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The Horsecatcher
Sandoz The Horsecatcher cover.jpg
Author Mari Sandoz
Country United States
Language English
Genre Young adult historical novel
Publisher Westminster Press
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 192 pp
ISBN 9780803291607

The Horsecatcher is a 1957 adolescent historical novel by American author Mari Sandoz. The Horsecatcher was a Newbery Medal Honor Book in 1958. The book is "dedicated to the two great Cheyennes named Elk River, both council chiefs and peace men, one Keeper of the Sacred Arrows of the Cheyenne Indians, the other the greatest horsecatcher of all the High Plains".


The novel is set in the 1830s. Elk, a Southern Cheyenne adolescent, dresses plainly, does not care for ceremonials, has no interest in warfare and coup-counting and little more in hunting. He has undergone his fast, but nobody is quite able to figure out what his dream meant. He knows he is a disappointment to his father, Elk River, to his uncle Owl Friend, who founded a warrior society, and to his older brother Two Wolves. But he cannot help what is in his heart. He wants to be a tamer of wild horses.

When we first meet Elk, he has slipped away from his village on a lone horse-hunt, hoping to catch Bear Colt. But despite hardship and deprivation and even almost getting accidentally killed by some of his own tribesmen, he succeeds, and that is worth the shaming he gets from his kin. Over the next two years Elk learns his chosen profession, along with the misunderstandings that come with it. Even when he bravely warns his village of approaching Kiowa raiders and kills one with his rabbit bow, he fails to see his accomplishment. Furthermore, after his brother is killed, along with his entire war party, he helps to save the tribe's great talismans. He then penetrates deep into Kiowa country, alone and afraid, to recover and bury the remains. For a culture that places great value on horses, it is surprising that no one seems ready to recognize what a real contribution he could make to his tribe.

Main characters

  • Elk – Protagonist.
  • Elk River – Elk's Father, headman of his band.
  • Owl Friend – Elk's uncle.
  • Two Wolves – Young Elk's older brother.
  • Bear Colt – A black mustang with a white splotch on his side in the form of a bear.

Film adaptations

As of 2016, the film adaptation of The Horsecatcher is in development.


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