Media Barn: Book Review – The Pinto Horse & The Phantom Bull by Charles Elliott Perkins

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In 1927 Owen Wister called The Pinto Horse “the best Western story about a horse that I have ever read.” The pinto roamed the Montana range in the late 1880s, surviving wolves and blizzards and earning the respect of the herd but never blending in, always standing out in vulnerable perfection. After years of trusting to human kindness, he falls into the hands of fools. 

The Phantom Bull, first published in 1932, is also marked by authenticity and controlled beauty of style. Old Man Ennis, who ranched on the upper Madison in Montana, grudgingly admired the slate-colored Zebu cow, whose wild cunning was passed on to her calf. The calf grows into a monster bull, not personified but endowed with the suggestion of a definite point of view. A phantom glimpsed against the horizon—that is the image he leaves.

NWHS Editor’s Review: I fell in love with this little paperback containing two stories by Charles Elliott Perkins (1881–1943). Perkins originally wrote the stories for his children, but they grew into a beautiful literary achievement. Somewhat along the lines of well-known horse stories like My Friend Flicka, Smoky, or Black Beauty, but without sentimentality, it tells the stories of these animals during the late 1800s in Montana. The book is beautifully illustrated too. It would make a wonderful holiday gift for anyone who loves historical fiction or animal literature, regardless of age.

Paperback edition published by University of Nebraska Press/Bison Books. Can be purchased from and other favorite booksellers.

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