Frank Hopkins

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For the British naval officer, see Frank Hopkins (Royal Navy officer). For the English cricketer, see Frank Hopkins (cricketer).
Frank Hopkins
Born Frank Hopkins
1895 (claimed 1865)
Lutheran All Faiths Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens County, New York City [1]
Died 1951
Other names e

Frank Hopkins (died 1951) claimed he 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.[2] None of his claims can be proven and his birth is recorded in Pennsylvania as 1893.

Early life and education[edit]

Hopkins said he was born to a Lakota mother and European-American father. He grew up in both cultures and learned to ride and care for horses at an early age.[3] There is a marriage certificate that Frank Hopkins signed in Los Angeles in 1933 where he put his age at 43. The Fort Laramie National Historic site has no record of a his birth or family whatsoever. Lakota Scholar, Historian and Doctor Vine Deloria says "Hopkins claims are so outrageously false that one wonders why the Disney people were attracted to this material at all."


Hopkins claimed to have been 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 In his autobiographical memoir (unpublished in his lifetime) and accounts to friends, he claimed to have been featured as one of the "Rough Riders of the World" in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, which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.[4]

A number of his stories have been debunked by many historians.[5] 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.[3]
  • 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.[4] Hopkins has been found as listed in 1917 as being employed by the Ringling Brothers Circus as a horse performer.[4]

His claim to be half Lakota.

In 1926 Hopkins was foreman of a construction crew, digging a subway tunnel in downtown Philadelphia, PA.

In the 1940s, Hopkins claimed he was Honorary chair at a Vermont Races but according to the Vermont Historical Society has no knowledge of any races in Vermont.[6] 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."[7]


Frank Hopkins is interred in Lutheran All Faiths Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens County, New York City.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

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.[5]


  1. ^
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  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b c Peter Harrigan, "Hidalgo: A Film or Flimflam?", in Arab News, 13 May 2003, accessed 2010-12-28
  5. ^ a b [1], The Frank Hopkins Hoax
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^

External links[edit]