Books, Memes

How ‘Black Beauty’ Changed Animal Welfare for the Better

Today, I bring to you a childhood favorite, one that shows up in many Top Ten Lists on my blogBlack Beauty.

Black Beauty
My copy of the book – a Legendary Classic edition retold for children (1982 edition)

Black Beauty  was one of the first books that made me cry.  I got my own copy of the book when I was thirteen though I had read it earlier from the school library, as a prize I won at school. I still have my copy.. My school had this policy of handing out books as the prize to kids for all events; and when I had discovered that early on (I was always one of those – good students), I made sure I participated in competitions and did my best as well in class throughout the year. This ensured I got a few books at the end of every school year 🙂 But this was not my only source of books – my dad was the biggest supporter of my reading habits (and still continues to be!) – there is no way I can keep count of the number of books he bought for me (he never batted an eyelid when we entered bookstores and I returned with an armload of books). I digress, so returning to the book in hand – Black Beauty.

Though circumstances may be different today, there are still animals (and people) ill treated everywhere around the world and this book’s message of empathy, kindness,  and humane treatment of animals(and fellow humans too) is a much needed one. Read on for more interesting facts about this wonderful book.

  • Black Beauty was a very unique concept for the Victorian times – with the story written in the animal’s point of view. Many biographers believe that Sewell based Beauty on the family’s beloved pet horse, Bess.
  • This was Anna Sewell’s only published book, she started writing this in 1851 and it was published in 1857, a mere five months before she died at the age of 58. She did live long enough to learn she had authored a bestselling book (though she had sold it to the publishers outright for a price of £20 – the price paid for the book is unconfirmed however with varying records for the price of £20, £30, and £40!) (Source: The Oxford World Classic’s edition of the book)
  • The original/complete title of the book was ‘Black Beauty: His Grooms and Companions : the Autobiography of a Horse : Translated from the Original Equine’
Black Beauty
This copy of the first edition of the book was dedicated by the author to her mother. It was auctioned off at Christie’s in London in June 2006 for £33,000.
  • This was not intended to be a children’s book; instead, it was aimed at adults to highlight the harsh treatment of horses and as a manual to help those who worked with horses. In her own words, her purpose in writing the novel was “to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses”[1] Consequently, her descriptions of how horses were treated, and specifically,  of the in-vogue ‘bearing rein’ of the times, led to the ban of the rein, and to changes in animal welfare laws all over Victorian England as well as in the United States.
  • The book also described how horses should be treated, and as such, was handed over to stables and horse-drives everywhere as a guide.
  • This is certainly a best seller, having sold more than 50 million[2]copies to date.


References: Wikipidea

‘Black Beauty’ is definitely one book that should be required reading for all ages, and it has inspired people in so many different ways. It still continues to be a favorite of mine.

Have you read the book? Or watched any of the various movie versions of the book? If you were to write a story about an animal in the animal’s POV (point of view), which animal would you pick and why?

This post goes towards UBCJust Jot It JanuaryABC Wednesday‘s round 22 – letter B (my theme for ABC Wednesday’s Round 22, as you might have already guessed, is children’s books – I will pick one popular (and sometimes the not so popular/the unknown) book – classic/modern/old/new… – and write about it – be it a backstory or facts or something else completely).

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35 thoughts on “How ‘Black Beauty’ Changed Animal Welfare for the Better

  1. Oh, how neat! I didn’t know that that was her motivation for writing it. I owned it as a child and I know I picked it up & opened the cover, but I don’t remember actually reading it. My mom bought a bunch of classic children’s books from the same company and kept them between two bookends on top of a bookcase. I’d wander over because I was bored and look through several books before choosing one to read. Not sure I ever read that one, though.

    1. You can pick it out now if you still have them, Jeanine 🙂
      I always felt bad that this was the only book she wrote… though I am glad she at least did write this classic and helped in so many ways..

  2. Oh! I loved Black Beauty, it made me cry too. And yes, it highlighted what life is like for a horse of the times. Sewell addressed the inustices and inhumane treatment of horses in an extraordinary way. She impacted the world so deeply along with so many generations of animal lovers too. I feel deeply indebted to this woman, a heroine in my eyes. Wish I could thank you for her good work and her vision, her courage to speak out and that she published it before she died? Wow.

  3. I’ve put Black Beauty on my reading list. Until your post, I’ve never had the inclination to read it even when it was popular when I was a kid. I’m glad to hear that the author got to see its sale.

  4. I loved “Black Beauty.” I was in love with that horse. Just thinking about the sadness of the story makes me cry. People have to learn how to be kinder to those most majestic equines.

  5. I loved this book. And I remember reading it with my now 16 year old daughter to help her improve her reading skills. It is interesting that it was never intended to be a children’s book and yet that is where it can most likely be found in contemporary bookstores and libraries.

    1. Chris, yes, i felt the same way when i was researching the book.. but Anna Sewell felt so strongly about the harsh treatment of those beloved animals that she wanted to ensure that the general public got the message and this book was her way to do it

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