Even in the age of automobiles and motorbikes, famed war horses and their riders remain charismatic and enduring figures. They inspire authors and movie directors to produce numerous adaptations based on their impressive exploits. Alexander the Great and Bucephalus were a prime example in the ancient Greece. There were Xiang Yu, the Conqueror of Western Chu, and his beloved steed, Wuzhui in the ancient China.
In both eastern and western cultures, black horses symbolize power, authority, and fearlessness. These powerful men helped to create the preconception by accomplishing astounding martial feats while riding their mounts. Both men were elite cavalry commanders of their times. Both Alexander the Great and Xiang Yu the Conqueror died in their thirties and their stallions died shortly before them. After Bucephalus passed away of old age, his rider founded a city called Bucephala to honor him and died sooon after (Rodgers, 2008).
The Image of Alexander and Bucephalus (3:05 – 3:08)
Xiang Yu and Wuzhui’s end was more tragic. When his remaining battalion was surrounded by his nemesis Liu Bang’s army, the warrior king, knowing his end was near, lamented that “ [he] could lift a moutain by might, but now [his] time is gone and Wuzhui won’t run” (Sun, 2015). Because of this poem, the horse, along with his rider, is remembered to this day. A source claims that Wuzhui committed suicide by jumping into a river when Xiang Yu had tried to send the wounded horse away on a boat days before this.
The Painting of Xiang Yu and Wuzhui (0: 44 – 0: 51)
We are fascinated by these magnificent black war horses and warriors because they were so powerful and swift together. They completed each other so wonderfully and shared their lives and glory. We do not imagine these ancient conquerors without their trusted animal companions thousands of years after they died.
Rodgers, N. (2008). The Rise and Fall of Ancient Greece. London: Lorenz.
Sun, J. (2015 November 5). Heroic Horses of Ages Past. Retrieved from