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Few movies have the privilege of going down as one of the best in history, let alone creating a memorable movie line that supersedes its time and is repeated by generations to come. For Mel Gibson (played William Wallace) and his film Braveheart, that honor rings true with the major inspirational speech and defiant yell that “they’ll never take our freedom!”

Even more, there were the realistic-looking horses. Gibson knew right off the bat that they were perfection, offering $5 if anyone could even spot the fakes. This led to animal cruelty speculations from animal rights groups that would take more than their word to convince otherwise.

‘Braveheart’ has, indeed, used fake horses in the film

Despite the controversy surrounding the Oscar-winning Best Picture and the horses that played a major role in its filming, any scene that had the potential to cause harm to a horse used mechanical horses. 

In fact, IMDb reports that “the mechanical horses designed for the battle sequences weighed 200 pounds, and were fueled by nitrogen cylinders propelling them at 30 mph on 20-foot tracks.”

This is most notably obvious when the horse fell into the moat in the film. Not only was it obviously fake since it was practically motionless as it fell (legs weren’t even moving!), but it didn’t even try to catch itself as a real one would. Nonetheless, the critically acclaimed film received a lot of heat that didn’t cool down until they proved fake horses were used too. 

The horses were so realistic that Mel Gibson offered $5 to those who could spot the fakes

Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson | Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

When it came down to it, there’s no doubting the pride Gibson had in his Braveheart film, especially when it comes to the representation of the fake horses in numerous scenes. However, that wasn’t the only great behind-the-scene secret that made the film what it is today.

According to NewsBytes, “Some of the battle scenes in the film turned out far more realistic than intended, with the 1,600 extras — Most of [which] were members of the Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil (FCA), which is the reserve Irish Army.”

Not only was the army real, but the horses looked so real, despite being mechanical, that “Gibson had said that he’d give $5 to anyone who could spot fakes in the theatrical release.” As far as we know — no one ever came forward to make him pay up!

It took more than their ‘say-so’ to convince ISPCA no horses were in danger


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A lot of controversies surrounded the horses in Braveheart and whether any real horses were actually harmed in the making of the film. Due to its realistic representation and incredible special effects, many animal rights groups were reluctant to just take Braveheart and Gibson’s word that no real horses were harmed. 

In fact, The Times reported that “Mel Gibson says he sent behind-the-scenes footage from Braveheart to the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) in order to prove that no horses were harmed during the making of the film.”

The magazine added that the actor said, “We had to show them some B-roll to convince them that I didn’t hurt animals” in an interview and found that the complaints that had been made were ‘flattering’ because it showed the illustrated of the fake horses.

With that being said, the ISPCA said in 2020 that they have yet to find the ’95 animal cruelty investigation into Braveheart in their records.