The Incredible Journey

by tirial

First published in 1961, Sheila Burnford's story of three animals trying to find their way home quickly became a classic.

First published in 1961, Sheila Burnford's story of three animals trying to find their way home quickly became a classic. Adapted to film twice by Disney, in 1963 and then again in 1993 under the name "Homeward Bound", there is also a film sequel about the animals' further adventures.

A classic story for children (and adults) of all ages.

300 miles across Canada

The travels of Tao, Luath and Bodger

"Home lay to the west, his instinct told him; but he could not leave the other two - so somehow he must take them with him, all the way."

The Incredible Journey, Sheila Burnford

Three pets are left with a family friend while the owners go abroad. When they are accidentally let out, all three head back towards their home, looking for their family - a journey of over three hundred miles through the roughest terrain in Canada.

The three domestic animals find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings, struggling to find food, suffering from the weather, exposure and at risk from wildlife, but drawn on by instinct the trio continue west towards their home. The story of Tao the Siamese cat, Bodger the aging Bull Terrier and Luath the Labrador is one for all ages, and although written in 1961, has not dated badly and is still enjoyable today. Written in the classic style, the animals behave naturally rather than acting like humans.

If you can get one of the illustrated paperbacks do; the pencil illustrations are gorgeous.
The Incredible Journey

Instinct told them that the way home lay to the west. And so the doughty young Labrador retriever, the roguish bull terrier and the indomitable Siamese set out through the Canad...

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The Bull Terrier

Boroughcastle Brigadier of Doune, to give him his full name, is a bull terrier belonging to Peter the oldest child and son of the family. He is the oldest of the travellers and has a close bond with Tao the Siamese.


The Siamese Cat

The blue-eyed Siamese cat belonging to Elizabeth (the younger child), Tao is deaf, a handicap that could cost him in the wilderness. Along the way he proves the hunter of the group and often manages to find them food.


The Golden Retreiver

The youngest of the animals, Luath is a retriever belonging to the father of the family. The group's leader, they follow his unerring instinct across the hundreds of miles home

An opinion

Most of the way now lay through the Strellon game reserve, country that was more desolate and rugged than anything they had yet encountered.

The incredible Journey, Sheila Burnford

I'd heard about this book before I read it, and feared it was overrated. Instead I found a classic story, enjoyable characters and good writing. I was extremely fortunate to get this as an illustrated hardback edition in a box of second hand books - it now has a place of pride on my shelves.

What makes it distinct is that unlike modern books, the animals are just that, animals. They do not talk, and function on instinct, which makes the stakes far higher. In some ways it makes it easier to feel for them, after the accident that lets them out. The story cuts back and forth between the trio on their journey and the frantic efforts of their guardians to find them, and then having to break the news of the animals' escape to their owners. 

There are touching moments where we see the animals encounter people, and then later those people tracked down by the group trying to find the missing pets and retelling their experience. A genuinely touching book, this pet owner found that at the end I had something in my eye (and both cats on my lap...)

Designed for children, enjoyed by adults, The Incredible Journey is a lovely animal story with some very nice moments and an unforgettable ending.


It was Tao, returning for his old friend that they might end their journey together.

The incredible Journey, Sheila Burnford

The incredible Journey 1963

Made only two years after the book was released, the 1963 Disney film of the same name is probably the closest adaptation of the book. The animals do not talk, the action takes place in the location from the book, and the family do not appear until the end of the film as in the book.

Some people have raised the issue of animal cruelty as there was no CGI, but then cgi was not used in the 1993 remake with the Humane Society overseeing and the people who looked into it suggest there is no evidence of it in the original ( P.S. making a cat hiss on film is as simple as taking its catnip mouse away - at least if they are mine!

The Incredible journey DVD

Incredible Journey

Experience a timeless tale of courage and perseverance as three ordinary pets defy the odds in one extraordinary odyssey. When these devoted friends find themselves separated fr...

$9.99  $3.98

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The Incredible Journey

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1993 - Homeward Bound

The film version of the story.

Although earlier attempts were made to bring the story to the screen, Disney's 1993 film "Homeward Bound" is probably the best known. An enjoyable film in its own right, it makes several changes to the story to update it.

First, the story is set in modern times and is transplanted to the US. The most notable change is in the animals: anthropomorphised and given voices, this does not detract from the story as Micheal J Fox, Sally Field and Don Ameche bring their roles to life, ably assisted by some excellent animal actors. Tao the Siamese becomes Sassy the female Himalayan cat, Bogder the aging Bull Terrior becomes Shadow the retriever and Luath is now Chance, the American Bulldog.

This re-imagining is one of the rare cases where it works for the film. The film and book are different enough that either can be read and enjoyed without detracting from the other.

Homeward Bound (

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey

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Homeward Bound - The Incredible Journey

This new and thoroughly captivating theatrical hit from Disney has become an instant favorite with audiences of all ages. You'll lose your heart to Chance, a fun-loving American...

$14.99  $7.69

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Updated: 02/01/2015, tirial
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