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Dividing a herd of horses

A local horse rancher died early one morning and his will bequeathed his herd of racehorses to his three sons. The will specified that the herd must be divided exactly; and 1/2 of the horses should go to the eldest son, 1/3 of the horses to the second son, and 1/9 of the horses to the youngest son. Unfortunately for the sons at the time of his death, there were 17 horses in the herd.

According to the terms of the will, the bequests must be distributed by sundown following the death of the father or the horses would be given to charity and the sons would be destitute.

Frustrated by trying to divide 17 horses evenly, unwilling to divide a horse merely to satisfy the will and totally unwilling to give up their inheritance, the three sons sent for the assistance of a wise old man in the next ranch (I'm seeing Walter Brennan or Gabby Hayes here). The smart old codger rode over on his own horse, immediately recognized the sons' dilemma and promptly settled the will legally and in accordance with the precise terms of the will and then rode home again.

how did he do it? Why did his solution work?

please state any mathematical reasoning you used to arrive at your answer.

Solution Preview

Hello and thank you for posting your question to Brainmass.

Note that if you add up the fraction each son gets we will obtain:

1/2 + 1/3 + 1/9 = 17/18 < 1

This means that according to the ...

Solution Summary

A nice solution to a tricky problem....