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A short spin through ""the history of man in the history of the horse"" which could be dismissed as a silly, R-rated juvenile (much attitudinizing re man-and-horse; considerable sex early on)--except for one anomaly: the Jewish element. Steiner--who is also very loose with words--brings us first ""The Cowboys of the Old Testament"": Moses may have departed from Egypt on horseback (no basis); don't forget all those asses and donkeys (""They possessed the nobility that humans always attributed to creatures upon whom they depend for survival""); ""not only were the Hebrews horsemen, but they were ranchers and stockmen as well."" Then, after the Greeks, the Persians, the hordes of Genghis Khan, and ""The Errant Knights"" (sic) have been taken care of, Steiner breaks the big news: many of those who first conquered Spain with the Berbers were Jews (and of course many Jews were there before); ""not only their horses but also their horsemanship may be something that the Arabs got from the Jews"" (the former, via Ishmael, son of Abraham--per the Koran; the latter because one Jewish scholar said, ""Islam is a recast of the Jewish religion on Arab soil""); there were six known Jewish ""conquistadors""--i.e., six persons, among Cortez' troops, known to the Inquisition to have some Jewish blood; from among them, and later Jewish arrivals, came the Mexican cattlemen who ""helped introduce cattle ranching into the United States."" And, since they had to be secretive--""to hide their beliefs, and hide themselves,"" from the Inquisition--might not these Jewish ranchers have given the American rancher ""his taciturn and laconic nature""? That there were indeed many Jews in post-Conquest Mexico does not lend credence to the rest of this extravaganza. As for the balance of the book, it's mainly a celebration of the Mexican vaquero and the Indian horseman at the expense of the American westerner--plus some bemoaning that the myth has overshadowed the reality (""No one remembers the name of Daniel Boone's horse. . . . And yet, everybody remembers the Long Ranger's horse 'Silver'""). For the Mexican origins of Western horsemanship, see David Dary's recent Cowboy Culture (p. 775); this is best discreetly forgotten.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row