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The definitive history of weird presidential horse photos

Obama met a man wearing a horse mask, and the Internet went wild.


Fran Berkman

Internet Culture

Posted on Jul 9, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 11:59 pm CDT

U.S. President Barack Obama shook hands with a man wearing a horse mask, because the Internet is real. 

Obama reacts as he is greeted by a man wearing a horse-head as he walked the streets of downtown Denver.

— Doug Mills (@dougmillsnyt) July 9, 2014

U.S. politics, 2014

— Cooper Fleishman (@_Cooper) July 9, 2014

A short, weird history of the horse mask meme.

— Caitlin Dewey (@caitlindewey) July 9, 2014

It was the talk of the Internet Wednesday. News publications from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles covered the event, marking it as one that “just [needs] to be shared with the masses.”

As it turns out, Obama is far from the first president to have an equestrian affinity. 

The tradition of presidential horse photos stretches back more than 200 years to none other than George Washington.

Photo via the National Archives

Honest Abe loved horses so much, this statue happened.

Photo via the Library of Congress

Teddy Roosevelt, before he was president, led a mounted army unit known as the “Rough Riders” into battle.

Photo via America’s Library

JFK liked his horses like he liked his names—abbreviated.

Photo via the National Archives

Ronald Reagan loved horses and loved the camera, and the camera loved him. The horses may or may not have loved him.

Photo via the National Archives

Bill Clinton was taking great dating-site profile pictures before dating sites even existed.

Photo via the National Archives and Records Administration

George W. Bush put his love for horses on stage every opportunity he got.

Photo via the National Archives

And let’s not forget Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s not just conservative commentators who love a shirtless Vladimir Putin. Everyone does!

— FiveThirtyEight (@FiveThirtyEight) May 12, 2014

So there you have it. Presidents have always posed with horses. And Obama, true to his embrace of digital culture, updated this tradition for the Internet age.

Photo via Imgur

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*First Published: Jul 9, 2014, 11:07 am CDT