Encyclopedia: Red Hare Chituma

Red Hare [Chituma]; 赤兔[赤兔馬]

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You are viewing the profile of Red Hare [Chituma] (赤兔[赤兔馬]). “Lü Bu’s famed horse. “Among men, Lü Bu; among horses, Red Hare.” Novel: Later given to Guan Yu by Cao Cao.” Red Hare was affiliated with Dong Zhuo, Lu Bu, the Wei Kingdom and the Shu Kingdom. Return to the Three Kingdoms Encyclopedia to learn more or explore our Encyclopedia Directory to browse by kingdom or category.


Red Hare [Chituma] 赤兔[赤兔馬]

Game Name:
Red Hare, Chi Tu Ma

Lived: AD ?–c.220

None Available

Served: Dong Zhuo, Lü Bu, Wei, Shu

Lü Bu’s famed horse. “Among men, Lü Bu; among horses, Red Hare.” Novel: Later given to Guan Yu by Cao Cao.

Officer Details

Wade-Giles: 0 [Ch‘iht‘uma]
Simplified Chinese: 赤兔[赤兔马]
Pronunciation: Chi4tu4 [Chi4tu4ma3]

Birthplace: Unknown

Other Names: Chituma, Chi Tu Ma

Family and Relationships

Dong Zhuo ƒ, Lü (Owners); Lü Bu, Cao Cao ƒ, Guan Yu ƒ (Undefined 2)

Fact vs. Fiction

Differences Between Fact and Common Fiction

  • Red Hare actually existed. He is described as Lü Bu’s horse in Sanguozhi: Wei 7. There is no historic reference beyond this, however, so any involvement of the Red Hare in stories may be presumed fictional.
  • For information about the Red Hare’s possible origin, or discussion about the name, reference the biography included with this entry.
  • Any lifespan information about Red Hare is fictional.

Literary Appearances

Romance of the Three Kingdoms: 3, 5, 8, 11, 19, 25, 2628, 42, 50, 74, 77

Sanguozhi: Wei 7

Popular Quotation

Sanguozhi: Wei 7
“Among men, Lü Bu; among horses, Red Hare.”

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Could Red Hare Actually Have Existed?
Date: 03/03     Replies: 27
Red Hare
Date: 02/03     Replies: 17

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Historic (Confirmed)

Red Hare, or sometimes Chitu [赤兔; Red Rabbit or, more commonly, Red Hare] (1) or Chituma [赤兔馬; Red Hare Horse], was the famous horse given to Lü Bu in the novel by Dong Zhuo, kept by Cao Cao after Lü Bu’s death, and later given to Guan Yu by Cao Cao during Guan Yu’s stay in his territory after he surrendered. When Guan Yu left on his famed 1,000 li journey, he took Red Hare with him, and kept the horse for the remainder of his life—a long lifespan for any horse (2). After Guan Yu’s death the horse is taken by Sun Quan, who then gives it to Guan Yu’s captor, Ma Zhong, but Red Hare refuses to eat and dies shortly after. Historically, we know only that Lü Bu owned a horse which was called the Red Hare.

1: Tu4 () specifically describes a rabbit, or in the case of a wild rabbit, a hare. In the time of the Three Kingdoms rabbits were generally wild rabbits, so there’s not much of a distinction, and ‘Hare’ becomes most appropriate. Tu4 may be a descriptive distinction that Red Hare runs very quickly.

2: A discussion of Red Hare’s age: Dong Zhuo gives the Red Hare to Lü Bu around AD 189, by then a mature horse capable of serving Lü Bu in battle. Cao Cao later gives the horse to Guan Yu in AD 200. Guan Yu dies in AD 220 and the Red Hare passes away shortly after. 31 years, in addition to any age Red Hare had upon initial delivery to Lü Bu. Horses often live from 25–40 years, and it can be assumed Lü Bu received the horse in its prime, so at least the novel’s story holds some plausibility. One should also consider that Red Hare was a war horse, though.

Red Hare is described in the novel: “Lü Bu bade his guards lead out the horse. It was of a uniform color like glowing-sun red—not a hair of another color. It measured ten spans from head to tail and from hoof to neck eight spans. When it neighed, the sound filled the empyrean and shook the ocean.” Red Hare is described as being capable of running 1,000 li in a single day. (3)

3: Ten spans (head to tail) would be roughly 8 ft. long. Eight spans from hoof to neck would be roughly 7 ft. tall. 1,000 li translates to roughly 258 miles (416 km). Though there are some discrepancies between the way these units are measured today and the way they were in the past, these descriptions, like others in the novel, were exaggerated (aside from being fictional).

Historically, Lü Bu truly did possess a horse named Red Hare, and the popular quote, “Among men, Lü Bu; among horses, Red Hare,” originates with Lü Bu’s Sanguozhi biography, which reads something akin to, “Lü Bu was the best among men and Red Hare was the best among the horses.” (4)

4: Sanguozhi: Wei 7; Biography of Lü Bu:

There is speculation about what manner of horse the Red Hare may have been in history, and of what color it may have truly been. Historically, the “Mongolian ‘Blood-Sweating’ Dayuan Horses’ describes what appears to be the most probable explanation. Having driven the Xiongnu from Chinese lands under the leadership of Wei Qing and Huo Qubing, Emperor Han Wudi (reigned 141–87 BC) heard from Zhang Qing of the ‘blood-sweating horses’ (汗血馬) of Central Asia. The blood-sweating horses were said to have descended directly from heavenly horses, and come from the kingdom of Dayuan (大宛), in the Ferghana valley (5). Desiring the horses, Han Wudi dispatched a messenger with ‘one-thousand pieces of gold and a golden horse’. The Dayuan King, expecting that the Chinese would pose no threat from such a distance, had the messenger executed and kept the offering. Han Wudi dispatched over ‘one-hundred thousand’ soldiers under the command of Li Guangli (李広利) and the general of Ershi (貳師), who successfully defeated the Dayuan and captured the ‘blood-sweating horses’ for Han Wudi, who expressed his joy in the poem, Ode of the Heavenly Horse. The Dayuan horses were hence named ‘Heavenly Horses’. (6) (7)

5: Source: Hanshu, “Xiyu zhuan”

6: Source: Shiji, “Dayuan-liezhuan”

7: Information derived from The Horses of the Steppe: The Mongolian Horse and the Blood-Sweating Stallions.

Rafe de Crespigny wrote of the ‘blood-sweating horses’ in a biography of Duan Jiong, “Early in 170, Duan Jion came in triumph to the capital, leading fifty thousand non-Chinese troops, with ten thousand captives and some of the celebrated “blood-sweating thousand-li horses” in his train. He was welcomed by the Minister herald, and as the army reached Luoyang, he appointed a Palace Attendant, Bearer of the Mace, and then Intendant of Henan.”

This ties in well with the story that Lü Bu received the horse from Dong Zhuo, as told in the novel, though there is nothing in history to substantiate this exchange. Another representation of Lü Bu’s horse has it as ‘white with red spots’, though we’re still looking into the origin of this description.

As for the Qiang, to whom Dong Zhuo had ties, they were said to have trained horses to hold, or ride calmly, for the rider when he prepared to shoot a bow. One interpretation of the ‘Red Hare’ comes through interpretation of ancient Chinese in that ‘red’ and ‘to shoot a bow’ can form a pun, as they sound alike. Other interpreations include ‘Red Hare’ describing the a type of horse used for hunting hares, or ‘hare/rabbit’ having iconic meaning, representing an animal known for its speed (among the theories, this may be the most likely).

In addition to the Red Hare’s famous appearances in the novel and other stories, the horse now plays an iconic role in representations of both Lü Bu and Guan Yu. Guan Gong (关公; Lord Guan; i.e. Guan Yu) statues frequently depict him on the Red Hare. The Red Hare also appears in many games, such as Koei’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Dynasty Warriors, along with older titles such as Capcom’s Destiny of an Emperor, where he appears under the Pinyin Romanization, Chi Tu Ma.

Back to the basics, however, history tells us only that the Red Hare existed, and that he was Lü Bu’s horse. Nothing is mentioned of when Red Hare was received, how, or what became of Red Hare during his life as Lü Bu’s horse. In all likelihood storytellers in times past the Three Kingdoms seized upon the mention the Red Hare as a figure to be propped up in stories of Lü Bu and other famous characters such as Guan Yu, and, like so many other stories, they evolved to play a central role in Luo Guanzhong’s novel.



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April 10, 2023