President George Washington is well known for his leadership during the Revolutionary War and for being the nation’s first President. But Washington also started another tradition – Presidential pets. He greatly valued his animals, including many of his horses. One rather famous horse was Blueskin.
Blueskin was a blue roan – meaning that he had darker skin and lighter colored hair, so during the summer months when his hair was short, he looked bluish in color. But when the weather turned colder and his coat thickened, he appeared to be white. Half-Arabian, Blueskin was said to have had the famous Ranger for a father.
Washington rode Blueskin in some battles during the war. However, Blueskin did not tolerate the sounds, smells, and sights of battle as steadily as Washington would have liked. Many portraits of Washington depict him atop Blueskin, possibly due to the horse’s greyish-white color, but in fact Washington often rode his other favorite horse, Nelson, to battle instead. Washington did use Blueskin for ceremonial events, which may also have contributed to Blueskin getting more “portrait time” than Nelson.
Blueskin was given as a gift to Washington. In 1773, an aide and personal friend of Washington named Colonel Benjamin Tasker Dulany married Washington’s ward, Elizabeth French. Shortly thereafter, Dulany presented Washington with Blueskin.
After the Revolutionary War concluded, both Blueskin and Nelson were retired to Washington’s farm, Mount Vernon. But while Nelson lived at the farm until his death, Blueskin was returned to the Dulanys in November of 1785 with the following note:
“General Washington presents his best respects to Mrs. Dulany with the horse Blueskin; which he wishes was better worth her acceptance.
Marks of antiquity have supplied the place of those beauties with which this horse abounded—in his better days. Nothing but the recollection of which, & of his having been the favourite of Mr. Dulany in the days of his Court ship, can reconcile her to the meagre appearance he now makes.
Mrs. Washington presents her Compliments and thanks to Mrs. Dulany for the Roots of Scarcity.”