and from their mothers, a larger heart. Secretariat’s heart weighed 22 lbs.! That’s twice the size of an average horse’s heart and gave the horses incredible stamina.

Sham died at 29 years, having stood at stud for 22 years. His one and only constant companion was his cat, Grimalkin.  Grimalkin is said to have died only days after the stallion passed away.

Dogs and cats serve as companions for many animals we keep in confinement in zoos, refuges, or private homes. Sometimes there is no explanationon how these friendships develop. There have been documented cases of predators taking in and caring for animals that are normally prey. It’s the wonderful mystery that makes me love animals as individuals and admire their adaptability.

For more about interspecies friendships, check out these sources:                               

Animal Odd Couples: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BvB0182xag

Cricket and Jimmy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLdBafu6fEE