Hank the Cowdog is a series of humorous children's mystery novels, written by Austin R. Palmer and illustrated by Gerald L. Holmes.
The series began in 1982 with a couple of short stories about the proud but bumbling Hank, the self-styled "Head of Ranch Security". Over 50 books have since been written featuring Hank, his timid sidekick Drover, his sworn enemy Pete the Barncat, and their adventures on the M-Cross ranch in the northern Texas Panhandle. Every book in the series has been recorded in an audio book format, making it the longest-running popular children's audio book series. The books all include songs sung by Hank and other characters; these songs are all performed on the tapes by Erickson. It has received various awards and acclaims, lauded by Publishers Weekly and USA Today.
The Hank the Cowdog books are supported by various libraries and teaching programs, and related lesson plans, which usually incorporate the books with cassette tapes, are available through Maverick Books (the series' original publisher). The first six books have been translated into Spanish by the Argentine publisher Editorial Sudamericana. Series of his books are also translated into Persian and are popular in Iran.
In the mid-1980s, the first book was also adapted into an animated segment for the CBS Storybreak.
Main Characters Descriptions
- Hank (Head of ranch security): Hank is the main character and protagonist of the series. He is a cowdog on a ranch in Texas and the self proclaimed 'Head of Ranch Security', a role which he takes very seriously. Being the narrator of the story, the reader hears everything from Hank's perspective. Often Hank will lose track of what he is talking about and ramble on about something else until he picks up his main point again. There have been a few occasions when Hank has abandoned his role on the ranch when he feels unappreciated but generally when push comes to shove Hank will always do the right thing, regardless of his own fears or misgivings. In the cartoon, Hank was played by Frank Welker.
- Drover (sidekick): Drover is a "little white mutt with a stub tail" that often complains of a bad leg when put under pressure. Hank tends to think of Drover as lazy, since Hank often finds him "sleeping on the job". Drover doesn't take the role of ranch security nearly as seriously as Hank does, but does make attempts, if only to impress Hank. In instances where there is imminent danger Drover will always complain of his bad leg and usually slips away at great speed when Hank is not looking. However, in the few instances where Hank is not there and Drover is the only one to protect the ranch from an attack by coyotes, he stands his ground and faces his fear. In some cases, it seems that Drover is smarter than Hank and is simply trying to make Hank feel better about himself. Sometimes when Hank says something particularly outlandish, Drover "rolls his eyes around" although this could just be because he is scared or confused. Hank often makes remarks such as "We're hoping to find intelligent life inside Drover's mind someday-So far, things aren't looking good." This most likely means Hank thinks Drover is stupid as well as lazy.
- Pete (the Barncat): Pete is Hank's daily enemy. There will almost always be some conflict between the two near the beginning(or end) of each story. As far as Hank is concerned Pete is just "your typical dumb cat". However, Pete shows himself time and again to be greatly manipulative of Hank. In a case where Hank suffered from "eye-crosserosis", Pete began to bother Hank and threatened to steal Hank's milk and egg (which the cowboys gave him). Hank did not take kindly to that so when Pete walked away Hank followed him, intending to beat him up. As Pete approached where he was heading, the creek, he confronted Hank and told him that he would go take Hank's food since Hank wouldn't be able to make it back to the ranch with "eye-crosserosis". Pete then slipped away back to the ranch leaving Hank unable to do anything about it. Since Hank is the narrator, Pete's plans are not always seen until they reach fruition, and even then, Hank will not easily admit to being tricked by a "dumb cat". In the cartoon, Pete was also played by Frank Welker.
- The Coyote Brothers (Rip and Snort): The coyotes roam free in the forests and canyons and are a constant danger to the ranch. Whenever Hank encounters the "cannibals", as he calls them, he is often being faced with the prospect of being eaten. Hank usually has to talk his way out of situations with coyotes since, even though he rarely admits it, he is no match for a coyote in combat. The brothers Rip and Snort enjoy singing, getting into fights and being tough, though they are not very intelligent as they often get tricked out of a meal by Hank. One memorable case is when Hank uses a physiological mind game to render them helpless with laughter, allowing him and Drover to escape. Another is where he uses a sandman lullaby to put them into a deep slumber, with the help of Junior. Hank encounters other coyotes, but these are the two he most commonly meets.
- Out of the two coyotes, Snort does most of the talking while Rip seems to be the muscle between the two, usually checks on things for Snort. In one book Hank even notices that Rip is a little bit bigger than Snort, he even mentions that he doesn't talk much. Rip has only ever been heard saying "Uh" or "Uh-Uh" in denial or acceptance of something. This only emphasizes their low intelligence.
- Wallace and Junior (the Buzzards): Wallace and Junior are buzzards which show up when Hank is away from the ranch and in a situation where something is dead or in real danger of dying. Wallace (Junior's father) says he's a "grouch and proud of it". He doesn't particularly like Hank and wouldn't mind Hank as his next meal. Even though Wallace is a grouch, he is always good intentioned for the care of his son. Junior (Wallace's Son) has a stutter when he speaks. He considers Hank and his companions his friends whenever they meet. Hank and Junior are on good terms and have been known to sing songs together, to Wallace's protest though.
- Beulah (the collie): She is Hank's one true love who lives down the road at another ranch. Hank often dreams about her and whenever in grave danger his thoughts turn back to her as well. Beulah is good friends with Hank but is in love with Plato, a bird dog which lives on the same ranch as her. Hank doesn't understand why Beulah loves a bird dog but ultimately resigns that "women are impossible to understand". In "Faded Love" Beulah tells Hank that she loves him but Hank is a "hero" and she doesn't want to be a hero's girlfriend because "they great the dawn alone." She hints that she is just following her mind and not her heart, because Plato is "kind to her."
- Madame Moonshine: Psychic owl. Madame Moonshine is a witch and has done supernatural things throughout the series, although sometimes they bungle, such as when she reversed gravity in such a way that Hank was sucked up onto the branch she was hanging upside down from, when she tried to reverse it so that she could get down. She has a very peculiar nature, saying that she does not believe in witches, nor does she believe in dogs, even when talking to Hank. Her biggest parts occur in book #2:The Further Adventures Of Hank The Cowdog.Also Seen In Book #11:Lost In The Dark Unchanted Forest.Also Seen In Book #16:Lost In The Blinded Blizzard.Also Seen In #28:The Mopwater Files.
- High Loper: Loper is Sally May's husband and manager of the ranch where Hank lives. He's more ranch-man than a manager, however, and more at home on a horse than anywhere else.
- Sally May: High Loper's wife, Little Alfred's and Baby Molly's mother, chief of the chicken coop, and manager of the vegetable and flower gardens, Sally May has plenty to keep her busy. Hank tries her patience and occasionally has "misunderstandings" which usually leave Sally May throwing rocks and Hank running away. Sally May thinks Hank stinks and generally does not like to be near him but in instances where Hank has saved her or done something particularly heroic she will show her affection for Hank.
- Slim Chance: Slim is a cowboy and a bachelor from the top of his hat to the tip of his spurs. Sort of a human version of Hank, Slim and the Head of Ranch Security spend many adventures (and misadventures) together. Once they even spent Christmas Eve with each other.
- Little Alfred: Sally May's and Loper's little boy. Hank is sworn by his sacred Cowdog Oath "to protect and defend all innocent children against all manner of monsters and evil things." In between rescue missions, battles with Hooking Bulls, and other deadly creatures, Hank and Little Alfred share a special kind of communication. Time and time again, Alfred seems to know just what Hank wants. Hank explains that there is a special time early in a child's life when he or she can communicate to animals, and that Alfred should cherish it.
- Plato: Has "eyes as big as plates" and is the love interest of Beulah the collie. A cheerful fellow, he is greatly disliked by Hank, but the two unite in book 26: The Case of the kidnapped Collie.
Major Minor Characters
- Ralph: A Basset Hound with "the saddest, most mournful face you could imagine." He currently lives in the dog pound. Hank met Ralph in book #3: It's a Dog's Life, Also Seen In Book #6: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, Also Seen In Book #17: The Case Of The Car Barkaholic Dog,Also Seen In Book #27: The Case Of The Night Stalking Bone Monster, Also Seen In Book #38:The Fling
- Missy Coyote: A coyote Hank met in the first book. Hank may have a crush on her, after helping her get a can off her head that was stuck. Hank meets her in some books.Her full name is Girl-Who-Drink-Blood, and Hank calls her "Missy Coyote" because he dislikes her full name.Seen In Book #1:The Original Adventures Of Hank The Cowdog.Also Seen In Book #4:Murder In The Middle Pasture.
- Rufus: A Doberman Pinscher. Seen in book #2:The Further Adventures Of Hank The Cowdog.Also Seen In The Book #5:Faded Love. Also Seen In Book #28:The Mopwater Files.
- Scraunch: Missy Coyote's brother and Chief Gut's son.He is fierce, tough and merciless, and is known as one of the most dangerous coyotes.Hank has fought with him many times, and luckily won. Rip and Snort seem to be his henchmen.Mostly Seen In Book #1:The Original Adventures Of Hank The Cowdog.Also Seen In Book #4:Murder In The Middle Pasture.Also Seen In #26:The Case Of The Kidnapped Collie.
- Aztec: Plato's younger brother who is afraid of vampire cats. Seen in book #55:The Vampire Cat Strikes Again
- Eddy The Raccon: A Mischievous Raccoon Seen In Book #23:Moonlight Madness.Also Seen In Book #24:The Case Of The Black-Hooded Hangmans.Also Seen In Book #32:The Garbage Monster From Outer Space.Also Seen In Book #39:The Case Of The Secret Laundry Monster Files.Also Seen In Book #46:The Case Of The Tricky Trap.
- Buster & Muggs: Two dangerous dogs that have killed a calf and are disliked by Hank The Cowdog. Seen in Book #4: Murder In The Middle Pasture. Also seen in Book #13:The Wounded Buzzard On Christmas Eve. Also seen in Book #29: The Case Of The Vampire Vacuum Sweeper and #56: The Case Of The Pigeon Poacher.
Hank meets many friends and foes in the series, listed here:
- Sinister (the bobcat): He lives in the dark unchanted forest, and is one of Hank's foes. He was seen in book 11:Lost In The Dark Unchanted Forset.
- Chief Gut: From the coyote tribe, Chief Gut is Missy's father. His full name is "Many-Rabbit-Gut-Eat-In-Full-Moon." He was seen in book #1:The Original Adventures Of Hank The Cowdog.Also Seen In Book #4:Murder In The Middle Pasture.
- Benny: A cowdog, who tries to take Hank's place. He was seen in book #10:Every Dog Has Is Day.
- Miss Scamper: A dog who visits the ranch with Benny. Hank may have a crush on her. She was seen in book #10:Every Dog Has His Day.
- Mary D Cat: A cat said to be a vampire. Seen in book #21:The Case Of The Vampire Cat.Also Seen In Book #55:The Vampie Cat Strikes Again.
- Maggie: Hank's sister. Seen in book #3:It's A Dogs Life. Also Seen In Book #17:The Case Of The Car-Barkaholic Dog
- Bruno: A boxer, Hank meets at Waterhole 83. Seen in book #1:The Original Adventures Of Hank The Cowdog.
- Bub: A monkey trained to steal. Seen in book #48:The Case Of The Monkey Burglar.
- Timothy: A rattlesnake who lives with Madame Moonshine. Seen in book #2:The Further Adventures Of Hank The Cowdog.Also Seen In Book #16:Lost In The Blinded Blizzard. Also Seen In Book #28:The Mopwater Files.
- Tuerto: A one-eyed killer stud horse. Seen in book #8:The Case Of The One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse
- Rambo: The great dane car barkaholic dog. Seen in book #17:The Case Of The Car-Barkaholic Dog.
- Brewster: The huge German shephard, st. bernard dog known mostly to sleep and to make accidents, such as stepping on things like Hank's tail. Seen only in book #19:The Case Of The Midnight Rustler.
- Winny: A black footed ferret that eats trash. Seen in book #54:The Mystery Of The Trash Can Crook.
- Frankie The Fox: A fox that steals the chicken eggs by playing his fiddle. Seen Only In Book #12:The Case Of The Fiddle-Playing Fox.
- Bruiser The Rottweiller: A rottweiller that is really huge and can thrash almost anything but is afraid of cats.Seen In Book #36:The Case Of The Raging Rottweiller.
- AJ Feathers : A white pigeon. He befriended Hank and runs away from Buster and Muggs. Only seen in book #56: The Case of the Pigeon Poacher.
List of books
- The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog
- The Further Adventures of Hank the Cowdog
- It's a Dog's Life
- Murder in the Middle Pasture
- Faded Love
- Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
- The Curse of the Incredible Priceless Corncob
- The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse
- The Case of the Halloween Ghost
- Every Dog Has His Day
- Lost in the Dark Unchanted Forest
- The Case of the Fiddle Playing Fox
- The Wounded Buzzard of Christmas Eve
- Hank the Cowdog and Monkey Business
- The Case of the Missing Cat
- Lost in the Blinded Blizzard
- The Case of the Car-Barkaholic Dog
- The Case of the Hooking Bull
- The Case of the Midnight Rustler
- The Phantom in the Mirror
- The Case of the Vampire Cat
- The Case of the Double Bumblebee Sting
- Moonlight Madness
- The Case of the Black-Hooded Hangmans
- The Case of the Swirling Killer Tornado
- The Case of the Kidnapped Collie
- The Case of the Night-Stalking Bone Monster
- The Mopwater Files
- The Case of the Vampire Vacuum Sweeper
- The Case of the Haystack Kitties
- The Case of the Vanishing Fishhook
- The Garbage Monster from Outer Space
- The Case of the Measled Cowboy
- Slim's Good-bye
- The Case of the Saddle House Robbery
- The Case of the Raging Rottweiler
- The Case of the Deadly Ha-Ha Game
- The Fling
- The Secret Laundry Monster Files
- The Case of the Missing Bird Dog
- The Case of the Shipwrecked Tree
- The Case of the Burrowing Robot
- The Case of the Twisted Kitty
- The Dungeon of Doom
- The Case of the Falling Sky
- The Case of the Tricky Trap
- The Case of the Tender Cheeping Chickies
- The Case of the Monkey Burglar
- The Case of the Booby-Trapped Pickup
- The Case of the Most Ancient Bone
- The Case of the Blazing Sky
- ''The Quest for the Great White Quail
53. Drover's Secret Life
54. The Mystrey of The Trash Can Crook
55. The Vampire Cat Strikes Again
56. The Case of the Pigeon Poacher