Photo/IllutrationEmperor Akihito and Empress Michiko feed two horses presented to Akihito at Kodomonokuni in Yokohama in 2005 as farm staff Asuka Kobayashi, left, looks on. (Provided by Kodomonokuni)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Two miniature horses presented to Emperor Akihito 40 years ago have been stuffed and will be displayed for the first time in a Tokyo museum.

The Argentine president at the time presented the male Falabella Ponies, hoping they would become playmates for Akihito's three children.

Stuffed specimens of the duo are featured in a rotating exhibit, titled “Domesticated Animal: Loved, Raised and Slaughtered,” which will open on March 2 at the University Museum, The University of Tokyo.

Farrucho, a black horse, and Garrucho, who had brown and white spots, were quite short. The height of their withers from ground to shoulder measured less than 90 centimeters.

They were sent to Japan in 1979 at age 6 to be raised at Yukijirushi Kodomonokuni Bokujo’s animal farm in Kodomonokuni, a children’s adventure park in Yokohama.

The park was founded in 1965 to commemorate the marriage of Akihito and Empress Michiko in 1959. Akihito was crown price at the time.

The two horses got along well and were almost inseparable. When they didn’t see each other, one neighed and the other answered, said Asuka Kobayashi, a member of the animal farm’s breeding staff, who cared for them for 16 years, from 1998 until their deaths.

Garrucho was a voracious eater who loved apples and carrots. Farrucho was kind and calm, and always walked while craning his neck around to look at Garuccho, who stepped slowly because of bad hind legs, Kobayashi said.

Farrucho passed away in summer 2013. Garrucho was seen searching the horse stable for Farrucho, neighing and waiting for his friend’s reply. Garrucho died the next summer.

Kobayashi, now 43, still pines for the horses, who were adored by park visitors, especially kids, who often fed them over the fences.

On the Respect for the Aged Day, a national holiday in September, they were let out of from behind the fences as “representative of senior citizens,” and children lined up to pat them on the head.

Akihito and Michiko always came over to see the horses when they visited the park.

On the 40th anniversary of the park’s opening, the couple fed them carrots. Without showing any concern over their hands getting soiled from the drooling animals, they put their hands under the horses’ mouths so they could chomp away without missing a bite, Kobayashi said.

Akihito and Michiko also visited in 2009, bringing Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife, Masako, and Prince Fumihito and his family.

The horses had a feast as everyone in Fumihito’s family fed them. Prince Hisahito, Fumihito’s son and the only grandson of Akihito, 3 years old at the time, enjoyed giving them carrots and patting their noses, not appearing the least bit frightened, according to Kobayashi.

She maintained medical and welfare records for the horses in special notebooks, documenting vaccination dates and detailing their conditions with illustrations.

During their declining years, Kobayashi went to check on them even during her vacation because she said, “I felt all the time like I had left elderly parents home alone.”

The pair were past 40 when they died, exceptional longevity for a horse.

“They both lived full lives,” said Hideki Endo, 53, a professor of the University Museum, The University of Tokyo, who is supervising the exhibition.

Kobayashi said she's excited about the exhibit.

“I have had an empty feeling, so I am really looking forward to seeing them again,” she said.

The exhibit runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. It closes on June 30.

Details can be found at: http://www.um.u-tokyo.ac.jp/