Saturday, December 5, 2015

What You Did Not Know About Black Beauty

Most horse lovers know the story about Black Beauty.  The story is about a horse who changed owners many times, some cruel, some kind, and eventually finds his way back to his original owner where he has a good life for his final days.

There is a lot more about the story that people do not know, there is a story behind the story.

Anna Sewell wrote Black Beauty over the years 1871 and 1877, it was the only book she ever wrote, and she died shortly after it was published.

As a young girl Anna had a fall on her way to school, injuring her ankles.  She was not treated correctly and left permanently crippled as a result.  She frequently traveled about in a horse drawn carriage which started her love for horses and also allowed her to see the cruel ways many of the carriage horses were treated on the streets of England.

One of the first improvements to animal welfare credited to the story of Black Beauty was an improvement to the horse drawn taxi licensing and fare system worked as previously the license fees were so high it forced taxi owners to work their horses long hours, and many days.  Another change was in doing away with the over use of the “bearing rein” or overcheck, as it is now known as, which at that time was often so over used that it made breathing difficult for the horses.

cover of Black Beauty book
Black Beauty was written differently than most books of the time; the tale was narrated by its main character, who happened to be a horse. His breed is never mentioned, but is often assumed to be Thoroughbred.

Black Beauty was born on a quaint farm but his life takes on many turns as he passes through hands of both good owners, and bad.  Along the way Beauty also meets many horse friends, including Ginger, a horse who has had a bad life.

Interestingly enough Black Beauty was not written as a children’s book.  While it was written with the intent to showcase cruelty to animals it was also Anna's desire to showcase cruelty of people towards other people, as Anna herself had been teased following her own injury.  Black Beauty was originally written as a book for adults.

Some of the issues of cruelty to horses mentioned in the book were, as mentioned, over use by taxi drivers, the bearing rein, tail docking, steeplechases, hiring horses out to people who did not know how to handle them, dangers of putting away a hot and sweaty horse, running horses on cobblestone (hard streets), and so forth.

Black Beauty, the book, also inspired other books to encourage awareness of animal cruelty issues, such as Beautiful Joe, about a dog.