Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Black Beauty
by Anna Sewell

Horse fiction is one of literature’s deepest genres and yet it is often dismissed as lacking in substance. Let’s start with Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – you have all heard of this novel from 1877, but are you with familiar with the book’s impact on animal welfare?

Black Beauty is one of bestselling books of all time and offers many messages about the mistreatment of animals. Sewell did not write the book for children but for horses. She wrote at a time when horses were essential working animals, and the book sparked animal welfare campaigns and helped to alter how harmful reins and blinkers were used.

Narrated by the horse in the first person, the novel moves from farm life to the harsh world of pulling cabs in London where hardship and cruelty is commonplace. The book offers a remarkable insight into the Victorian taxi cab industry and pre-mechanised London, and can hardly be cast aside as ‘soft’ literature.

Black Beauty did launch the pony book genre, which means novels about companionship and equestrian skills suitable for young girls who love horses, but horse novels go way beyond these slim volumes.

National Velvet by Enid Bagnold and The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley have given hours of joy to millions of readers, and their themes - from adventures on horseback to the bonds of animal companionship - have wide appeal.

Zane Grey loved writing horse stories as they were integral to the Wild West of his fiction – Wild Horse Mesa, Valley of Wild Horses and Horse Heaven Hill are just three that spring to mind. Dick Francis wrote numerous thrillers based around Britain’s horse racing industry and loved to depict the sport’s seedy underbelly. Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses lends some heavyweight credibility to the genre, while War Horse by Michael Murpurgo is a fine young adult novel that packs an emotional punch amid the devastation of the World War I trenches.

This selection is fictional but we also recommend Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand as the best non-fiction horse book of recent times.

A Selection of Horse-Themed Fiction

National Velvet by Enid Bagnold
National Velvet
by Enid Bagnold
War Horse by Michael Morpugo
War Horse
by Michael Morpugo
Little Red by Roberta Piper
Little Red
by Roberta Piper
The Lonely One by Cecil & Celia Manson
The Lonely One
by Cecil & Celia Manson
The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
The Horse and His Boy
by C.S. Lewis
The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans
The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans
The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley
The Black Stallion series
by Walter Farley
Dead Cert by Dick Francis
Dead Cert
by Dick Francis
King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
King of the Wind
by Marguerite Henry
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
Out Stealing Horses
by Per Petterson
The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
The Red Pony
by John Steinbeck
Wildfire by Zane Grey
Wildfire
by Zane Grey
Wounded by Percival Everett
Wounded
by Percival Everett
Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
Lord of Misrule
by Jaimy Gordon
Wild Horse Island by Elisa Bialk
Wild Horse Island
by Elisa Bialk
The Scorpio Race by Maggie Stiefvater
The Scorpio Race
by Maggie Stiefvater
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
The God of Animals by Kyle Aryn
The God of Animals
by Kyle Aryn
Green Rider by Kristen Britain
Green Rider
by Kristen Britain
My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara
My Friend Flicka
by Mary O’Hara
Billy and Blaze by C.W. Anderson
Billy and Blaze
by C.W. Anderson
Moorland Mousie by Golden Gorse
Moorland Mousie
by Golden Gorse
The Horse Soldiers by Harold Sinclair
The Horse Soldiers
by Harold Sinclair
Born to Race by Blanche Chenery Perrin
Born to Race
by Blanche Chenery Perrin

What is the best horse story of all time?


Much more to explore:




Timeless Tales of Adventure Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline Just Rudyard Kipling