‘He is irreplaceable’: Atlanta police department mourns 4-legged officer

A 16-year veteran of the mounted patrol unit died following an emergency surgery, the Atlanta Police Department said this week.

Hercules, a Percheron cross Thoroughbred, had been with the unit since he was 2 years old, the department said. After being saddle broken at Angola State Prison in Louisiana, Hercules traveled to Atlanta to begin his career.

“Due to his size and shiny white coat, he stood out from the rest and was always a crowd favorite,” APD said in a social media post.

Hercules, the second-largest horse in the barn, died Friday after being rushed to Athens for surgery.

ExploreNo horsing around: Atlanta’s four-legged officers serve vital role

“Hercules knew his job and patrolled the streets with all the grace a horse that size could muster,” the department said. “A big horse with a bigger personality. He is irreplaceable and will be missed.”

In 1989, Atlanta’s mounted patrol unit moved from Piedmont Park to its current home in Grant Park. But horses have played a key role since the early days of law enforcement, long before patrol cars existed.

APD horses continue to train after joining the unit and being paired with a human officer, Lt. Greg Lyon, the unit’s commander, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a 2020 interview. Then, the horses are ready for patrol. Each horse’s “uniform” includes a badge.



The mounted patrol unit helps bridge the gap between communities skeptical of law enforcement, officers say. The horses attend more than 100 events per year, including parades and festivals.

“You might not like police officers, but you like horses,” Lyon said. “It’s hard to find people who don’t like both.”

The horses also help patrol, giving their human officers a higher vantage point.

Ten human officers and a horse trainer are assigned to the mounted patrol unit, which has 12 horses following the death of Hercules. A new horse, Navigator, was already scheduled to move to Atlanta next spring, Lyon said Tuesday.

Navigator is being trained at Asbury University in Kentucky. The APD is among 20 agencies in the U.S. and Canada that rely on Asbury’s police horse training program.