Epsom Derby winner Hermit - 150 years on

22nd May 2017

Where they are now?

'Where are they now?' is a topical question posed in many sporting articles.  150 years ago on Wednesday 22 May 1867 Hermit recorded a dramatic neck victory in the Derby at Epsom.


An old blog, ( The Adventures of Hermit, Two Aristocrats, and a Lady) covers one of the most extraordinary stories in the Derby’s 237 year history.  A sensational tale of a love triangle, betrayal, gambling and financial ruin, all connected to the world’s most famous flat race.

Today Hermit’s skeleton is helping educate veterinary medicine students at the Royal Veterinary College, Camden, London. But how did a Derby winner and leading sire of his age end up there?

Hermit (1864) retired at the end of the 1869 season having won eight and been placed in another nine of his 23 races.  Owned by Henry Chaplin, later Lord (1st p1010277Minister of Agriculture in 1889 – a cabinet post), Hermit was a phenomenal success at stud heading the sire’s charts for seven consecutive years between 1880-1886.  He sired five classic winners including successive Derby winners Shotover (1882) and St Blaise (1883).

Hermit died on 29 April 1890 at Chaplin’s Blankney stud in Lincolnshire at the age of 26. A year later it was reported in the Illustrated London News that the horse’s skeleton had been presented to the Royal Veterinary College.  Chaplin had arranged for Mr Rowland Ward, the world famous taxidermist, of 166 Piccadilly, London, to have the skeleton scientifically and artistically mounted.

Andrew Crook MBE, the Head of Anatomy Service at the RVC, gave us an update on how the skeleton is now used.


Hermit is a permanent resident in our Dissection Room, and is therefore used in every BVet Med anatomy class that we have, but some (locomotor, cardio vascular, head) more than others. He is also the star of the general skeleton anatomy lecture that I give every year in February to our BSc/Gateway cohort”.

We have 220 students in the first year BVet Med, 200 in the second year BVet Med, 100 graduates on the Accelerated BVet Med, and the 150 BSc/Gateway cohort each year. All of these students will use Hermit in some way.”

“As I’m sure you are aware, the skeleton hermit-2is the fundamental building block of all the anatomy we do. Hermit also has some basic pathology which is a useful reference point. His history and fame lends a lot to his presence in the Dissection Room. We couldn’t do without him.

The 1891 magazine article also stated that Hermit’s hide was converted into interesting mementoes.  One of these is likely to be the writing folder (pictured right) which forms part of our Heroes and Legends collection in the museum galleries.

The legend of Hermit goes on.

We would like to thank Andrew Crook  for his help with this blog.

The writing folder is on loan from a admin-ajaxprivate collection.