Front cover of an 1877 edition of Black Beauty.

Black Beauty: The Autobiography of a Horse is a popular children's novel by the British author Anna Sewell. It was first published in 1877 and became an immediate success. The novel has been widely translated.

The novel's title character and protagonist is the horse Black Beauty. The story is told from the point of view of Black Beauty, who lives in 19th century England. Over the course of the book, Black Beauty has a series of owners and caretakers, some good and some bad. Although he experiences many hardships, the gentle and intelligent Black Beauty remembers his mother's wise advice and always gives his best.

The story was written before the invention of automobiles when society depended on horses for nearly everything. Animal rights movement was in its infancy, and exploitation of and cruelty towards work horses were quite common. Anna Sewell, who frequently drove carriages because she had difficulty walking due to a childhood injury, wrote Black Beauty to promote humane treatment of horses. The novel is said to have inspired animal-welfare reforms, and is credited in particular with having hastened the abolishment of the checkrein.

There have been numerous adaptations of the novel to other media.


A black colt grows up alongside six other rambunctious colts at a farm. The colts often bite and kick playing rough with each other. The black colt's mother, Duchess, tells him that he is well-bred and well-born, and must learn to be gentle and to work with a good will. Farmer Grey is a kind master, and the black colt spends happy days in the meadow at his farm. The first unhappy incident occurs on an early spring day. There is a hunt in the field next to the farm. The hunters catch the hare, but two horses go down by the brook in the process. One of the riders, Squire Gordon's only son, breaks his neck in the fall and is killed. His horse Rob Roy suffers a broken leg and has to be shot. Duchess is much troubled by the incident and will not go to the part of the field again afterwards.

The young horse is sent to a neighboring farm to get used to trains, 1891 illustration by Jenny Nyström.

The black colt turns into a beautiful young horse, bright black with one white foot and a white star on his forehead. When he has turned four years old, the horse is promised to Squire Gordon. Farmer Grey gently breaks in the horse, teaching him to wear a bit and bridle first then the saddle next. Once the horse is used to being lead around, the farmer begins to ride him a little at a time each day. Then he takes the young horse to the blacksmith to have iron shoes put on. Next he teaches him to wear a collar, blinkers, and a crupper. Farmer Grey also sends the horse to a neighboring farm to get him used to the trains going by. He also drives the young horse in double harness with Duchess so she can help teach her son to pull a carriage.

When he is properly broken in, the young black horse is taken to Squire Gordon's large estate. Squire Gordon is very pleased with his new horse, a gentle and intelligent creature. The horse is also very handsome so that he is given the name of "Black Beauty" by Mrs. Gordon. Black Beauty is put into a stable with a twelve-year-old gray pony named Merrylegs and a tall chestnut mare named Ginger. They are looked after wonderfully by John Manly the coachman and a stable boy named James Howard. Black Beauty learns from John that Rob Roy, the horse killed in the hunt, was his brother.

Black Beauty becomes great friends with Merrylegs. Merrylegs is a favorite with the squire's daughters and also with the many children of Mr. Blomefield the vicar. The other stablemate Ginger, who had only recently come to Squire Gordon, is at first ill-tempered. Black Beauty finds her a good partner in double harness, however, and they soon grow friendly. Ginger tells Black Beauty that her unhappy upbringing caused her to become ill-tempered. She was separated from her mother as soon as she was weaned, and was broken in by force and flogged. She was then sold to a gentleman in London who made her wear a painful checkrein which forces a horse to hold its head unnaturally high in the name of fashion. She was sold a few more times and abused by rough grooms. Ginger says that is how she developed a bad habit of biting and snapping. In the following weeks, with patient and gentle care, Ginger grows happier and gentler at Squire Gordon's.

One day, John drives Squire Gordon to town in a dogcart through a bad storm. The river is rising fast, and Black Beauty wades through knee-high water in one low part of the road. After the long journey and a lengthy business in town, they start for home late in the afternoon in heavy wind. As they drive along a wood, a tree crashes down across the road forcing them to turn back and go around. It is nearly dark by the time they get to the wooden bridge. The river is high and the middle part of the bridge is under water. Black Beauty stops, feeling there is something wrong. The men urge him forward but he will not budge. Just then the toll-gate keeper on the other side runs out and cries out for them to stop. The middle part of the bridge had broken and gotten carried off by the strong current. They would all have drowned if Black Beauty had not stopped. When they finally reach home, Black Beauty is rewarded with a good supper and a thick bed of straw to rest on.

Horse-drawn carriage (1880).

Some time later it is decided that James will go to Squire Gordon's brother-in-law to replace his old coachman. James is given plenty of opportunity to practice driving a carriage to prepare himself. Then Squire and Mrs. Grodon have him drive them on a long journey to visit some friends. They spend the night at a hotel on the way and Black Beauty and Ginger are put in the stable. During the night, a fire starts in the stable. The hostler tries to lead the horses out, but they are too frightened to move. As the fire spreads, Black Beauty hears James' voice speaking calmly and cheerfully to him. James pats Black Beauty, puts on the bridle, and leads him outside. He then runs back in for Ginger. Black Beauty whinnies after James. Hearing him, Ginger gets up the courage to come out. Squire Gordon is relieved to see the brave James make it out safely with Ginger.

A fourteen-year-old boy named Joe Green takes James' place at the stable. Joe is bright and eager, and John and the horses warm up to him quickly. James teaches Joe all he can before he leaves. A few days later, Black Beauty is awakened in the middle of the night by the stable bell. John rushes to put the saddle and bridle on him. They are sent to fetch the doctor as soon as possible to save the mistress' life. Understanding the urgency, Black Beauty runs as fast as he can for eight miles into town with no whip or spur from John. They wake the doctor and deliver the message. The doctor has no horse available, so he borrows Black Beauty. Although Black Beauty is tired and very hot, he rushes back with the doctor. After the doctor goes into the house, Joe takes Black Beauty back to the stable. Black Beauty is panting. His body is steaming hot, and water runs down his shaking legs. Joe gives him cold water and feeds him hey and corn before leaving him.

John comes home a while later, having walked the eight miles back from town. He finds Black Beauty moaning in pain lying down in straw. He rushes to put warm cloths on the horse then fetches hot water and warm gruel. Black Beauty is very ill with fever and inflamed lungs. John nurses the horse for many days and nights. The vet bleeds[1] Black Beauty and comes back every day to tend to him. Joe's father also comes over to help. He tells John that Joe is broken-hearted and cannot even eat. John is quite sore about it, and he does not take ignorance for an excuse, but he promises to say a kind word to the boy if Black Beauty recovers.

Thanks to the care and medicine, Black Beauty recovers from the ordeal. Joe Green learns quickly and earns John's trust. One day, while John is out, Squire Gordon sends Joe with Black Beauty to deliver an urgent message. On the way back after delivering the note, they see a man flogging horses struggling to pull a cart laden with bricks. Joe begs the man to stop and offers to help, but the drunk carter will not listen. Joe and Black Beauty are so angry that they gallop to the master brickmaker's house. Joe tells the brickmaker about the man and asks him to intervene. The brickmaker thanks him and runs out. Later in the day, Joe is called before Squire Gordon, who is one of the county magistrates, to give evidence against the carter. Joe's clear evidence helps commit the man to stand trial. The quiet Joe suddenly grows up after the incident and becomes a confident young man.

After three happy years, Black Beauty learns that things are about to change. Mrs. Gordon has become so ill that the doctor has ordered her moved to a warm country. Squire Gordon begins to make arrangements to break up his establishment and move the whole family abroad. Black Beauty and Ginger are sold together to the squire's friend, the Earl of W——. Merrylegs is given to the vicar and Joe goes with him. John receives many offers but decides to look for an opportunity to work with a good colt-breaker, hoping to help young horses get a good start.

After everyone has left, John takes Black Beauty and Ginger to the Earl's stable. He tells Mr. York, the Earl's coachman, that Black Beauty has never had the checkrein and Ginger has had trouble with it. The Earl is pleased with the new horses and tells York to put the checkrein on easy to start. When Black Beauty and Ginger are harnessed for the carriage the first time, the checkreins are put on but not shortened. The next day, however, Lady W—— tells York to shorten the reins. Each day, the reins are shortened one hole at a time, and Black Beauty quickly learns how terrible they are. The checkrein prevents him from lowering and putting his head forward to help pull the weight. With his head pulled up unnaturally high, his neck, back, and legs are strained. Although he is still determined to do his duty, he begins to dread having the harness put on.

One day, her ladyship orders York to raise the horses' heads up immediately. York tightens the rein all the way on Black Beauty first. Then he goes to Ginger. Knowing what he intends to do, Ginger rears up. She hits York in the nose and goes on kicking and rearing until she falls down, hitting Black Beauty above his hock. York manages to pin her head down. He orders the groom to unhitch Black Beauty and take him away before any more harm is done. Black Beauty is led back to the stable where he is soon joined by the bruised Ginger. York tends to Black Beauty's injury muttering to himself about the checkreins. After this incident, Ginger is given to the Earl's son for hunting. Black Beauty is partnered with another horse and made to suffer the tight rein for the next four months.

In the early spring, the Earl and some of the family leave for London. Black Beauty, Ginger, and some other horses are left behind. Lady Anne chooses to ride Black Beauty and calls him "Black Auster". Her brother and other gentlemen like to ride Lizzie, a lively bay mare. One day, Lady Anne decides to try riding Lizzie. A gentleman named Blantyre, who always rides Lizzie, is offered the use of "Black Auster". Blantyre advises Lady Anne against riding Lizzie because he considers the mare "too nervous for a lady". Lady Anne, who is a fine horsewoman, assures him she will be perfectly safe. They set out together to deliver a message to the village doctor. When they arrive at the doctor's house, Lady Anne decides to wait at the gate. Blantyre hitches Black Beauty to the gate and walks up the path leading to the house. As he gets to the door, some cart horses and young colts come by followed by a boy cracking a whip. One of the colts bolts across the road and bumps up against Lizzie. Startled, Lizzie dashes off, nearly throwing off Lady Anne. Black Beauty neighs repeatedly and tries to free himself. Blantyre comes running back and spots the horse flying far down the road. He jumps up on Black Beauty and unhooks his rein. With no need for whip or spur, Black Beauty takes off.

They chase at full speed, several times losing sight of the runaway horse then spotting her again, but they cannot gain any ground. Then Lizzie turns off to the common and the rough ground finally slows down her pace. Expertly guided by Blantyre, Black Beauty manages to gain on Lizzie. Lizzie leaps over a dike, stumbles on the rough clods on the other side, and falls. Black Beauty gathers himself and leaps clear of the dike and the rough bank. They find Lady Anne lying motionless. Blantyre calls over two men working in the distance. He tells one of them to ride Black Beauty to the doctor's then go to the hall to get the carriage. Black Beauty takes the inexperienced rider back at full speed to the doctor's and back to the hall. He learns afterwards that Lady Anne has survived and is expected to recover. Blantyre praises him and says Lady Anne should never ride any other horse.

Ruben Smith, the man left in charge while York is in London with the Earl, is a great groom and liked by everyone. He was, however, once dismissed for his drinking problem. Having promised never to touch another drink, he has since been given another chance. In early April, Smith takes Black Beauty and drives Blantyre to the train station in a light brougham. As he departs, Blantyre gives Smith some money. Smith goes to the inn and leaves Black Beauty with the hostler to be fed and prepared for the return trip. Smith comes back later and tells the hostler that he has met some old friends and will be delayed. The hostler tells Smith that a nail in Black Beauty's front shoe is coming loose, but Smith tells the hostler, in an uncharacteristically offhand manner, to leave it alone. It is several hours later when Smith returns to get Black Beauty. He speaks angrily to the hostler and the innkeeper in a loud and rough voice before speeding off.

Ruben Smith lies motionless, illustration from the first edition of Black Beauty (1877).

Smith whips Black Beauty even though he is already galloping at full speed. He is too drunk to notice when the loose shoe falls off. Black Beauty is forced to gallop along a road which had recently been laid with fresh, sharp stones. His hoof splits, and the terrible pain causes him to fall on his knees. Smith, hurled off violently, groans then lies motionless on the deserted road. It is nearly midnight when two men come looking for Reuben Smith. They find Smith's body with Black Beauty standing beside it. One of the men takes the body back on the dogcart while the other wraps the horse's injured foot and leads him back slowly to the stable. It takes a long time for Black Beauty's wounds to heal, and his knees are terribly and permanently scarred. Given all the evidence of Smith's intoxication and the loose shoe, Black Beauty is cleared of all blame at the inquest.

Black Beauty is left alone in a small meadow to recover. A month or two later, Ginger is brought over to join him. She has been carelessly strained by the young Lord George who is a hard rider. Although they both realize they have been needlessly ruined, Black Beauty and Ginger are at least able to enjoy each other's company. When the Earl returns from London, however, it is decided that Black Beauty must be sold because of his unsightly knees. The horses are heartbroken to lose their best friends.

Black Beauty is sold to a livery stable in Bath. Although he is taken care of reasonably well, he is now a job horse for hire and must deal with many ignorant and bad drivers. There are drivers who hold the rein too tight or too loose, those who are so careless as to not even notice when a horse gets a stone in his foot, and also those who treat a horse like a steam engine rather than a living creature. One horse Black Beauty is paired with is badly injured in an accident caused by a reckless driver. Occasionally, a lucky horse may find a good home with a patron who has grown fond of him. Black Beauty himself is eventually sold to a friend of a gentleman who has been hiring him.

Black Beauty's new owner, Mr. Barry, has just started riding and knows very little about horses. He has hired a stable near his home and engaged a groom named Filcher. Barry treats Black Beauty well, and he has ordered plenty of good food for him. Filcher knows his business, and Black Beauty is quite happy for a while. Soon, however, Black Beauty begins to notice the quality of his food going down, with oats and corn disappearing and bran being substituted. After a few weeks, Black Beauty grows weaker due to the poor diet. Barry does not know enough about horses to suspect foul play, but one of his friends notices and advises him to look into the matter. Soon afterwards Filcher is arrested for stealing Mr. Barry's oats and corn to feed his own livestock. He is sent to prison for two months.

The new groom, Alfred Smirk, is a pleasant man, but he is lazy and ignorant. He does not abuse Black Beauty, but he does great harm through negligence. Lack of regular exercise combined with heavy feeding makes Black Beauty ill. Smirk fails to keep the stable clean and dry so Black Beauty's feet become unhealthy and tender. One day, Black Beauty stumbles from pain and Barry stops at the farrier's to have the feet examined. The farrier tells Barry that Black Beauty has a bad infection caused by the filth in the stable. Barry, weary of being deceived by his grooms, decides to sell the horse as soon as the hoofs have completely healed.

At the horse fair featuring all sorts of horses and ponies – some beautiful ones in their prime and others all worn down from hard work – Black Beauty is shown with a few other strong-looking horses. Gentlemen all shy away from him because of his blemished knees, but others examine him closely. Two men bid for Black Beauty. One is a small man with kind and cheerful gray eyes who is clearly used to horses. The other is a loud, hard-looking man. Their offers are initially refused by the salesman, but the man receives no better offers. In the end, to Black Beauty's delight, the small man outbids the loud man. The new owner leads Black Beauty to an inn then rides him to his home in London.

A London Cab (1877).

Black Beauty is now a London cab horse. He is given the name of "Jack" by his new master, Jerry Barker, who owns his own cab and two horses. Jerry's plump and merry wife Polly, their twelve-year-old son Harry, and eight-year-old daughter Dolly all welcome Black Beauty warmly and make him feel very special. Jerry takes his other horse and goes out to work in the morning. In the afternoon, he takes Black Beauty to the cab stand to meet his fellow cabbies. Everyone thinks Black Beauty is too good for cab work. They believe Jerry will find out something is wrong with the horse. But the most experienced cabbie - who is called "Governor" Grant because he tends to take charge of disputes and other matters among the cabbies - looks over Black Beauty carefully and voices his approval. At first, Black Beauty finds cab work in crowded London trying, but he quickly learns to trust Jerry. Jerry is a great driver and takes good care of his horses. Black Beauty is also pleased to have Sundays off to rest and spend time with his new stablemate, an old horse named Captain. Captain was originally an army horse and went overseas with a cavalry officer to serve in the Crimean War. He tells Black Beauty about the brave men and horses he saw cut down in battle, and how his own master was shot and killed.

Black Beauty finds Jerry Barker to be a good, kind man. Jerry is against hard driving, and he refuses to rush for people who carelessly run late even if they offer extra fare. He will rush for a good cause, however. One morning, Jerry helps a man who has slipped and injured himself. When the man has recovered some ten minutes later, he is distraught to find himself running late for his train which he cannot miss. Jerry and Black Beauty do their best to hurry through the crowded London streets and get the man to the station in time. The man offers Jerry an extra half crown, but Jerry is happy to have helped and refuses to take the money.

On another occasion, Jerry loses his best regular customer Mr. Briggs for refusing to work on Sundays because he prefers to reserve the day for going to church and spending time with his family. The next few weeks prove difficult without the regular work, but it all turns out well in the end. Mrs. Briggs, frustrated by other cabs, overrules her husband and goes back to hiring Jerry regularly except on Sundays. One Sunday morning in May, however, Jerry breaks his own rule to help a friend named Dinah Brown. Dinah has just learned that her mother is very ill, but she has no way to get home. Jerry borrows a light trap from the butcher and drives Dinah to her family's farmhouse ten miles away in the country. Black Beauty finds the light gig quite easy compared to the cab, and the pleasant drive reminds him of the old days. At the farm, Jerry takes off Black Beauty's harness and lets him roam freely in the meadow while he eats his lunch. Black Beauty, overjoyed at the freedom, rolls on the ground then gallops around like a young colt.

Winter comes early and brings misery to cab drivers and horses. Many drivers cannot afford waterproof covering so they and their horses suffer in the sleet and cold rain. Polly always has hot soup or pudding ready, and little Dolly runs across the street to bring food to her father whenever he is at the cab stand. Many cab drivers are not as fortunate as Jerry. They rent the cabs and horses from large cab owners. They work the horses hard so they can earn enough to pay the owner and to support their families, which is difficult because the fares are fixed low. They work long hours seven days a week, and still do not earn enough unless they happen to get tipped generously. Black Beauty hears one of those cab drivers, a man called "Seedy Sam", make a desperate and heartfelt speech about the hardship one day. A few days later, everyone is shocked to hear that Sam suddenly fell ill and died.

One day, a shabby-looking cab pulls up next to Jerry's. The horse, a thin worn-out chestnut with unsteady legs, recognizes Black Beauty. Black Beauty is shocked to realize it is Ginger, changed beyond recognition. Giinger tells Black Beauty that she was sold by the Earl after she recuperated from his son's hard riding. Her new owner found she strained easily so she was sold again. This repeated until eventually she was bought by a large cab owner. Once they realized she was too weak and not worth the money they paid for, they decided to work her hard to get as much out of her as possible before she was all used up. Ginger says her suffering is so great that she wishes she was dead. Black Beauty is much troubled by her story. A short time later, Black Beauty sees a dead chestnut horse being carted away. He hopes it is Ginger and that her troubles are finally over.

On election day, the streets are full and the cabs are busy. As Jerry and Black Beauty are having a quick bite between fares, a young woman carrying a heavy child approaches and asks Jerry for directions to the hospital. She has just come up from the country with her sick child. Although she cannot afford a cab, Jerry offers to drive her. Two rude men push past the woman and get into the cab. Jerry refuses to take them, and the men leave angrily calling Jerry names. Not minding them at all, Jerry happily leads Black Beauty through back streets and takes the grateful mother and child safely to the hospital. After the good deed is done, they are about to leave when the porter hails the cab for a lady coming out of the hospital. Jerry and the lady recognize each other. He drives her to Paddington Station, and she asks after his wife and children. Black Beauty learns that the lady had been Polly's mistress. The lady expresses her concern over Jerry's health and advises him to contact her if he ever decides to give up cab work. She sends kind messages to Polly and gives Jerry some money for the children before departing.

Black Beauty and Captain have become great friends. Although Captain is an old horse, he is still going strong thanks to Jerry's good care. Sadly, Captain is hurt badly in an accident when a drunken drayman loses control over his horses and smashes into Jerry's cab. Jerry miraculously escapes serious injury, but Captain will never be fit to go back to cab work. Jerry is quite put out and tells Governor Grant that all drunkards should be put in a lunatic asylum. Jerry says he managed to break the habit ten years ago, and he urges Grant to do the same. Rather than sell Captain into hard labor for a few pounds, Jerry decides to put him down. The whole family feels the loss keenly.

Jerry finds a new horse through an acquaintance who works for a nobleman. The young horse named Hotspur had been cut up and blemished in an accident. Jerry's acquaintance believes the accident was caused by mishandling and the tight checkrein and the spirited horse was not at fault. However, like Black Beauty, the horse is now considered unfit for a gentleman's service. Hotspur is restless and indignant at his demotion at first, but he quickly settles in and becomes a good cab horse for Jerry.

With Hotspur being new, most of the late evening work around Christmas and New Year falls on Black Beauty. On many nights, Jerry and Black Beauty are forced to stand around for hours waiting in the freezing rain or frost for party goers. On New Year's Eve, they drop off two gentlemen at a card party and are told to come back at eleven. Jerry returns punctually, but he is told to wait because the game is still going on. In the driving sleet, Jerry's bad cough steadily grows worse. It is 1:15am by the time the gentlemen finally come out and order Jerry to drive for two miles. By the time he reaches home, Jerry can hardly speak or get his breath. He still takes care of Black Beauty first and has Polly bring warm mash for the horse before going inside for warm gruel himself.

For the next two days, Black Beauty sees only Harry and Dolly. He understands from their conversations that Jerry is seriously ill. On the third day, Governor Grant comes to the stable to see Harry. Harry tells him that his father is suffering from bronchitis and has a dangerously high fever. The doctor thinks Jerry may have a chance, however, because he is not a drinking man.

Grant returns the following morning and is relieved to hear Jerry is doing better. Grant tells Harry that old "Jack" can use the rest but the young Hotspur needs to work to get rid of his excess energy. He offers to take Hotspur every day and share half of his earnings with them to help pay for the horses' feed. With Polly's thanks, he takes Hotspur for the next week. Although Jerry gets better, he is ordered by the doctor to give up cab work. Polly writes to her old mistress and receives a letter in reply inviting the family to come live near her country house. Jerry will become her coachman in the spring, and Harry can get a job in the neighborhood as a stable boy or garden help. The family is overjoyed, but the cab and the horses must be sold. Grant takes Hotspur. Black Beauty, after three years of cab work, is weaker and deserves easier work. Grant promises to find a good place for him.

Black Beauty is sold to a corn dealer and baker. His new master is good but not always around, and in his absence the foreman frequently overloads the carts to save extra trips. One day, Black Beauty is forced to go up a steep hill with a badly overloaded cart. The checkrein makes it even harder for him to pull, and he is whipped by the carter Jakes. A lady comes up to Jakes and begs him to stop. She speaks earnestly to Jakes about the harm done by checkrein and convinces him to try taking it off. Black Beauty, with his head free, throws his whole weight into the task and manages to make it up the hill. The lady tells Jakes that the checkrein is beginning to go out of fashion with the gentry. Jakes begins to loosen the rein for Black Beauty. The heavy loading continues, however, and wears out Black Beauty. He also begins to suffer from weak sight caused by the badly-lit stable. He is eventually replaced by a younger horse.

Black Beauty is sold to Nicholas Skinner, the same large cab owner that Seedy Sam drove for. Skinner is hard on the drivers, and the drivers are hard on the horses. Black Beauty is worked hard seven days a week in the heat of summer. He is so miserable that he wishes to drop dead like Ginger did. One day, his cab is engaged by a family coming off a train with a large amount of luggage. His driver assures them that the load is not too heavy for the horse. Although exhausted, Black Beauty tries his best. But a hill finally proves too much, and he falls down on his side. With no strength left to move, he lies there with his eyes closed listening to the noises around him and thinking he is about to die. Then someone throws cold water on him and pours some cordial in his mouth. Encouraged by a kind voice, Black Beauty staggers to his feet. He is led to nearby stables and tended to. Once sufficiently recovered, he is taken back to Skinner's stables. The farrier says it is just overwork and not an illness, but Skinner is not interested in nursing a horse back to health. The farrier advises him to rest and feed Black Beauty well for ten days to get him ready for the upcoming horse fair.

At the fair held just outside London, Black Beauty is shown with old and broken-down horses. An older gentleman farmer comes through with his grandson and spots Black Beauty. The man can tell Black Beauty is a well-bred horse that has seen better days. He pats Black Beauty and Black Beauty responds to the kindness. The boy begs his grandfather to buy the horse and make him young again. Skinner's stable man tells the farmer that the horse is simply worn out from cab work and, with proper care, will be worth twenty pounds by spring. The farmer examines Black Beauty and judges him to be about thirteen or fourteen. To the boy's delight, he pays five pounds for Black Beauty.

Black Beauty is taken home to a large meadow at the farm. His new owner, Mr. Thoroughgood, puts his grandson Willie in charge. Black Beauty is given good food and left to run free in the meadow. Willie treats him with kindness and affection, and Black Beauty grows very fond of the boy. He improves steadily and is well enough by spring for light work. Farmer Thoroughgood tries Black Beauty in the phaeton and finds him to be an excellent horse. Both he and Willie are very glad to have bought him and given him a chance. Farmer Thoroughgood begins to look for a good quiet place for him.

On a summer day, Black Beauty is taken to see three ladies who live a couple of miles from the village. Miss Ellen, the youngest sister, takes to Black Beauty right away. Miss Lavinia, a fragile-looking lady leaning on her younger sister, is concerned that the horse may not be safe judging from the broken knees. Farmer Thoroughgood explains that many great horses get their knees broken by careless drivers. He assures the sisters that Black Beauty is quite safe and offers to let them have the horse on trial. Miss Blomefield, the stately-looking third sister, accepts the offer.

The following day, a young groom comes to take Black Beauty to the sisters' stable. The day after, the groom is cleaning Black Beauty when he remarks that the white star on his forehead is just like the one "Black Beauty" had. Then the groom notices, in addition to the white foot and other markings, the little knot in the horse's neck left from when he was bled by the vet. The young groom is overjoyed to realize it is the same Black Beauty that he once knew. He asks Black Beauty if he remembers little Joe Green who almost killed him. Black Beauty does not recognize the grown-up Joe, but he puts his nose up to Joe to let him know he is very happy to be reunited with his old friend.

In the afternoon, Miss Ellen tries Black Beauty. Joe tells her all about Squire Gordon's old horse. Miss Ellen, who is a good driver, is pleased with Black Beauty and tells her sisters that she will write to Mrs. Gordon about her old favorite horse. After a week, Miss Lavinia feels safe enough to try Black Beauty. It is then decided that the sisters will take him and call him by his old name. Black Beauty finds his work easy and pleasant. Joe takes good care of him, and the ladies promise they will never sell him. Black Beauty has finally found his forever home.


Poster for the 1921 American film Black Beauty.

Silent movies based on Black Beauty include the 1912 Pathé Frères short film and the 1921 American adaptation directed by David Smith.

The 1946 American film Black Beauty, directed by Max Nosseck and starring Mona Freeman and Richard Denning, is loosely based on the novel.

Another loose adaptation of the story, the 1971 British film Black Beauty directed by James Hill, pays tribute to Anna Sewell by introducing her as a character (played by Margaret Lacey) who rescues Black Beauty.

The 1994 Warner Bros. film Black Beauty, directed by Caroline Thompson who also wrote the screenplay, is a simplified yet faithful adaptation of the story. Alan Cumming narrates as the voice of Black Beauty, and the cast includes Sean Bean (Farmer Grey), Peter Davidson (Squire Gordon), and David Thewlis (Jerry Barker).

The American movie Black Beauty, starring Sarah Ann Schultz, Bruce Davison and Luke Perry that was released direct-to-video on July 16, 2015, is not a direst adaptation of the novel or a straight remake of any of the previous film versions of the story. It centers around the character of a 15-year-old girl named Kym who does voluntary work at a city animal shelter. Kym persuades her grandfather in the country to take in a horse, which she names Black Beauty, that has been rescued from an abusive former owner.

The British television family drama series The Adventures of Black Beauty is not an adaptation of the novel. The series, which aired on ITV between 1972 and 1974, takes place after the events of the novel and features new characters. The New Adventures of Black Beauty, a sequel which takes place twenty years after the original series, was broadcast between 1990 and 1991.

A television mini-series loosely based on Black Beauty but set in America was broadcast on NBC in 1978.

Animated adaptations of the novel include the 1978 TV film by Hanna-Barbera Australia which was broadcast as part of the CBS Famous Classic Tales series in the United States, the 1987 Burbank Films Australia TV movie, and a 1995 direct-to-video musical film by the American-Japanese animation studio Jetlag Productions.


  1. Bloodletting was still a common medical procedure when Black Beauty was written.

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