All Creatures Great and Small
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"All Creatures Great and Small" Summary

By James Herriot

nonfiction | 437 pages | Published in 1972

The classic multimillion copy bestsellerDelve into the magical, unforgettable world of James Herriot, the world's most beloved veterinarian, and his menagerie of heartwarming, funny, and tragic animal patients.For over forty years, generations of readers have thrilled to Herriot's marvelous tales, deep love of life, and extraordinary storytelling abilities. For decades, Herriot roamed the remote, beautiful Yorkshire Dales, treating every patient that came his way from smallest to largest, and observing animals and humans alike with his keen, loving eye.In All Creatures Great and Small, we meet the young Herriot as he takes up his calling and discovers that the realities of veterinary practice in rural Yorkshire are very different from the sterile setting of veterinary school. Some visits are heart-wrenchingly difficult, such as one to an old man in the village whose very ill dog is his only friend and companion, some are lighthearted and fun, such as Herriot's periodic visits to the overfed and pampered Pekinese Tricki Woo who throws parties and has his own stationery, and yet others are inspirational and enlightening, such as Herriot's recollections of poor farmers who will scrape their meager earnings together to be able to get proper care for their working animals. From seeing to his patients in the depths of winter on the remotest homesteads to dealing with uncooperative owners and critically ill animals, Herriot discovers the wondrous variety and never-ending challenges of veterinary practice as his humor, compassion, and love of the animal world shine forth.James Herriot's memoirs have sold 80 million copies worldwide, and continue to delight and entertain readers of all ages


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A country veterinarian shares heartwarming and humorous stories of his experiences with animals and their owners in rural England.


"All Creatures Great and Small" is a delightful and heartwarming collection of stories by James Herriot, a country veterinarian. Set in the picturesque Yorkshire Dales in the 1930s, this book offers a charming glimpse into the life of a rural veterinarian, filled with humorous anecdotes, touching moments, and valuable life lessons.

Brief Synopsis

The book is a semi-autobiographical account of James Herriot's experiences as a young veterinarian in the rural town of Darrowby. It follows his journey as he navigates the challenges and joys of treating various animals, interacting with their eccentric owners, and finding his place in the close-knit community.

Plot Overview and Setting

The stories are primarily set in the fictional town of Darrowby, located in the stunning Yorkshire Dales of England. The rolling hills, quaint farms, and vibrant characters of the town provide a rich backdrop for the tales of veterinary adventures and human connections.

Main Characters

The book features a colorful cast of characters, each contributing to the heartwarming narrative.

James HerriotThe protagonist and a newly qualified country vet, depicted as compassionate, dedicated, and eager to learn.
Siegfried FarnonJames's boss and mentor, a charismatic and sometimes eccentric senior vet known for his passion for his work and occasional impulsiveness.
Tristan FarnonSiegfried's younger brother, a charming and mischievous character who brings humor and levity to the stories.
Mrs. HallThe efficient and no-nonsense housekeeper at Skeldale House, where James lives and works.

Summary of Different Story Points over Chapters

The book is divided into numerous anecdotes and stories, each showcasing the unique challenges and rewards of rural veterinary practice. Here's a summary of some key story points:

Chapter 1-3

James Herriot arrives in Darrowby and begins his work with the eccentric Siegfried Farnon. He encounters his first cases, including an ailing dog and a constipated horse, and learns valuable lessons about the reality of country veterinary work.

Chapter 4-6

James faces the daunting task of performing a surgery on a valuable racehorse, navigates the quirks of local farmers, and experiences the highs and lows of his profession.

Chapter 7-9

The arrival of Tristan Farnon adds a new dynamic to the practice, leading to both humorous and challenging situations. James also grapples with the emotional toll of his work, finding solace in the beauty of the Yorkshire countryside.

Chapter 10-12

As James continues to build his reputation as a skilled vet, he encounters a wide range of cases, from beloved pets to prized livestock. Each experience teaches him valuable lessons about compassion, resilience, and the bond between humans and animals.

Main Events

The book is filled with memorable events that capture the essence of rural veterinary life:

  1. James's nerve-wracking attempt to perform surgery on a valuable racehorse
  2. The humorous misadventures involving Tristan Farnon and his escapades
  3. Heartwarming moments of connection with grateful pet owners and resilient farm animals
  4. The challenges of balancing professional responsibilities with personal relationships and self-care

Themes and Insights

"All Creatures Great and Small" explores several profound themes and offers valuable insights:

Theme 1: The Circle of Life

The book portrays the cyclical nature of life in the countryside, where birth, death, and the resilience of nature are constant realities. Through the lens of a veterinarian, readers gain a deep appreciation for the interconnectedness of all living beings.

Theme 2: Compassion and Empathy

Herriot's stories underscore the importance of compassion and empathy in both professional and personal interactions. The deep bonds formed between the vet, his animal patients, and their owners highlight the power of understanding and kindness.

Theme 3: The Joys of Simple Living

The simplicity and beauty of rural life are celebrated throughout the book. Herriot's descriptions of the Yorkshire landscape and the warmth of its inhabitants evoke a sense of nostalgia and a yearning for a simpler, more authentic way of life.

Reader's Takeaway

Readers of "All Creatures Great and Small" are treated to a heartwarming and insightful journey through the experiences of a country veterinarian. The book offers a renewed appreciation for the wonders of nature, the value of human connections, and the enduring lessons found in the everyday moments of life.


In "All Creatures Great and Small," James Herriot masterfully captures the essence of rural life, weaving together humor, warmth, and wisdom in his poignant tales. Through his experiences as a young veterinarian, readers are transported to a world where the bonds between humans and animals, the beauty of nature, and the resilience of the human spirit take center stage. This timeless classic continues to enchant readers with its enduring lessons and heartwarming storytelling.

All Creatures Great and Small FAQ

  1. What is 'All Creatures Great and Small' about?

    All Creatures Great and Small is a collection of memoirs by James Herriot, a veterinarian, detailing his experiences working with animals in the English countryside.

  2. Is 'All Creatures Great and Small' a true story?

    Yes, the book is a series of autobiographical stories based on the author's own experiences as a veterinarian.

  3. What is the writing style of 'All Creatures Great and Small'?

    The book is written in a warm and engaging style, with a mix of humor, compassion, and vivid descriptions of the rural setting.

  4. Are there any notable characters in 'All Creatures Great and Small'?

    Yes, the book features memorable characters including the author, James Herriot, and various farmers, pet owners, and of course, the animals themselves.

  5. What is the main theme of 'All Creatures Great and Small'?

    The main themes of the book include the bond between humans and animals, the challenges of rural veterinary work, and the beauty of the natural world.