Horses were the primary working and fighting animals in Middle-earth. They were generally used as mounts; both forces of good and forces of evil used them in the wars and battles of Middle-earth. In the Third Age, Riders of Rohan and the nine Nazgûl were most well-known for riding horses.
Small horses were called ponies. Horses came in many colors, such as white, grey, brown, and black. The Mearas were one specified breed of wild horses in the north of Middle-earth - no other particular breeds are mentioned in Tolkien's legendarium.
Individual horsesEditLegolas by the Riders of Rohan in The Two Towers. Arod originally belonged to a Rider of Rohan, but his master was slain in a battle with orcs near Fangorn Forest on the night of February 28, 3019. The next day, Éomer lent Arod to Legolas and another horse named Hasufel to Aragorn on the condition that they later bring the horses to Meduseld.
Arod was a fiery and restive horse, but Legolas rode him easily without saddle or rein. Gimli was not so comfortable on Arod, however; and he clung to his friend uneasily. The Three Hunters rode the edge of Fangorn Forest seeking Merry and Pippin. During the night, a strange old man appeared at their campsite and then disappeared. Arod and Hasufel dragged their pickets and ran away. They heard Shadowfax, the lord of horses, and ran to greet him. The next day when Gandalf whistled to call Shadowfax, Arod and Hasufel returned as well.
Legolas rode Arod to Meduseld and on to Helm's Deep. When Aragorn decided to take the Paths of the Dead, Legolas went with him, but Arod was reluctant to enter trembled in fear until Legolas laid his hands on the horse's eyes and sang to him. Arod then followed Legolas through the tunnels as the Dead gathered behind them.
After the War of the Ring, Legolas and Gimli rode Arod in the funeral procession of King Théoden from Minas Tirith to Meduseld. Arod's name was developed from an Elvish word meaning swift. "Brave" and "Defender of the Elves" were also titles given to this loyal horse by Legolas when so willingly carried the elf and dwarf through many a perilous quest. Legolas found much pain in giving up Arod when he traveled to the Undying Lands with Gimli. Arod will always be remembered as a great horse who gave everything for the Elf whom he carried.
Arod means "swift" in the Old English language.
Asfaloth was the horse of Glorfindel. He was a white horse whose pace was light and smooth but swift. Glorfindel rode Asfaloth using a saddle with stirrups and a headstall studded with jewels.
On October 9, 3018, Glorfindel left Rivendell riding Asfaloth in search of Frodo Baggins. The Elf-lord rode his horse down the Great East Road to the Last Bridge, where they encountered three Ringwraiths. They pursued the Ringwraiths westward and encountered two more before returning to pick up Frodo's trail. On October 18, they caught up to the hobbits and Aragorn, and Glorfindel set the wounded Frodo upon Asfaloth.
As they approached the Ford of Bruinen on October 20, the Ringwraiths appeared. Asfaloth leaped forward, but Frodo reined the horse in, feeling a strange reluctance to flee. Then Glorfindel called out, "Noro lim, noro lim, Asfaloth!" and the horse ran swiftly down the Road, outpacing the steeds of the Ringwraiths. Asfaloth passed right in front of one of the Black Riders and then plunged into the waters of the Bruinen, carrying Frodo across the Ford to the edge of Rivendell.
- 'Ride on! Ride on!' cried Glorfindel, and then loud and clear he called to the horse in the elf-tongue: noro lim, noro lim, Asfaloth!- excerpt from The Fellowship of the Ring
- In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Asfaloth is played by a grey Andalusian stallion.
- Noro lim - Glorfindel's command to Asfaloth - means "Ride fast" in Sindarin.
Bill was bought by Frodo Baggins and his companions in Bree, as they fled the Shire on their way to Rivendell. This was necessary as their own ponies had been stolen from the stables of The Prancing Pony inn, where they spent the night. Bill was purchased from Bill Ferny, who was in league with the spies who stole the other ponies. Ferny was a cruel man who tormented Bill, but after being purchased by the hobbits Bill became a much happier pony. He was given the name 'Bill' by Sam Gamgee shortly after the party left Bree.
After arriving in Rivendell, Bill became acquainted with the elvish horses, and this influence resulted in a good deal of self-improvement. He left Rivendell a much wiser pony, not to mention healthier and happier.
He accompanied the Fellowship of the Ring from Rivendell to the doors of Moria, but had to be left behind there because the company could not take a pony through the mines of Moria. All thought him killed by either the Watcher in the Water or wolves, but being a wise pony by this point, he managed to survive on his own and travelled back to Bree. There, he was nursed back to health at The Prancing Pony, until he eventually was joyfully reunited with Sam on his return journey to the Shire. Sam apparently took Bill back to Hobbiton for the rest of his life.
Bumpkin was one of the five ponies that Merry Brandybuck had ready at Crickhollow for the hobbits to use on their journey. When they set out on September 26, 3018, each hobbit rode a pony while fifth carried their extra baggage.
At the house of Tom Bombadil, the ponies got to know Tom's pony Fatty Lumpkin, and when the ponies became frightened in the fog on the Barrow-downs, they ran off to find their friend. Tom called the ponies by names he had given them - Sharp-ears, Wise-nose, Swish-tail, Bumpkin, and White-socks - and they returned to the hobbits still bearing their burdens.
At The Prancing Pony in Bree, the ponies were let out of the stables in an attempt to delay the hobbits' departure. The five ponies ran off to the Barrow-downs in search of Fatty Lumpkin. They stayed with Tom Bombadil for a while, but when Tom learned what had happened, he sent the ponies to Barliman Butterbur. The ponies remained in Bree, where they worked hard but were well cared for by Bob.
Fatty Lumpkin is the pony that is ridden by Tom Bombadil. In The Fellowship of the Ring, the hobbits' (Sam, Merry, Pippin and Frodo) own ponies get to know Fatty Lumpkin and manage to find him after the hobbits encounter a fog on the Barrow Downs. Although he belongs to Tom, he seldom rode him and was often left to wander free in the wilderness.
He was a horse described as being as intelligent as any human, who could understand the speech of men, and was the first of the Mearas.
Felaróf was a wild foal when he was captured by Eorl the Young's father Léod, a tamer of horses. Despite no one being able to tame it, Léod attempted to mount it, but was killed when the stallion threw him.
Eorl vowed to avenge his father, but did not slay it, naming it Felaróf and commanding the horse to serve him. Eorl rode him without bit or bridle. They took part in the battle of the Field of Celebrant.
Hasufel was one of the horses given to Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli by Éomer when his company encountered them pursuing the Uruk-hai.
Hasufel means "grey coat" from the Old English hasu meaning 'grey' and fel or fell meaning 'skin'.
Shadowfax is a mighty horse of Rohan, the chief of the Mearas, tamed by Gandalf and reluctantly granted as a gift to him (after Gandalf had borrowed him for some time) by King Théoden of the Rohirrim. No Man could tame Shadowfax. He would not tolerate a bridle or saddle, and only carried Gandalf by choice. The great horse also bore a hobbit, Pippin, as well as the dwarf Gimli for a short time during the War of the Ring.
Like the other Mearas, Shadowfax was a grey/silver stallion, and could understand the speech of Men. He was also seemingly fearless, and could run faster than any other horse in Middle-earth. In unpublished letters Tolkien stated that Shadowfax passed to Valinor over the sea with Gandalf, but in The Lord of the Rings itself this is only hinted at by mention of Gandalf standing near a "great grey horse" on the quay just before departing.
In Peter Jackson's film adaptations of The Two Towers and The Return of the King, Shadowfax is portrayed by two grey horses of the Andalusian breed. (Almost all horses that appear white are in fact grays, including all the "white" horses in the LotR movies.)
Snowmane, foal of Lightfoot, was the mount of King Théoden, on which he rode into the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. He was certainly weaker than Shadowfax, who was claimed by Gandalf; however, since his master was the King of Rohan he was most likely one of the Mearas himself.
Snowmane accompanied Théoden to the Battle of the Hornburg, and was ridden on the final charge out of the fortress. At the battle of the Pelennor, however, Snowmane was pierced by a black dart, causing him to fall and crush Théoden beneath him. He was buried with honour on the field of battle; his grave, known as Snowmane's Howe, bore the inscription:
- Faithful servant yet master's bane
- Lightfoot's foal, swift Snowmane.
- -- The Return of the King, "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields," p. 120
Stybba was the pony given by Théoden to Merry Brandybuck. He is described as small, shaggy, and grey. Theoden's reason for leaving Merry in Edoras while he rides to Gondor to do battle is that Stybba cannot keep up with the horses of the Rohirrim, and none of the riders can carry Merry. The name is from Old English styb "stub, stump". Icelandic stubbur is a common name for sheep.
Stybba makes a brief appearance in the film version of The Return of the King.
See Images of horses