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Frank Hopkins (1865 – 1951) was an American professional horseman who at one time performed with the Ringling Brothers Circus. He was known as a legendary distance rider, claimed to have won 400 races, and was recognized by his contemporaries as supporting the preservation of the mustang.
Early life and education
Hopkins became a cowboy and professional horseman in the American West, where he gained a reputation for distance riding. In his autobiographical memoir (unpublished in his lifetime) and accounts to friends, he claimed to have been featured as one of the "Rough Riders of the World" in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, which toured in Europe as well as the United States.
A number of his stories have been disputed by many historians. Examples include:
- His claim to have won more than 400 races.
- His claim to have raced in a ceremonial 3,000-mile ride that passed the Gulf of Syria and the inland borders of two other Middle Eastern countries, which was supposed to have taken place in Arabia in 1890.
- His age. When Hopkins married in Los Angeles in 1929, he wrote on the marriage license that he was 44 years old. That would place his birth at about 1885 rather than 1865. However his 1905 photo, reprinted on this page, is clearly not that of a 20-year-old,[original research?] indicating that the 1885 birthdate is highly unlikely.
- His claim to have been a rider with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show was disputed by the curator of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, who said Hopkins' name is nowhere to be found in the archives. Hopkins has been found as listed in 1917 as being employed by the Ringling Brothers Circus as a horse performer.
In 1926 Hopkins was foreman of a construction crew, digging a subway tunnel in downtown Philadelphia, PA.
In the 1940s, the elderly Hopkins was honored with a position as trail judge for the annual Green Mountain Horse Club's 100-mile endurance ride. Up to the time of his death in 1951, he remained an outspoken champion of the threatened mustang which he called "the most significant animal on the North American continent."
Frank Hopkins is interred in Lutheran All Faiths Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens County, New York City.
In popular culture
Hopkins' life and the story of the race were the inspiration for the 2004 film Hidalgo, written by John Fusco, directed by Joe Johnston, and starring Viggo Mortensen. The Disney Corporation marketed the film as "based on a true story" although subsequent investigations failed to find any evidence of such a race.
- Peter Harrigan, "Hidalgo: A Film or Flimflam?", in Arab News, 13 May 2003, accessed 2010-12-28
- , The Frank Hopkins Hoax
- "Frank Hopkins", Tribute Website sponsored by The Horse of the Americas Registry and the Institute of Range & The American Mustang, owned by John Fusco
- The Longriders Guild Website