________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 7. . . .October 17, 2014


Bunny the Brave War Horse: Based on a True Story.

Elizabeth MacLeod. Illustrated by Marie Lafrance.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2014.
32 pp., hardcover & eBook, $18.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77138-024-9.

Subject Headings:
War horses-Juvenile fiction.
World War, 1914-1918-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Ian Stewart.

**** /4



“Atten TION”

The police officers sat tall in their saddles. Their uniforms were spotless. Their buttons gleamed in the bright August sun.

But no one was really looking at the officers. Instead, an army major was choosing the best horses. Just a few weeks earlier, a war had stared across the ocean in Europe. The major needed horses for his soldiers to ride.

Even the horses seemed to realize it was a special moment. They stood perfectly still. Their ears were alert, and their eyes were shining.


Millions of horses were used by armies during the First World War. Almost all died horrific deaths, whether by bomb blasts, artillery shelling, gun shots or starvation. This year, the centenary of the beginning of World War I, a British horse named Warrior will be awarded the British veterinary society’s Dickin medal, known as the “animals’ Victoria Cross,” for his gallant service during the war.

internal art     “Warrior”, said Academy Award winning director Stephen Spielberg, “is an extraordinary example of the resilience, strength and profound contribution that horses made during the Great War. [The] medal is a fitting and poignant tribute to not only this remarkable animal but to all animals that served.” (“First world war horse awarded ‘Victoria Cross for animals’”, The Guardian, September 12, 2014).

      A horse with long ears, and hence called Bunny, is the hero of this incredible true, uplifting and ultimately tragic story. He is an equally suitable recipient for such a high honour. Bunny was a “handsome, reddish brown” Toronto City Police horse who, in 1914, crossed the Atlantic with 17 other horses and four Toronto police constables to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Europe. Bunny survived gas attacks at the Battle of Ypres (1915), and, when his master was killed in action, he was given to Constable Thomas Dundas to ride. Bunny and Cst. Dundas lived through three more years of terrible hardship, near starvation and together saved soldiers’ lives. The desolate scarred battle fields of France and Belgium are simply and poignantly rendered in Marie Lafrance’s effortless illustrations that bring the bleak landscape to our eyes.

     Of the 18 horses sent to Europe, this handsome creature, as “brave as a tiger”, was the only one that lived to see the end of the war. However, Bunny never made it back to Canada; he was sold, as were most other horses, to Belgium farmers. We might imagine that he worked as loyally for them, in rebuilding their lives after four years of war, as he did for Thomas Dundas.

     There is an interesting historical mystery in Bunny’s story. His original rider was supposedly Thomas Dundas’s brother; it seems he was one of the four police offices sent to Europe. However his name is not known or recorded anywhere. In fact, it is questionable if this person actually existed. Even with research in the Toronto Police records, the scrupulous Archives and Library Canada and Canada’s Great War Project does not reveal his identity, where he was killed or any other information that should be readily available.

Highly Recommended.

Ian Stewart teaches at Cecil Rhodes School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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