Brother Mendel’s Perfect Horse

Frank Westerman

Brother Mendel's Perfect Horse

‘When you touch a Lipizzaner,’ Frank Westerman was told as a child, ‘you are touching history.’ In Brother Mendel’s Perfect Horse he explores the history of these unique creatures, an extraordinary troop of pedigree horses first bred as personal mounts for the Emperor of Austria-Hungary. Following the bloodlines of the studbook, he reconstructs the story of four generations of imperial steeds as they survive the fall of the Habsburg Empire, two World Wars and the insane breeding experiments conducted under Hitler, Stalin and Ceaușescu. 

But what begins as a fairy tale becomes a chronicle of the quest for racial purity. Carrying the reader across Europe, from imperial stables and stud farms to the controversial gene labs of today, Westerman asks, if animal breeders are so good at genetic engineering, why do attempts to perfect the human strain always end in tragedy?

Brother Mendel’s Perfect Horse, a unique and engrossing fusion of history and travel writing, is a modern fable in which the pureblood horse ends up revealing man’s own shortcomings.

‘Westerman’s account of the Lipizzaners’ remarkable survival makes stirring reading. His tales of research in secret archives and encounters with wartime veterans who helped with Operation Cowboy have the subterfuge and tension of a thriller.’ Sunday Telegraph

 ‘Westerman’s own unique process of hybridisation, his mix of travel writing and history, yet again proves a winner… enquiring and thoughtful.’ Independent

‘A most charming book.’ The Times

 ‘A masterpiece.’ De Standaard 


  • Querido Fosfor, Netherlands
  • Harvill Secker/Vintage, UK
  • C.H. Beck, Germany
  • Iperborea, Italy
  • Siruela, Spain
  • Host, Czech Republic
  • Durieux, Croatia
  • Helikon, Hungary
  • Czarne, Poland
  • Studentska založba, Slovenia
  • Absynt, Slovakia
  • East Press, Japan
  • Documentary adaptation by Pieter van Huystee Film & TV

Material: Finished copies and pdf of the Dutch and English edition (320pp)