The Byerley Turk: The Incredible Story of the World's First Thoroughbred
by Jeremy James
Of the three horses that were the ancestors of the modern thoroughbred, the first and greatest was undoubtedly the Byerley Turk. For years, many of ... Show synopsis Of the three horses that were the ancestors of the modern thoroughbred, the first and greatest was undoubtedly the Byerley Turk. For years, many of the essential facts about this horse have been shrouded in mystery, but now author Jeremy James has combined extensive original research with an absorbing narrative to recount the Turk's heretofore untold story. The result is an epic account of the life of a magnificent animal, extending from the palaces of the Ottoman Empire to the streets of London and beyond, and featuring a fascinating cast of historical figures. "Men without horses are nothing," the author tells us, and the powerful bonds between horse and master lie at the heart of this story. It begins in 1679 in a remote Balkan village, where a seyis-a penniless groom-finds himself caring for a remarkable young foal. Believing it destined for greatness, and seeing a chance to escape his own humble circumstances, he begins schooling the animal in the disciplines of war. Hewing closely to the historical record, the author goes on to trace the fortunes of the Turk and its new master: In 1682, they arrived in Istanbul, where the horse was selected for the Ottoman Empire's renowned cavalry. Ridden as a battle charger in the Turkish sieges on Vienna and Buda, it was captured, along with its groom, by a party of adventuring British aristocrats and taken back to England in 1686. In London, it was bought by Captain Robert Byerley, who rode the Turk to Ireland (stopping along the way to take first place at the Downpatrick Races) to take on the Jacobite forces in several pivotal encounters, including the Battle of the Boyne. After a lifetime of adventure, the Turk was put to stud, initiating what was to become its greatest legacy: first foundation sire of the thoroughbred line. Thoroughly documented and certain to ignite debate within racing circles with its controversial claims about the horse's origins, The Byerley Turk is nothing less than groundbreaking. This sweeping narrative not only tracks the life of a single horse but provides new insights into the world it inhabited, conjuring the spirit of an entire era and offering a meditation on the immutable force of destiny.