Nugget of Knowledge: Meaning of military statues

Do hooves in the air tell us the way a soldier died?

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Here’s something you may have heard.

You see a statue of a soldier on a horse. The number of hooves the horse holds in the air tells you what happened to the soldier riding it.

All four legs on the ground: the soldier survived the war with no wounds. One leg in the air: the soldier was wounded in battle but survived.

Two forelegs in the air: the soldier was killed in battle or later died of wounds received in battle.

Those are your three options.

True or not?

It’s all a myth. The U.S. Army Center of Military History says no such tradition has ever existed.

Walk around Washington D.C., which has the largest collection of equestrian statues of any city in the world. If you check this tradition against the statues, you’ll find that the statues follow the tradition only 30 percent of the time.

Take the statue of General Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park; his horse has both forelegs in the air. Then-President Jackson did not die in battle but of tuberculosis.

A much-lesser-known statue myth has to do with European knights.

The myth goes that if the knight’s statue or tombstone depicts them with their legs or arms crossed, then the knight took up the cross to fight in one of the Crusades.

That’s not true either.

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