The best books on travel with animals

Hilary Bradt Author Of A Connemara Journey: A Thousand Miles on Horseback Through Western Ireland
By Hilary Bradt

Who am I?

Until I did my own animal-accompanied journey with Mollie and Peggy in 1984, my only association with animals on the trail was inadvertently with a collection of cockroaches in my backpack. It was when Bradt decided to add to their anthologies with a collection of stories about travelling with animals in 2018, Beastly Journeys, that I was able to read a wide variety of books on the topic. A delightful exercise!

I wrote...

A Connemara Journey: A Thousand Miles on Horseback Through Western Ireland

By Hilary Bradt,

Book cover of A Connemara Journey: A Thousand Miles on Horseback Through Western Ireland

What is my book about?

In 1984 I fulfilled a childhood ambition to do a long-distance ride. I chose the west of Ireland for this adventure, and equipped myself to be completely independent without any backup support. Set against the history, legends, landscape, and above all, the people of a now-vanished Ireland, this is a story of joy and tragedy, and particularly of the bond with my two Connemara ponies, Mollie and Peggy.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Tschiffely's Ride: Ten Thousand Miles in the Saddle from Southern Cross to Pole Star

Why did I love this book?

Also known as Southern Cross to Pole Star, this tale of an epic journey by horseback from Buenos Aires to Washington, published in 1933, has never been out of print. I first read the offshoot for young readers, The Tale of Two Horses, written from the point of view of his Creole horses, Mancha and Gato, when I was a pony-mad child and read the longer adult version later. The Swiss-Argentine writer, Aime Tschiffely, was a man of his time – arrogant, intolerant, but supremely courageous – and his ten thousand mile ride will never be equaled. The dangers he met are hair-raising and his love for his horses inspiring. The book planted a small seed of ambition in my childhood imagination.

By Aimé Tschiffely,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Tschiffely's Ride as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the southeast coast of South America through an expanse of Peruvian sands en route to the West Coast, then onward through Central American jungles and rainforest, and finally to New York, Tschiffely’s journey was considered impossible and absurd by many newspaper writers in 1925. However, after two and a half years on horseback with two of his trusty and tough steeds, this daring trekker lived to tell his best-selling tale.

Tschiffely’s 10,000-mile journey was filled with adventure and triumph, but it also forced the traveler to deal with tremendous natural and man-made obstacles, as many countries in Central America…

Book cover of Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes: And Other Travel Writings

Why did I love this book?

Like Tschiffely’s Ride this is a travel narrative, given heightened interest and amusement by the addition of Modestine the donkey who carried Stevenson’s luggage. Modestine, like all donkeys, was a master at manipulating her inexperienced new owner, but the two forged an understanding that took them nearly 300km through some of France’s wildest landscapes. Written in 1879, this is a fascinating account of a vanished France, beset by religious conflict, where lodging might be found in the corner of a field as well as a flea-ridden inn. The Robert Louis Stevenson Trail is now a popular walking route through the Cevennes. I walked it earlier this year and enjoyed nightly readings from the book.

By Robert Louis Stevenson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Temperament and poor health motivated Robert Louis Stevenson to travel widely throughout his short life, and before he was celebrated as the author of Treasure Island, A Child's Garden of Verses, and other immortal works, he was known for his travelogues. This collection presents some of his finest writing in that vein, starting with "An Inland Voyage." This 1878 chronicle of a canoe journey through Belgium and France charmingly captures the European villages and townspeople of a bygone era.
Other selections include "Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes," a humorous account of a mountain trek, and "Forest Notes," a…

Book cover of Cloud Road: A Journey Through the Inca Heartland

Why did I love this book?

Like the Stevenson book, this is also about travelling with a donkey, but what makes this narrative special is the author’s hatred of his pack animal. This will sound instantly off-putting but John’s descriptions of Dapple’s transgressions are very, very funny and his fury is never translated into violence towards the animal. There are lyrical descriptions of the landscape in northern Peru, but it is for the humour that I return to this book from time to time. I’m a sucker for any book about Peru, the subject of my early adventures and very first guidebook, and this is one of the most enjoyable

By John Harrison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cloud Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In every atlas there is a country missing from the maps of South America: the Andean nation. For five months John Harrison journeys through this secret country, walking alone into remote villages where he is the first gringo the inhabitants have ever seen, and where life continues as if Columbus had never sailed. He lives at over 10,000 feet for most of the trip, following the great road of the Incas: the Camino Real, or Royal Road. Hand built over 500 years ago, it crosses the most difficult and dangerous mountains in all the Americas, diving into sweltering canyons and…

Book cover of Travels with Charley in Search of America

Why did I love this book?

John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for literature shortly after Travels with Charley was published, and this travel narrative is almost certainly part fiction but no less interesting or valuable as a portrait of America in the 1960s. Charley, the standard poodle, is incidental to the narrative but provides a convenient listener to some of Steinbeck’s musings. This was the first book that I read when I first came to live in Boston in 1964 and I loved it. John Steinbeck is incapable of writing mundane prose.

By John Steinbeck,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Travels with Charley in Search of America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An intimate journey across America, as told by one of its most beloved writers

To hear the speech of the real America, to smell the grass and the trees, to see the colors and the light-these were John Steinbeck's goals as he set out, at the age of fifty-eight, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years.

With Charley, his French poodle, Steinbeck drives the interstates and the country roads, dines with truckers, encounters bears at Yellowstone and old friends in San Francisco. Along the way he reflects on the American character, racial hostility, the…

Book cover of Zarafa: A Giraffe's True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris

Why did I love this book?

I discovered this fascinating and extraordinary story when I was researching tales about travelling with animals for Beastly Journeys. Unlike the other four books in my list, this one has the animal as the central character. And what an animal! Zarafa was captured as a calf in what is now Ethiopia in a plan to cement relationships between the Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt and Charles V of France. The year was 1826 and a giraffe had never before been seen in France. Zarafa did the first part of her journey strapped to the back on a camel, and then – surely more comfortably – down the Nile and across the Mediterranean on a brigantine.

A hole was cut in the deck which allowed Zarafa to travel with her body in the hold, while her head and neck enjoyed the human company on deck. From Marseille she was walked, with her devoted carers, the 550 miles to Paris accompanied by huge crowds who had never seen the like before. Safely in Paris, she was housed in the Jardin des Plantes where she lived with her Arab keeper for the rest of her days, viewed by tens of thousands of awe-struck visitors. A wonderful story, meticulously researched.

By Michael Allin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Zarafa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In October 1826, a ship arrived at Marseille carrying the first giraffe ever seen in France. A royal offering from Muhammad Ali, Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt, to King Charles X, she had already traveled 2,000 miles down the Nile to Alexandria, from where she had sailed across the Mediterranean standing in the hold, her long neck and head protruding through a hole cut in the deck. In the spring of 1827, after wintering in Marseille, she was carefully walked 550 miles to Paris to the delight of thousands of onlookers.

The viceroy's tribute was politically motivated: He commanded the Turkish…

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