Hidalgo: Truth or Fiction?

Too many "tall tales" can mislead us about certain cultures and certain facts. A recent History Channel program, "The True Story of Hidalgo," discredits claims by Disney studios that their movie, Hidalgo, is based on facts.  It isn't. The story was fabricated by Frank Hopkins, who was a better storyteller than cowboy.

Promo From Disney Studios:

Based on the true story of the greatest long-distance horse race ever run, "Hidalgo" is an epic action-adventure and one man's journey of personal redemption. Held yearly for centuries, the Ocean of Fire- a 3,000 mile survival race across the Arabian Desert- was a challenge restricted to the finest Arabian horses ever bred, the purest and noblest lines, owned by the greatest royal families. In 1890, a wealthy Sheik invited an American and his horse to enter the race for the first time. Frank T. Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) was a cowboy and dispatch rider for the US cavalry who had once been billed as the greatest rider the West had ever known. The Sheik (Omar Sharif) would put this claim to the test, pitting the American cowboy and his mustang, Hidalgo, against the world's greatest Arabian horses and Bedouin riders- some of whom were determined to prevent the foreigner from finishing the race. For Frank, the Ocean of Fire becomes not only a matter of pride and honor, but a race for his very survival as he and his horse, Hidalgo, attempt the impossible.


From the History Channel:
The True Story of Hidalgo

No record exists of a Mr. Frank Hopkins birth or residence at Ft. Laramie exists;
His name wasn't discovered in the U.S. Calvary records where he claims to have been the best of the best.
A race he claims to have won between Galveston and Vermont is not documented in any newspapers or oral histories;
Mr. Hopkins claimed he was born in 1865, yet when he married in the 1900s, he listed his birth date as 1886 (or somewhere around that year). If true, he would have been only 3 years old when the Arabian race was run;
Oceans of Fire, the  Arabian race, which had supposedly been a yearly event for 1,000 years, has never been documented by writing or by oral tradition.
No record exists of Mr. Hopkins ever working with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show;
No facts could be found about Mr. Hopkins participating in any races at all.

What was discovered about Mr. Hopkins:

He probably worked behind the scenes with the Ringling Barnum and Bailey circus   At the time he worked, the circus featured an act with real Arabian horses, Arabian horseman, and American horses and horsemen.
It may be his circus experiences that led to the vivid and believable details in his stories;
Mr. Hopkins later worked in the New York Subway system and told these stories to others;
Before his death, Hopkins wrote down these stories and claimed they were true;
After his death, Mr. Hopkin's wife was asked for proof and documentation to verify Frank's stories. She claimed all evidence was lost. Her letters, which were later discovered in a library, more discredited her husband than credited him.

By the time the History Channel program was over, the evidence disputes the facts behind the movie. So if you or your friends plan to watch Hildago, enjoy the story but remember: IT NEVER HAPPENED!

For more information, please visit the list of Hidalgo websites (including one by Vine Deloria)  shared with Native Village Readers by Phil konstantin
. Thanks, Phil!

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