Horses are an important feature of LotR, since they are the major means of transportation (apart from boats) in Middle-earth. Since the people of Rohan are alternately known as the "Horse Lords," and since Éowyn's own name means "joyful horse," I've set aside a bit of information on these elegant animals.
The Mearas - The Great Horses of Rohan
The most famous is Shadowfax, the leader of the Mearas during the Third Age (and the War of the Ring). Mearas are traditionally only able to be ridden by the kings of Rohan, but Shadowfax was given to Gandalf by Théoden, who managed to tame the unruly animal for himself.
The Mearas were brought to northern Middle-earth by the god Oromë, and one of their kind, a white horse named Felaróf, was later tamed by Eorl.
Felaróf was found by Eorlís father, who met his death when the horse threw him. Eorl managed to capture the horse and demanded its obedience as payment for his fatherís death. Felaróf, who was capable of understanding human speech, agreed to the bargain. He and his descendants were from then on loyal to the kings of Rohan.
Here are a few bits of information regarding the horses in LotR. I've also included some information from the new Peter Jackson films regarding horses, since these animals are often overlooked. Besides, I'm always impressed by actors who go the lengths to become skilled riders for their film.
The names of some famous horses in LotR:
Shadowfax - Gandalf's horse, a magical descendant of the Mearas.
Hasufel- Aragorn's (borrowed) horse during his time in Rohan.
Roheryn- Aragorn's own horse, brought to him by his Dúnedain after Helm's Deep.
Bill - the faithful pony of the hobbits on their departure from Bree.
Asfaloth - Glorfindel's horse who took Frodo to Rivendell.
Arod - given to Legolas by Éomer, carried both Legolas and Gimli.
Felaróf - Eorl's horse; Shadowfax is his descendant.
Nahar - OromŽ the Hunter's own white horse of legend.
Rochellor - Fingolfin rode this horse when he fought Morgoth in Angband.
Snowmane - Théoden's own horse, which he rode to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
Facts about the horses in the films:
- Battle scenes in the films required over 200 horses, which were then multiplied into thousands using computers.
- For optical illusions involving humans, dwarves and hobbits, many horses had size doubles. For example, Clydesdales were used to exaggerate the great size of battle steeds.
- In mountain scenes in FotR, the pony Bill is actually played by two human actors in costume, since the set was too dangerous for the animal.
- Experienced rider and trainer Jane Abbott was Liv Tyler's riding double, since the actress has a fear of riding.
- Actor Viggo Mortensen bought the stallion who played his horse "Brego" in the film.
- Because the horse who plays "Shadowfax" in the films was much like his fictional character, actor Ian McKellen opted to let riding double Basil Clapham take over for galloping shots.
- Because of all the noise and chaos on the sets, horses were often trained together, since they are most calm in groups.
Domero (Shadowfax standing) - a 16-year-old Andalusian stallion
Blanco (Shadowfax galloping) - a Thoroughbred
Uraeus (Brego) - a former dressage stallion
Florian (Asfaloth) - a Spanish-bred stallion
Rastus (Bill) - Quarter horse/ Shetland pony mix
Special Note on Shadowfax:
Shadowfax is not a white horse, as many people may think. He is actually described as a gray horse in the book. A gray horse has DARK SKIN covered with light hair, much like a polar bear.
Most gray horses look white, as Shadowfax looks white in the film. You can tell a gray horse (even if he looks white) by the black colorings on the nose, in the ears, and between the hind legs where the hair is thinner.
Kate sent me this email, and I'm grateful for the update:
Demero, the Andalusian stallion who played 'Shadowfax' in LOTR, died in July 2003 from a melanoma on his stomach. Owner Mark Kineston-Smith of Otaki, NZ, bought Demero knowing of the condition. The stallion served only three mares, and one didn't take, another took but she broke her pelvis and had to be
put down, and the third is unconfirmed to be in foal. However Mark is hoping she will drop a lovely Andalusian x Welsh-English Riding Pony, which will hopefully grow to 14.2hh. The dam's name is Moonshine Abbey, she's a 13hh liver chestnut mare, about 10-12 years old. Just thought I'd give you an update.
January 2003. Some information on this page came from the articles "Training on a Grand Scale" by Stephanie Stephens and "Gray" by Cheryl Sutor.
images sources: Lord of the Rings Visual Companion, New Line Cinema, Anke-Katrin Eissmann, and Gregory.