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The answer lies in a 12th century chronicle called Gesta Herewardi (The Exploits of Hereward ), written by a Peterborough monk-historian in Latin, but based on an Old English memoir written by Leofric the Deacon, a priest in Hereward's household.

Hereward's horse was called Swallow, and his sword, Brainbiter. At one stage during their ongoing battle with King William's Norman forces, Hereward and his resistance fighters come under such fierce attack Hereward believes he will be overcome by his enemies and captured or killed. Rather than let his famous horse become an enemy's prize, he kills it himself.

Extract from the Gesta Herewardi :

Chapter XXVII

How Hereward was reduced to such straits that he slew with his own hands his excellent horse; and how next he overcame the army of five provinces.

After some respite from serious pursuit in the aforesaid mere (Wide near Upwell), Hereward was more severely besieged by those in the region and by the king's men, and so hard-pressed that in despair he slew with his own hands his splendid horse, so that no lesser man should boast that he had got Hereward's horse. But at length he escaped from this danger with his men, passed over Brunneswold and went to live in the great forests of Northamptonshire, laying waste the land with fire and sword."

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Q: Why did Hereward the Wake kill his horse?
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