Support Us Button Widget

The story of Old Pat at Fort Sam Houston

You can pay a visit to Fort Sam’s 975-pound legend at North Pine + Cunningham.

A handler affixing a blanket to Old Pat, a tall dark horse with one white hoof. The blanket says "PAT 12 FA."

Pat looking sharp in his 12th Field Artillery blanket.

Photo via Rae Gordon Whitley Collection and Archives

On the west side of Fort Sam Houston — at North Pine and Cunningham — there’s a rectangle of gravel that looks a little bit like a long jump pit. At one end stands a tombstone. At the other, a set of four horseshoes.

This gravesite marks the resting place of Old Pat, a thoroughbred that came to Fort Sam in 1912 and served 19 years in the US Army. Pat’s legend lives on in San Antonio — and don’t worry, it’s a story with a happy ending.

Foaled in 1908, Pat pulled guns for the 3rd and 12th Field Artillery Battalions. He instantly clicked with the soldiers, who compared his personality to a golden retriever. In fact, soldiers were so fond of him that it’s hard to tell truth from fiction. For example, they said Pat fought on the Western Front in WWI, which his records don’t confirm.

Either way, the gelding was popular at Fort Sam. However, the Army was making its move to machines. Atlas Obscura writes, “During the 1930s, the Army started to dispose of its cavalry horses, either by selling them or destroying them.” (Psst… “destroy” is animal care terminology: it means to humanely euthanize.)

Legal issues prevented Pat’s comrades from buying him — though they tried — but Lt. Col. C.M. Tuteur appealed to the top brass, and Pat was released into retirement in 1938. He spent the rest of his life at pasture, appearing publicly on military holidays. At the end of his life, he was paraded in front of crowds of 35,000.

Old Pat died at 45, making him one of the oldest horses in the world. He was buried to “Taps” at his current resting place off Cunningham Street.

Want to visit? Head to Fort Sam Houston with a valid ID. Pro tip: while you’re there, visit the museum of the “Home of the Combat Medic” + peep peacocks at The Quadrangle.