Study Guide

Lonesome Dove Horses

By Larry McMurtry


Saddle Up

A cowboy is only as good as his horse. Call even considers his horse better than himself, which is one reason he bequeaths his horse, and not his last name, to Newt:

"I put more value on the horse" (101.72).

Lonesome Dove has almost as many good horses as it does good characters. The number one horse is Hell B****. With a name like that, she has to be good. She's "dapple gray, with a white muzzle and a white streak down her forehead" (1.34). And that beautiful detail is one you can only see if you can get close enough to her; chances are she'll kick and bite you before that ever happens. She's the angry part of Call's personality that he rarely lets show. He won't sell her for anything. He won't even trade her for thirty-eight of Wilbarger's mounts. "It'd be like trading a fifty-dollar gold piece for thirty-eight nickels" (12.11).

Another star horse is Mouse, Newt's loyal pony. Mouse basically keeps Newt alive through most of the book's disasters, and Newt is grateful for it. Newt knows that "[y]ou were never supposed to be separated from your horse" (47.20), and when he is, Lorena is kidnapped. So maybe there's something to the superstition.

Mouse's death is almost as tragic as the deaths of some of the men. He is gored by a bull and has to be shot. Newt is upset and depressed by the loss of his horse.

"Mouse had never behaved like other horses, and now he had even found a unique way to die" (70.9).

Clara gives Newt her best horse, which he names Candy. "It was the first real gift he had ever been given in his life." (89.2) And there's hardly a better gift for a cowboy than a horse. "Most cowboys would rather eat poison than be forced to dismount" (18.4), so giving a cowboy a horse is like giving him life.

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