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In rural England of the 1880's, widower Squire Wendon is rearing his young daughter Anne. Her father has forbidden her to be present when their mare, "Duchess," gives birth. Anne sneaks out to the stable, however, and is discovered by her father who forbids her ever to ride Duchess again. Despite this punishment, he gives Anne Duchess's colt because it is her birthday, and she names him "Black Beauty." As the colt grows, so does their mutual affection. Bill Dixon, a young American visiting the nearby Carrington family, admires the horse and is invited to tea but has to decline as he is returning to America that very afternoon. Two years later, at a birthday party for both Anne and Black Beauty, Anne receives a locket from Bill indicating that he will be returning soon. After Joe, the young stable hand, gives Anne a present of a bridle, she goes for her first ride on Black Beauty who turns out to be a very good jumper. Anne's father is pleased that she has learned patience, self control and discipline in becoming a horsewoman but would now like her to attend a boarding school to acquire some social polish as a young woman. After having graduated from Yale, Bill returns to England but still regards Anne as a child and keeps company with the older Evelyn Carrington. One day, the squire invites Bill to go riding with them and, to accentuate her blossoming femininity, Anne decides to ride side-saddle and wear a riding habit. To Anne's dismay, Bill brings Evelyn with him, but her horse has gone lame and Anne, declining to join them, lends her Black Beauty. Anne later changes her mind and, riding a particularly rambunctious mare, is thrown and knocked unconscious. Bill then rides Black Beauty to summon the local doctor who returns on the same fast horse. Meanwhile, Anne has been taken home. Arriving there, the doctor tells young Joe that Black Beauty is very tired, needs cooling off and linament rubbed on his skinned legs. Although Joe tries to stop him, the horse drinks cold water, something he should not do when overheated. Anne recovers quickly, but discovers that Black Beauty is sick as a result of Joe having walked him around without a blanket against the cold night air. The horse recovers but Joe leaves the Squire's employment, blaming himself for Black Beauty's illness. Bill and Evelyn visit, arousing the jealousy of Anne, who decides that she should now go away to boarding school. John, the groom, agrees to care for her horse while she is away. Later, the local veterinarian finds that Black Beauty's leg is seriously infected and that the spreading infection is so severe that the horse must be destroyed. After the squire asks John to shoot Black Beauty, a shot is heard but John has deliberately missed and takes the horse into hiding. When Anne returns from school, the squire asks John to tell her the bad news, but instead he tells her the good news. However, when Anne and John go to reclaim Black Beauty, they discover that the person who was caring for him has given him to a horse auctioneer. Anne and John, with the now romantically involved Bill following them, learn that Black Beauty has been sold to a baker as a cart horse. After they visit one business, the baker mentions to his assistant that his visitors had been looking for a black horse with a white star on its forehead. The assistant turns out to be Joe who runs after Anne and John to tell them that the horse is stabled nearby. As Anne and Bill search for the horse, Black Beauty's driver is whipping him when another driver intervenes. When a fight ensues, the stable catches fire, and Anne arrives and attempts to save Black Beauty from the inferno. Bill reaches the stable just in time to save them both. Later, after Anne and Bill are married, Black Beauty fathers a son.