Wild Stallion of the West
by Rutherford Montgomery
An older book I picked up secondhand somewhere. It\’s about horses that live on a cattle range in the southwest. In particular, one fine black mare owned by the ranch but allowed to run free on the range and an old squatter living in a cabin in the high country who admires her. The mare sometimes mixes with a band of wild horses. When she goes missing the squatter is accused of stealing her. Things happen, the mare goes off on her own and raises a colt in seclusion. Later the mare dies and the young horse grows up on his own, eventually challenging the stallion of the wild band, drawing attention of a ranch hand who recognizes he must be the offspring of the missing mare. This guy determines that catching the young stallion and showing it to the ranch owner will exonerate the squatter- plus acquiring himself a fine horse. His plan to catch the wild black horse does not turn out so easily.
I was skeptical of this story at first, but it turned out to be pretty good in the end. While it has a lot of vivid descriptions of the scenery, weather and interactions of various wildlife, much of the animal behavior is exaggerated or downright inaccurate and had me rolling my eyes. For example, wolves don\’t hamstring their prey, and the mating behavior of bears described in here made me laugh outright, it was so ludicrous. It\’s obviously written to be exciting for young readers, with a lot of vicious battles between wild animals for survival, and sensational scenes. The young black horse fights off (at different times) wolves, cougars and a bald eagle, survives an encounter with a bear, and battles another stallion on the edge of a cliff. But then many depictions of how the wild horses live, elk in the rutting season, mule deer interacting with the mare and her colt, are very nicely done. I really found the final third of the book more interesting, when the young stallion had taken over the band but obviously did not know how to lead the mares, and had to face his human opponent.
I happened to like the ending, particularly because it had some unexpected outcomes.
Rating: 3/5 274 pages, 1940