Appearance– Rocinante is Don Quixote’s thin and worn, overworked and underfed, nag, with corns that contort its legs, and more wrong with it than any hack you can imagine. Decimated by consumption, Rocinante is described “as long as a wet week and as lean as a lath,” with a jutting spine, a rickety skeleton, and atrophied muscles. In fact, Rocinante is so rough-and-ragged that an escaped picaroon named Gines de Pasamonte decides to forego stealing this creature because he thinks it would be impossible to sell, or pawn, or barter, such an emaciated hack.
Slow Motion/Fast Motion– Since Rocinante is a sedate and phlegmatic horse, rarely does he gallop at a brisk pace, except when he has to. For example, when Don Quixote departs Don Diego’s village he has to ask a group of students and farmers to slow down and wait for him because their she-asses move faster than his horse. Even though Rocinante moves at a plodding, feeble, poky pace, sometimes, when afraid, he bolts across the fields, at great speed. For instance, when he is startled by a group of playacting clowns who scare him by beating the ground with their inflated cow stomachs he races across the sierra to get away from their strange sounds. Again, when Rocinante sees a lion’s cage open he bolts across the plains to avoid being eaten by this large cat. In conclusion, when it matters, Rocinante’s movements are so nimble, so proud, and so swift, that truly they are a sight to behold.
Wandering Rocinante– Typically, Rocinante travels at random with no set path, going this way and that way with no rhyme or reason. For
example, when Rocinante detects his home village nearby he trots with zest towards his old haunts. At other times, when left free to roam, he searches for green grass to eat, or water to drink, or mares to court, or a shady place to rest. Since he plods from one spot to another to the next in a haphazard manner he takes Don Quixote
on a series of wacky adventures throughout south central Spain. Most of the time, Don Quixote’s chosen path is none other than the way Rocinante desires to go.
Stubbornness– Sometimes Rocinante disobeys Don Quixote’s will altogether. For example, when Don Quixote tries to dodge a torrent of large rocks thrown by galley slaves, Rocinante does not budge one iota despite being spurred vigorously by his rider.
Klutziness– At the end of his first sally, when Don Quixote charges a group of silk merchants from Toledo, Rocinante trips and falls and sends his master rolling over the ground for twenty yards.
Naming– To find a fitting title for his nag, Don Quixote spends four days and four nights telling himself that “the horse of such a famous knight errant, and such a fine horse in its own right, should have a name of great eminence that expresses both what his horse would have been before becoming a Knight’s horse and what it is now.” Since Don Quixote feels that his horse should have a title that reflects a famous and much trumpeted reputation befitting the order of Knight errantry―after a long succession of names that he invents, eliminates, and strikes-out, adds, deletes and remakes, he finally decides to call his old nag, Rocinante, or, Hackafore: a name which, in Don Quixote’s opinion, is lofty and sonorous and best expresses what the creature had been when it was a humble hack, and what it is now―the first and foremost of all the hacks in the world.
Courtship– Since Rocinante is a male horse who feels “he must give to nature what nature naturally needs” he courts a variety of pony-mares that he encounters. For instance, when he spots a group of phillies on a green grass meadow, without requesting Don Quixote’s permission, Rocinante breaks into a lively trot and goes to inform their ladyships of his needs. But since they are more interested in grazing then in requiting his advances, the pony mares welcome him with their hooves and bite his flanks with their teeth so that his girths snap-off and he is left saddleless and naked.
Later on in the novel, when Don Quixote sits atop Rocinante with one hand tied to a rope fastened to the bolt of an overhead hay-loft door, Rocinante, being made of flesh-and-blood, caresses a traveling mare who sniffs him, all the while, moving out from under Don Quixote, leaving him dangling in the air in great pain.
Beatings– Throughout the novel, Rocinante takes a number of beatings. For instance, when a group of muleteers from Yanguasia see him trying to mount their pony mares they run over to Rocinante, brandish their walking staffs, and give him such a good hiding that they leave him sprawling on the grass. In another instance, when Don
Quixote is attacked by a chain gang of recently freed convicts, Rocinante is pelted by a hailstorm of rocks with enough force to knock him to the ground. After this drubbing, Rocinante lays unconscious by Don Quixote’s side, sore-wounded, in a wretched state indeed.