Remember Mr. Ed, the talking horse of TV fame? It’s entirely possible that instead of being called a “talking horse,” he’d be called a “talking elk dog.”
Here’s the story:
Modern horses were introduced to North America by the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s, spreading to the Great Plains by the late 1600s. At first, people referred to them as “elk dogs,” as the animal was as large as an elk but could be trained to carry items, like their dogs.
Unlike dogs, horses didn’t need to be fed meat. They could instead live off grass or cottonwood bark in the winter, making them easier to care for.
Elk dogs, soon to be known as horses, quickly transformed the livelihood of the Plains Nations by making it possible for tribes to hunt and travel great distances.
If the elk dog name had stuck, then Roy Rogers would have been famous for chasing down bad dudes in the West on his “elk dog Trigger.” Not right, is it?
And speaking of Mr. Ed, do you know how the TV producers made his lips move while he was talking? No, it was not by putting peanut butter in his mouth. “It was initially done by putting a piece of nylon thread in his mouth,” said Mr. Ed’s TV sidekick Alan Young. “But Ed actually learned to move his lips on cue when the trainer touched his hoof. In fact, he soon learned to do it when I stopped talking during a scene!” By the way, cowboy star Allan “Rocky” Lane (“Red Ryder”) was the voice of Ed.