Book Reviews

The Byerley Turk: The Incredible Story of the World’s First Thoroughbred

by Jeremy James

The Byerley Turk: The Incredible Story of the World’s First Thoroughbred, is an exquisite story of a special horse, from his auspicious birth in Turkey in 1678, to his peaceful death in England.

The stallion who came to be known as The Byerley Turk and his [Turkish] groom inspire awe and change wherever they go. The relationships they offer are of such a deep and profound nature, that, whether they are at home or in a foreign land, it seems they are from a different world altogether.

Jeremy James combines his impeccable research with his vast knowledge and passion for horses, offering you – the reader – a front row seat in an historical masterpiece. He has an uncanny ability to involve the reader with the bygone furies, horrors, joys and sorrows so that they are felt as if they were happening today. Buildings, scenery, attire, relationships, protocol, and events are lavishly described as he provides rare insight to vastly different cultures in conflict. Above all, he amplifies the hearts of horses and men throughout.  

This book is a testimony of extremes. Extreme beauty and style, extreme dedication, and extreme danger. It describes the fantastic power of a strong-willed, defiant stallion, and the tender moments he creates when the touch of a whisker brings about peace and comfort… Well researched and well presented, this is a wonderful use of non-fiction fiction to depict a bygone era. It successfully captivates the imagination and allows the reader to understand the tremendous importance of just one horse in our World History.

This is a story of trust, loyalty and supreme athleticism during a time of war and upheaval. There are heroic deeds performed dutifully – and in retrospect – seem to possess a supernatural aura. There are elements of beauty amongst serious gore. Fear and friendship, supreme intellect, slavery, survival, suffering and opportunity are juxtaposed inexorably into the background spanning from the Ottoman Empire to Ireland.

There are emotionally charged sequences of courage and sacrifice made in the name of Love, not war. This story illustrates the power of indominable bonds, the power of ‘home’, and the transformative power of understanding.

It is not a story for the faint-hearted. The senses are floridly excited during scenes of death, stress and suffering. Partings are painful and Love is not a petty emotion. Devotion is not a fleeting fulfillment of convenience.

This book is a testimony of extremes. Extreme beauty and style, extreme dedication, and extreme danger. It describes the fantastic power of a strong-willed, defiant stallion, and the tender moments he creates when the touch of a whisker brings about peace and comfort…

Well researched and well presented, this is a wonderful use of non-fiction fiction to depict a bygone era. It successfully captivates the imagination and allows the reader to understand the tremendous importance of just one horse in our World History.

Published by Stackpole Books Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

by Jeremy James Copyright 2005

Other information: Mr. James is from Wales, and was a pioneer in this type of historical research. In a personal correspondence, he told me this book was originally intended to be a work of non-fiction. However, he changed his mind after contemplating the the story itself and the incredible detail he had uncovered from records and archives in Turkey. He decided that this account, this beautifully accurate and mind boggling account, would be told in the novel form.

Mr. James is an impeccable horseman, and was able to draw from his own experiences in order to deliver this masterpiece. To explore the depth of his knowledge, read about his eight and a half month journey from Turkey to Wales on horseback in his delightful book, ‘Saddletramp’.

Other books by Jeremy James: Vagabond, The Alchemical Horseman, The Tippling Philosopher (and so many others I haven’t read yet!)

Learn more about Jeremy James at The Long Riders Guild

Learn more about the impact the Byerley Turk had on the Morgan Horse.

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