Frank Hopkins (1865 – 1951) was a circus employee from the United States. He was known by his tall tales about his own exploits and was also recognized by his contemporaries as an activist for the preservation of the Mustang.
Hopkins made a number of disputed claims, including claims of being a famous endurance horse racer who won over 400 races, and his involvement in a legendary 3,000-mile horse race that passed the Gulf of Syria and the inland borders of two other countries, which was supposed to have taken place in Arabia in 1890. This story was adapted into the 2004 film Hidalgo starring Viggo Mortensen. However, some argue that most of Hopkins' claims as depicted in the film, including the existence of any such race in the first place, are 'tall tales' or hoaxes.
In 2006, John Fusco, the screenwriter of Hidalgo, responded to the disputed items. He admitted that he took parts of Hopkins' 1891 desert memories and "heightened the 'Based On' story to create an entertaining theatrical film" but asserts that the story of the man and his horse are true. Fusco offers quotes from surviving friends of Hopkins'--notably former distance riders Walt and Edith Pyle, and Lt. Col. William Zimmerman--along with information found in horse history texts to verify his story.
According to the film, the descendants of the horse Hidalgo, for which the movie was named, live among the Gilbert Jones herd of Spanish Mustangs on Blackjack Mountain in Oklahoma.
According to the Longriders Guild, the Yemen Government, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabian Government there has never been an "Ocean of Fire" race. According to Dr. Aw Al-Bawdi, director of research at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, "There is Absolutely no record or reference to Hopkins, with or without his mustangs, ever setting foot on Arabian soil."
Frank's age is also questionable. When he married in Los Angeles in 1929, he wrote on the marriage license that he was only 44 years old. That would place his birth at about 1885.
Hopkins also claimed to have been employed by "Buffalo Bill's" Wild West Show. But the curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum states his name is nowhere to be found in the archives. However, he is listed as being employed by the Ringling Brothers Circus in 1917, as a horse performer.
In the 1940's, 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.
- www.frankhopkins.com tribute site Sponsored by The Horse of the Americas Registry and the Institute of Range & The American Mustang
- http://www.thelongridersguild.com/hopkins.htm Contains links that dispute claims of Frank T. Hopkins