Cover image for The cowboy and his elephant : the story of a remarkable friendship
The cowboy and his elephant : the story of a remarkable friendship
MacPherson, Malcolm.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
240 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : color illustrations ; 22 cm
Reading Level:
880 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.3 9.0 67427.

Reading Counts RC High School 7.3 14 Quiz: 33173 Guided reading level: NR.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL737.P98 M34 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In the late 1980s, a female baby elephant was born into a herd that lived on the plains of southern Africa. Her mother has carried her for two years, and normally she would have nursed her for five more. But the close-knit family of wild elephants was to face a predator for which it was no match--humans. In a "cull," her family was slaughtered in a few moments. Only the newborn female's life was spared. Terrified and bewildered the young elephant was transported to America to be sold. There she met the person who was to change her life forever.

Bob Norris is a cowboy with an enormous empathy for animals that overwhelms his other emotions. He was raised with a pet bear and as a boy decided to become a real cowboy. He saw his dream come true in Colorado on one of the larger horse-and-cattle ranches in America. Handsome as a movie star, he became the Marlboro Man and appeared on TV and on billboards around the world. But with the passing of years, and with his own family grown up, he felt the need for something that he could not name.

When she came into his life by happenstance, the hurt, vulnerable little elephant tapped the fullness of Bob's empathy, and an incredible bond between the most unlikely of friends was forged.

Bob adopted the baby orphan elephant--named Amy--and patiently set about helping her recover from the trauma of her ordeal. He had never seen a real African elephant up close, except in zoos. He was a horseman and breeder of champion quarter horses. But through close observation, gentle training, humor, and endless perseverance, Bob gradually coaxed Amy into overcoming her mistrust of humans, and indeed, her fear of the world. The little elephant became a "hand" on Bob's ranch, tending to simple chores, riding the fences, and shadowing Bob on his horse. She developed a winning personality, and a strong character, and became a beloved member of the Norris family and partner to the ranch hands.

But Bob knew from the start that the ultimate goal was for Amy to regain her confidence and her independence - even, if it were possible, to go back to the savannahs of Africa.

This is the true story of how Amy and Bob came together. No one who reads The Cowboy and His Elephant can fail to be moved by such a simple tale of unlikely love.

Author Notes

Journalist and author Malcolm MacPherson was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut. At 11, he survived a car accident that killed his parents and was raised by relatives. He graduated from Trinity College in 1965 and served in the Marine Corps. He became a correspondent for Newsweek, where he covered numerous wars and conflicts including the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey and the Arab-Israeli war of 1973. He left the magazine in 1978 in order to become a full-time author. He wrote both fiction and non-fiction books including The Lucifer Key (1981), The Blood of His Servants (1984), In Cahoots (1994), Roberts Ridge (2005), and Hocus Potus (2007). He also did free-lance work for Time magazine. He died of a heart attack on January 17, 2009 at the age of 65.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Three new books celebrate the relationship between one human and a special animal who became a close friend. Parrots are extremely intelligent, long-lived birds that mate monogamously and live in groups of close friends and relatives. Humans are extremely intelligent, long-lived mammals that (generally) mate monogamously and live in groups of close friends and relatives. These parallels both enliven and help explain the bond between humans and the parrots that own them and are exemplified in this new paean to the human-animal relationship. Burger is a behavioral ornithologist, widely published in scientific journals and steeped in the scientific method. She did not know how much her life would change when she and her husband adopted a 35-year-old parrot that had been tightly bonded with two recently deceased sisters in their eighties. Burger's story of the parrot's coming to life again when he joined her household and later became pair bonded with her (at which point Burger's husband became a supernumerary rival) makes for enchanting reading. Amy is an elephant, the lone survivor of a planned cull of crop-raiding elephants in Zimbabwe. Bob Norris is a cowboy, chosen as the original "Marlboro Man" when his ranch was to serve as a backdrop for cigarette advertising and he looked more like a cowboy than the hired model did. Their lives intersected when a man who bought Amy and five other orphaned calves needed a place to keep them before they were sold. Amy was the smallest and pining away from what Bob interpreted as grief for her lost family, so he decided to purchase her so that he could save her life. As Amy grew, she also grew into big trouble, as she became too large to discipline. After a professional trainer taught Bob how to handle her, Amy became part of the ranch routine--riding fence with Bob, cutting out cattle and horses, and leading young colts. The relationship between Amy and Bob is the heart of this charming book. When Raber came upon an eight-week-old cougar cub for sale at a show of extravagant Christmas gifts, he found himself drawn to the kitten with such a strong connection that he purchased the young animal immediately. The resulting 10 years of shared lives are explored in this new man-meets-big-cat saga, as Cougar grows up and becomes a member of the family. As much a meditation on what it means to be a big cat as it is a memoir of life with a big cat, Raber alternates between well-written ruminations on instinct, training, living with and near wildlife, and big cats in general and the story of his life with Cougar as his constant companion. The author's thoughtful asides on the morality of life with a wild animal help dispel the conclusion that having an exotic pet is a good idea. --Nancy Bent

Publisher's Weekly Review

Bob Norris was a cowboy, and he also played one on TV. But this former Marlboro Man set himself apart from the pack when he solved his midlife crisis by adopting an elephant named Amy. While Bob had a devoted wife and children and worked with horses, dogs and goats on his ranch in the Rockies, he had started to become disheartened and bored. For kicks, he rented out some of his barn stalls to house six orphan elephant babies taken from a herd in Africa and destined for zoos and circuses. He fell in love with the sickly yet beautiful Amy, and paid $18,000 to keep her. In this straightforward account of Bob and Amy's uncannily close relationship, veteran journalist and author MacPherson (Protg) details how Amy cavorted, danced and even purred and made fast friends with Bob's cowdogs and a goat, Michelle, who followed her everywhere. Bob once tried to ride her, but decided he "wanted to keep her untamed nature, her wildness and beauty as an animal completely separate from human interference. He never asked her to carry him again." The story, bolstered by elephant fact and lore, is more captivating than its simplistic, casual prose. Written from the point of view of the elephant, the first chapter reads like a children's book. But intrepid animal lovers will find Amy's unexpected journey at the end of the book rewarding. (May 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

What do elephant hunters in Zimbabwe, an American cowboy, circus employees, and a worker on an exotic animal farm all have in common? The answer: a young African elephant named Amy. The story starts on the plains of Zimbabwe in 1988 when Bob Norris, a real-life Marlboro Man cowboy, crossed paths with a ten-month-old elephant that had been spared from a large-scale culling operation. A compassionate man who has a way with animals, Bob decided to adopt Amy and integrate her into his ranch life. The book highlights some of their adventures and Bob's ultimate realization that it was just too dangerous to have a large, strong-willed wild animal like an elephant around as a pet. After several years on Bob's ranch, Amy was sold to a couple who trained and performed with circus elephants. The separation was difficult for both Bob and Amy. While Amy's new "family" integrated her into their performances, animal rights activists generated enough concern for the welfare of circus animals so that the couple eventually retired. Amy's life then came full circle under a plan to reintroduce African elephants from zoos and circuses back into the wild. Amy was going home, this time to Botswana. Fans of Born Free will enjoy this heartwarming book; for most public libraries. Edell M. Schaefer, Brookfield P.L., WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.