Last Cavalry Horse Is Historic Symbol
The Pentagram News, Washington D.C.
March 24, 1966
CHIEF, the last living cavalry horse still carried on government rolls, was foaled in 1932 and purchased by the Army in 1940 at Ft.Robinson, Neb. In December of 1949 he was placed in semi-retirement and was fully retired at Ft. Riley, Kan., in 1958. In the event of his death Chief will be buried with full military honors adjacent to Old Trooper, the cavalry monument on main post.
Chief the last remaining government owned cavalry horse is currently in retirement at Ft.Riley, Kan. Though the days of the horse cavalry have long since passed, this horse remains on the Army rolls.
Foaled In 1932, the bay entered the Army eight years later, exactly one year and 12 days prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was purchased at Fort Robinson, Neb., from L. A. Parker of Scottsbluff, Neb., for $183.00.
He arrived at his cavalry post, Ft. Riley, Kan. on April 3, 1941, where he was assigned to the 10th Cavalry and later the 9th Cavalry. In June of 1942, Chief was transferred to the Cavalry School and remained on the post until his retirement.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the 34-year-old horse is his physical condition. According to the Post Veterinarian. Chief’s physical condition is “excellent.” He says that except for advanced age, Chief demonstrates no condition to indicate any trouble in the foreseeable future.
About three years ago Chief was thin and lacking in energy. He carried his head low and his ears back. Then his diet was changed from the standard rations be had been receiving and the change has remarkable results.
Every day Chief, now sleek and fat. is let out in a corral at the Ft. Riley Riding Club. After a first burst of running, he lies down and rolls in the sand. Then he springs to his feet, kicks up his heels and prances around the corral. Usually he stops to roll in the sand several more times before retiring to a shady corner to graze.
In recent years, Chief has become somewhat of a historical landmark at Ft. Riley. During the summer months several hundred visitors call at the Riding Stable to look at the animal.
That Chief is the last of thousands is no idle statement. Illustrative of the number just prior to World War II, the Second Cavalry Division was activated at at Ft. Riley and during the early months of that conflict more than 6,000 head of horses were kept on post.
At Ft. Riley is a monument commemorating the operation of the 26th Cavalry Regiment which was totally annihilated by the Japanese during engagements of Luzon and Bataan in the early moments of WW II. This was the last occasion that mounted horse cavalry was used in actual combat by the United States against the enemy.
So the horse cavalry died. but Chief lives on. In 1953 the number of retired mounts at Ft Riley decreased in number from 43 to 30 at the year’s end. In 1954, the number declined to 11. In 1955, there were just five mounts left–two of whom were the most famous of cavalry horses–Gambler and Joe Louis. The other three were Flicka, Strollalong and Chief. All were geldings except Flicka, a mare.
Now they are all gone. . . all except Chief. the last of thousands. He was a good cavalry mount, well liked and remembered by a few people who have known him for a long time. Chief is a real live reminder of the days of boots and saddles– Custer and the 7th Cavalry, the great days of opening the American West. Chief was a Cavalry Horse.
The 3rd Infantry (Old Guard) has 28 government owned horses, but they are ceremonial horses, used primarily for caisson-drawing, as mounts for caisson section leaders, or caparisoned horses for military funerals..