Through much of human history, horses have been rather important animals to us and interaction with them is still a regular thing for lots of people. Considering how crucial horses have been to us, it makes perfect sense that many famous literary and cinematic works have had horses as central characters. And on top of that, they’re creatures which have a strong connection with mythology and fantasy, whether they’re magical, made of wood or central to genius military strategies.
What’s clear is that horses have inspired a host of gripping stories. Check out our slick infographic above for some of the most famous and beloved horses.
“Lord of all horses” and Chief of the Mearas, Shadowfax was a friend and companion of (spoiler alert!) Gandalf the White in the Lord of the Rings. A majestic beast in appearance, his grey-silver colour made him stand out from the myriad of other steeds present in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Shadowfax was also intelligent beyond belief, as he was able to understand the language of men. On top of that, he was so divine that he’d only allow the great, wise Gandalf to ride him.
There probably aren’t many more famous real racehorses to ever exist. There weren’t many that regarded Seabiscuit particularly highly earlier in his racing career, but that didn’t stop him becoming a champion. Seabiscuit was seen as an inspiration and beacon of hope for Americans during the Great Depression, even though he was originally seen as something of a “dark horse”. Since his racing days finished, there have been several films and books based on him, including the eponymous 2003 Academy Award Best Picture nominee.
The Trojan Horse is the centrepiece to arguably the most famous Greek myth of them all. According to legend, it was a huge wooden creation made by the Greeks during their attack on the city of Troy. The crafty Greeks supposedly left the giant horse as an offering to the goddess Athena after tainting her temple at Troy, allowing it to be taken into the city after they’d retreated. But their retreat was a ruse. Greek leader Odysseus and his men burst out of the horse after dark and allowed the rest of their army (which returned under the cover of darkness), to sneak in and sack the city.
An excitable and rather dog-like horse from the second and third Toy Story films, Bullseye was the personal steed of Woody. While he wasn’t blessed with the ability to speak like most of the other toys, Bullseye could at least understand them and responded to yes-no questions by tapping his hooves. His affectionate nature, loyalty and cuteness were only surpassed by his immense speed, as he manages to run as fast as a plane just before it takes off in Toy Story 2! “Run like the wind, Bullseye!”
You might not immediately realise who exactly the horse Joey is. You’re probably more likely to be aware of the name of the novel and film which are based on him: War Horse. The story follows a bay horse who is purchased by the army for military service in the First World War, and how his owner, a young lad named Albert, enlists before eventually colliding paths with his former steed once again. Heart-warming and a real tear-jerker, the 2011 film was directed by Steven Spielberg and was nominated for a whole range of awards when it came out.
Okay, you’ve got us, Pegasus wasn’t actually a horse. However, there aren’t many more iconic horse-like creatures, fictitious or not! A grand, majestic beast, Pegasus is depicted as a winged horse, pristine white in colour, and is certainly among the most well-known characters from Greek mythology. There are varying tales about his parentage, with Poseidon and Medusa often said to be his “sire” and “dam”. He’s also said to have been ridden into battle by Bellerophon, who fought against two Chimeras, vicious, fire-breathing hybrids which were a mix of lion, goat and snake.
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