Television and Film award season is upon us.  I used to enjoy watching at least the pre-show, to see what all the fabulous people were wearing, but now that it’s become just another political platform, I’m looking elsewhere for entertainment.  Looking to the past actually, where horses and the beginnings of the motion picture connect.


In 1872, the former governor of California Leland Stanford, a race-horse owner, hired Eadweard Muybridge to undertake some photographic studies. Stanford had reputedly taken a bet on whether all four of a racehorse’s hooves are off the ground simultaneously. On 15 June 1878, Muybridge set up a line of cameras with tripwires, each of which would trigger a picture for a split second as the horse ran past. The results, as shown in this plate, settled the debate.




As told by Travis, credit to the International Museum of the Horse website.  “Muybridge is widely considered the father of the motion picture after having developed a way to capture horses in motion photographically and inventing a machine called a zoopraxiscope to view his images. He received a $50,000 grant to develop moving pictures of animals at the University of Pennsylvania from 1885-1887 and took over 100,000 photos of different animals and people completing a variety of different motions. Muybridge showed his work at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair showing his moving pictures to a paying public and making the first movie theatre.”  A gif of the slides as how they might be seen through the Zoopraxiscope can be found here:  http://imh.org/collections/photography/eadweard-muybridge-gif The viewer itself can be found at the International Musuem of the Horse, at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.


Over time his Zoopraxiscope morphed into the Zoetrope.  Stephen Herbert mapped out the timeline of it’s development, as well as providing a link where you’re able to print and create your own at home (sounds like a fun snow-day activity!).  http://www.stephenherbert.co.uk/muybZOETROPES.htm


Muybridge didn’t just focus on horses for his work, here are a few other known collections using the same photography methods…


a8e1762346f27c6da48d0e38cc99631c eadweard-muybridge-bird eadweard-muybridge-cat-running-plate-720-from-animal-locomotion-1887


Horses have played important roles in many aspects of our American history.  It’s fun to see how something as simple as a gentlemen’s wager and a horse being breezed could launch the beginning of something so widely-enjoyed by us.




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