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James Herriot: The Man Who Inspired Many Veterinarians

Updated on October 20, 2013

In sixth grade I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian. In the 1970's and 80's it was a very popular career choice for many kids, especially girls who loved animals and James Herriot was a big part of this inspiration.

I was a 13 year old girl who loved animals, and had all kinds of pet:poodles, parakeet, guinea pig, and a rabbit. My Mother did wildlife rescue and rehabilitation and it wasn't uncommon for there to be a box or a cage housing a baby bird or squirrel in our kitchen.

So when my school held a career fair Mom and I went and she was one of the first to stand up and ask a question. At the time I was mortified, my Mother never stood up and asked the question "What should my daughter read if she's interested in becoming a veterinarian?" His answer? "Any book written by James Herriot"

A Veterinary Book that Inspired Me

James Herriot was a country veterinary in England from the 1930's through the 1970's and wrote a series of books about his veterinary patients, their owners, and the countryside or Yorkshire England which he loved so well. I devoured these books. I think I have read each one probably a half dozen times each and they never get old. Not only did the books inspire me to want become a veterinarian, I wanted to become a large animal vet and treat horses, cattle, and sheep, along with a smattering of dogs and cats.

Many veterinary books glamorize the veterinary profession, helping animals, curing disease, doing intricate surgery in sterile conditions. But All Creatures Great and Small doesn't do any of that. James would be neck deep in the cold mud, on the cold bricks of a barn calving in the rain and when the calf was born and licking your fingers the satisfaction was more than worth the hours of being cold.

When I went to college I found out that I wasn't the only eager pre-vet student who had grown up with James Herriot books and wanted to have the respect and job satisfaction of the veterinary profession. During the 1980's there were over 300 veterinary applicants for every open position in veterinary school.

My Dream Come True

Although I went to college at Oklahoma State, majored in Animal Science, worked at the veterinary college, and as a veterinary assistant, I never did become a veterinarian. Long story, but I did end up teaching veterinary students for a few years through my career in the pet industry and fulfilling a dream .

I visited England, Yorkshire and Thirsk in 2002 and it was a trip of a lifetime. I received a tour from a local tour guide who showed me where Tricki Woo lived, the Fish and Chips shop, and where Alfred the cat who lived at the candy store. The tour guide took me up on the moors and it was like taking a trip through a James Herriot book with the stone fences and wooden gates he struggled to open every day.

I ate dinner at the Golden Fleece, and through a local friend met people who knew Jim Wight (James Herriots real name) and Donald Sinclair personally. They didn't know I was a fan of the books, I didn't let on, and I felt as though I was in one of the books as they dropped their "real" names during a discussion of Mad Cow that was rampant during England that year.

When my friend told them who I was and why I was in Thirsk they smiled and thankful I had not exploited their connections in the two hour long conversation. They proceeded to tel me more about the real life characters, and that yes, Donald Sinclair (aka Siegfried) really was a womanizer and would of been quite taken with me.

What You Will Find in Each Book

Each book is written as a series of short stories, so you don't have to worry about not finishing the book (although you will) and each is written with wit and wisdom and compassion for the the pet owners. Many characters reappear, such as Mrs. Pumphrey and her overweight Pekingese, and who often wonder if you're reading a story from the 1940's or an over indulgent pet owner from today.

You will find caring and personal stories of love, struggles of farmers and love from the most unlikely places. Characters such as the farting

Animal Stories For All Ages

Since James Herriot wrote his first books, they have been adapted in many forms for children compiled into dog and cat collections. There is a version for everyone and they make great Christmas present that will turn into keepsakes. I own all of them, including James Herriots Yorkshire that I purchased at the World of James Herriot museum in Thirsk.

James Herriot's Cat Stories
James Herriot's Cat Stories

Cat Stories is a compilation of James Herriots most love stories about cats and kittens. I bought this book for my Mom one Christmas as she loved cats and had two that replaced her kids when we moved out.

James Herriot's Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small
James Herriot's Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small

If you have young children that love animals this book of short stories has been illustrated and edited for the reading to young animal lovers.

All Three Lovable Bestsellers
All Three Lovable Bestsellers

Want a gift bok pack for an an animal lover in your life. All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small and The Lord God Made Them All tells the story of a country vet from his graduation from veterinary school through the war and family life. These stories will make you smile and laugh.


Watch Videos About James Herriot

Not only has the life of James Herriot been told in books, but it was the subject of a BBC television show that ran during the 1980's. It takes a little bit to understand the thick British accent, but once you do you will be captivated at how accurate the television series and the books mirror each other.

Jim Wight followed in his fathers footsteps and became a veterinarian. He went on many farm calls as a young boy and I almost got to meet him when I was in Thirsk. Darn Mad Cow, he was constantly in the field and was pretty much quarantined.

Learn how the television series was made and what the actors thought of creating the world on James Herriot on the small screen.

Watch a full episode of the BBC's TV show All Creatures Great and Small. This episode starts when James returns from WWII and his first stop is to see his wife and son. His second, teasing and pulling a prank on his veterinary colleague Tristan by saying their old friend "Clancey" needs his veterinary services. You see, Clancy is a rather large, rather cantankerous dog, you might say even vicious, and no one want to treat him. So the game is to pass him off to each vet in the office.

Have You Read any of James Herriots Stories

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    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 

      4 years ago from West Virginia

      I remember James Herriot books from when my daughter was little. I really liked his writing style.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 

      5 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      I've read all of the James Herriot books and loved them all. I too, have dreamed of some day visiting the locale where he lived. What a wonderful experience!

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 

      5 years ago from Concord VA

      I love the James Herriot books!

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      5 years ago

      His stories made me want to visit that part of England, and taking my writing books along. He was a big hit with our children and what he revealed about his ministrations was raw and real mixed with tenderheartedness. All these books are superb.

    • ThreeQuarters2Day profile imageAUTHOR

      Dawn Romine 

      5 years ago from Nebraska

      @David Stone1: Thanks for the comment, I agree with you, I believe he was an equally, if not better writer.

    • David Stone1 profile image

      David Stone 

      5 years ago from New York City

      As a huge James Herriot fan for years, I really enjoyed your personal write up, and I'l second your recommendation on every one of these books. A very good job of calling attention to this man who had the twin gifts of being an excellent vet and an even better writer. As you make clear, he brings you right there in his stories, sharing it like you were looking over his shoulder.

    • LisaDH profile image


      5 years ago

      I read his first three books when I was in school. Loved them! He is a brilliant writer and obviously a wonderful vet.


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