When only thirteen years of age, Alexander once saw some horse-dealers bringing a beautiful steed before the king. The animal had a white spot on his nose shaped somewhat like the head of an ox, and on this account was named Bucephalus, which means “oxhead.”
Philip admired the horse greatly, and bade the grooms try him, to see if his gait was good. One after another mounted, only to be thrown a few minutes later by the fiery, restless steed, which was becoming very much excited. The horse seemed so skittish that Philip finally told the men to lead him away, adding that a man would be foolish to purchase such a useless animal. Alexander then stepped forward and begged permission to try him.
His father first made fun of him for asking to mount a horse which none of the grooms could manage; but, as Alexander persisted in his wish, he was finally allowed to make the attempt. The young prince then quietly walked up to the excited horse, took the bridle, held it firmly, and began to speak gently and pat the steed’s arched neck. After a moment, Alexander led Bucephalus forward a few steps, and then turned him around, for he had noticed that the horse was frightened by his shadow.
Then, when the shadow lay where he could not see it, and where it could no longer frighten him, the young man dropped his cloak quietly, and vaulted upon the horse’s back. Once more Bucephalus reared, pranced, kicked, and ran; but Alexander sat firmly on his back, spoke to him gently, and, making no effort to hold him in, let him speed across the plain. In a few moments the horse’s wildness was over, and Alexander could ride back to his proud father, sitting upon a steed which obeyed his slightest touch.
Philip was so delighted with the coolness, courage, and good horsemanship that Alexander had shown on this occasion, that he made him a present of the steed. Bucephalus became Alexander’s favorite mount, and, while he would allow no one else to ride him, he obeyed his master perfectly.