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1001 Black Beauty
Added on 08th August 2020

Author Anna Sewell
First published 1877
Publisher Jarrold and Son Ltd, Norwich, UK

The classic story of the life of a horse in Victorian England.


When Black Beauty’s story begins, he is a carefree colt who lives on a farm with his mother. But all that changes when he is sold to a cruel new master and becomes a cab-horse in London, forced to pull carriages all day long. Despite his hardships, Black Beauty tries his best to remain gentle, kind and hopeful, and along the way he teaches us that animals deserve to be treated kindly just as much as humans.

Why we chose it

A classic animal story - one of the first major animal stories in children’s literature and one of the first of the now popular genre of novels with an animal narrator.

Where it came from

Anna Sewell (1820-78) only wrote one book, Black Beauty, completing it just before she died. Horses were the primary means of transport at this time, and when she was young, she learned to ride horses, but as a teenager she had an accident which meant she had to use horse-drawn carriages, like the one Black Beauty draws, to get everywhere. She was inspired by these experiences, and an essay on the treatment of animals by Horace Bushnell, to write the book. She wanted to create ‘kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses,’ during the Victorian age, which often treated animals very cruelly.

Where it went next

Black Beauty was hugely popular when it was first published and is one of the bestselling books of all time, selling at least fifty million copies. The book was successful in changing people’s attitudes towards horses and animals, and Sewell’s compassionate message contributed to the end of painful practices like ‘bearing rein’ to keep a horse’s head upright. Black Beauty has also been adapted for film and TV many times, beginning with a silent film in 1917, with the most recent in 1994, directed by Caroline Thompson. It was also made into a play in 2011 written by James Stone.

Associated stories

Black Beauty is Sewell’s only novel.

Many other stories have since been told in the voice of the animal hero from The Call of the Wild (1903) by Jack London, to Watership Down (1972) by Richard Adams, to War Horse (1982) by Michael Morpurgo.

Added on 08th August 2020

Author Anna Sewell
First published 1877
Publisher Jarrold and Son Ltd, Norwich, UK