Horse That Overcame Adversity Attempts Guinness World Record

Lukas, a 17-year-old Thoroughbred gelding who stands 16.2 hands, may well be the smartest horse in the country--maybe the world, and owner-trainer Karen Murdock is trying to get him into the Guinness World Records for "Most numbers identified by a horse in one minute."

On June 16, Lukas was able to identify a correct number at least 18 times.

"The counter said 20, but I think he skimmed two of them," said Murdock of Southern California. "I don't know how stringent the Guinness World Records will be. He got between 18-20 correct, which is about average for him."

Lukas' journey from broken-down rescue to smartest horse was a long, hard road and can be an inspiration for anyone, Murdock said. "Lukas overcame adversity and that can help our character. It is never too late for any of us."

He ran three races as a 2-year-old and bowed both front tendons, ending his career. He was found years later filthy and emaciated in a back yard by a woman who took pity on him.

She tried to rehabilitate him for her jumping program-but he was obstinate and dangerous. She sold him to Murdock eight years ago.

"He was a handful," Murdock said, "but I fell in love with him. Basically, I had to un-train him and use tricks and play to change his attitude and to build a bond with him."

Lukas has been listed on Yahoo, Google and the World Records Academy as "The World's Smartest Horse." He counts, spells, identifies shapes, discriminates colors and grasps the concepts of same/different, proportion and absentness, she said.

To be considered for the Guinness record, he had to point with his nose the correct number from 1 to 5 when Murdock called it out; the call-outs were random and non-sequential.

She was not allowed to praise him, pet him, encourage him or touch him. "The guidelines were specific in that there could be no pointing or touching, no extra words," she said.

Murdock doesn't know when Guinness will make its decision, but she is happy that the record-keepers are even considering Lukas. Until now, animal records have had to do with the physical attributes - tallest, shortest, longest tail, etc.

Considering an animal's cognitive abilities is new.

"This is the first time that Guinness has ever allowed such an activity," she said. "I'm just glad that people are willing to look at animals in a different light."

About the Author

Marie Rosenthal, MS

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