Many versions of Stewball were recorded, each with a different melody. The lyrics are often in a race-horse theme, with the jockey prancing and dancing as Stewball wins the race. Other versions describe the jockey lamenting that he has lost a lot of money, and the horse’s proud recap of the first stanza. In any case, the song is popular to this day.
While Stewball is generally considered the more popular version, there are several other versions of this racehorse song. The song is not as old as the horse racing itself. Many versions of this song date back to the ’60s and are credited to John Herald, Ralph Rinzler, and Robert Yellin. Despite its equestrian theme, the song is based on a race between a California horse and a Texas horse.
Stewball was a British racehorse who won many races in England and Ireland. However, it was his most notable race that inspired this folk ballad. From there, it traveled to different parts of the world, where it mutated into the chain gang song Stewball. The ballad was later recorded by Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie. In 1963, Peter, Paul & Mary recorded it.
Stewball was a British-American song with Irish origins. The song describes a horse with map-like brown patches on his white coat. In one race, the skewball was matched against Sir Ralph Gore’s grey mare, Miss Portly. The song was sung in many pocket songsters and eventually made its way to America. It was even used in convict camps in the South.