How Black Beauty changed the way we view horses

Black Beauty
For many of us, Black Beauty gave us one of our first insights into the potential plight of horses — the book, written Anna Sewell was originally aimed at adults, not children.

Black Beauty — which was first published in 1877 — is still one of the most widely read “horse” books around. Recently it was chosen by NPR for it’s Backseat Book Club.

The article and commentary are well worth reading/listening to.

Black Beauty was Anna Sewell’s only published book, although her mother, Mary Wright Sewell, was a popular writer of juvenile fiction. She died of either tuberculosis or hepatitis only 5 months after it was published. Sewell had a unique relationship with horses — after breaking both ankles at the age of 14, she suffered lifelong consequences from the poor medical treatment she received. As a result, she was dependent upon horse-drawn transportation her entire life.

She was the first author to write a book from a horse’s point of view. Her stated goal with the book was “to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses”—an influence she attributed to an essay on animals she read earlier by Horace Bushnell entitled “Essay on Animals”. In that, she succeeded. Sewell is widely attributed to having eliminated the use of the “check rein” on carriages and, with more than 50 million copies of Black Beauty sold, she continues to influence generations of animal lovers.

I know that most of you MUST have read Black Beauty — not just once, but many times. I know that I did and it certainly made a huge impact on me.

What are your memories of the book?


2 thoughts on “How Black Beauty changed the way we view horses

  1. Actually, my 7 year old daughter and I just read it for her Literary Celebration at school. Most kids read “kid” chapter books (Magic Tree House, for example) – she was the only one to read a real length classic novel. And then we made an amazing Black Beauty out of a pumpkin, for which she won first place. She is already an incredibly empathetic child, and reading the book has made her ask a lot of interesting questions about working with our horse!

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