You’ve heard of child prodigies, but have you ever heard of a horse prodigy? Back in the 1800’s there was a freed slave named Bill “Doc” Key, who was a veterinarian. He was greatly bothered by the brutal way that many horse-owners treated their animals. He would implore them to lay down their whips and use kindness instead.
In 1889, one of his horses gave birth to a crippled foal. Many people would have put down the foal. But Doc gave him a name – Jim Key – and worked gently with him until he learned to walk. A great affection grew between man and animal. As time went on, Doc became convinced that Jim Key was intelligent. He began to show Jim cards with numbers and letters, and eventually Jim learned the alphabet, as well as numbers and simple addition and subtraction!
So amazing was Jim that Doc took him to fairs all over the country. They went to the Tennessee Centennial Exhibition in 1897, and to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Many people have debated over the years how much Jim Key actually understood, but one thing is for certain: patience and kindness will bring out the best in both animals and humans.
This is a Scholastic children’s picture book, but can be enjoyed by all ages. To learn more about Doc and Jim Key, you can read the biography: “Beautiful Jim Key – The Lost History Of The World’s Smartest Horse” by Mim Eichler Rivas.