Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

her time, and that some sixty or seventy years ago. It would seem that Sir Tatten Sykes bred from "Jenny Horner's" descendants, and at an earlier period used them as hunters. The question is thus opened whether some of the most promising amongst the intermediate line of produce might not have proved successful racers, as it was only through the accident of his being trained that "The Lawyer" was found out to be the speedy animal he is.

I believe that to place horse-breeding on a secure basis, the pedigrees of more than one recognized class should be kept for public reference, in the same way as the General Stud-Book has been, for the blood-horse during more than a century and a-half. The word "difficulty" stands in the way of all new measures; but the way to set about establishing such a register was never so plain as now. The Royal Agricultural Society of England, the Royal Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland, and an analogous Institution in Ireland, could together accomplish more good in the direotion indicated, within a few years, than could formerly have been effected in a much greater length of time by a long series of trials.

The example set in the establishing of herd-books, and registrations of the produce of grey hounds and other dogs, encourages me to think that the difficulty in the more important case of the horse is more imaginary than real. Indeed, the longer period during which the horse lives and con tinues to propagate, and the relative slowness with which changes are effected in the race, render registration in their case more easy, as well as more imperative. If the question be raised, how shall we get a satisfactory starting point? our past history will give the best answer.

The important step taken under the auspices of, and by command of Charles II., in the seventeenth century, with reference to the blood-horse, might have been deferred indefinitely, had not the scruples, which in every similar case present themselves, been overcome. At that time a commission was issued to select and collect a number of the purest mares and stallions of oriental descent that could be found. These formed what was called the Royal Stud, the nucleus from which sprang the far-famed English blood-horse. The wisdom of this measure has never been questioned, nei ther has the way of its execution.

The original blood-horses evidently did not all come from one particular stock. Damascus and Aleppo supplied some; but, apart from traditional histoy, we can still trace in the stock of the present day some specialties in the character of the different lines which indicate a distinctive origin. Blacklock and his progeny stand in remarkable contrast to Whalebone and his, exhibiting the special characteristics of their ancestors, whether they be traced back to Highflyer and Herod, as the representatives of the stronger outline, or to Eclipse as the representative of the finer Arabian cast. Yet the finer shades of difference which the subsequent intermixture of stock of different qualities has produced, exceed our powers of discrimination.

The position of our colonies may afford us a useful illustration of the manner in which a register for any breed of horses may be started. Such colonies as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Cape, &c., are, in many respects, as well adapted to the horse as the mother country. It is as important for these States, as for ourselves, that horse-breeding should go

[ocr errors]

on systematically, and not be left to chance. They have, therefore, strong inducements to form a register; but their own peculiar uses, predilections, and climates will determine the character of that register, as well as that of their purchases and general management. It seems just as easy for any of these to begin with two or more Clydesdale mares and stallions, certified as of pure caste by the Highland Society's judges, as to begin with blood-mares and stallions, vouched for by the stud-book; in both cases a new register begins; and if, instead of these two classes, Yorkshiremen should take their Clevelands, the Norfolk farmer his trotter, the Suffolkman his punch, and the Irishman his hunter, it is not apparent why these several classes could not be kept pure, and crosses afterwards carried on with a knowledge of what was being done, and consequently a more correct anticipation of the result. If this could be done in the colonies, there can be no valid reason why it cannot be effected in this kingdom.

Greater changes have been made in the breeding and management of horses in England during the last fifty years than in any similar period on record; but these have not rested on any sound basis. Horse-dealers' sug gestions-capricious demands which temporarily influence the market— have led men to alter their conduct with as little consideration as they changed their vests.

Few good judges, and especially among those who can remember long est, sce reason for congratulation on comparing the present with the past, particularly with reference to the hunter and the high-class hack and carriage horse.

Meanwhile, in those animals which propagate and therefore multiply more rapidly-such as dogs, pigs, fowls, and even sheep, great changes have been effected by individual enterprise in a few years; whilst the horse, the favorite of princes and nobles, appears to require to be specially fostered by the patronage of the great, or by union and concert among the many.

Hunters have usually been identified with the country in which they are bred. We pronounce a horse to be of Yorkshire, Shropshire, Norfolk, or Irish breed from his characteristic form; but these have had, in the main, a common origin represented in the blood-horse, though the influence of soil and culture together, in great measure, fixes their character and decides their worth.

Too much stress cannot be laid upon the judicious management of mares and foals: with care, useful horses may be reared from indifferent stock, whilst without it, the produce, though well descended, will not be worth ⚫ their cost. In feeding young stock, extremes should be guarded against; liberal keep, on sound grass, with corn and hay in moderation, proves the most economical in the end. If more food be given than the system can assimilate, superfluous bulk will be produced at the expense of strength and stamina, and the digestive system will be deranged.

The same rule applies to exercise, shelter, and warmth; for the first, space and liberty are essential; and as regards temperature, it is neither practicable nor desirable for horses that it should be constantly equal Wet and cold, however, are uncongenial to horses, which should be provided with means for at least voluntary shelter.

If horses be properly fed, are protected from rain, and have a dry surface under foot, with space for voluntary exercise, the temperature of an ordinary winter is salutary to them. The horse's coat, then, with the secretion going on over the surface of his body, equalizes and regulates the bodily heat. Horses in a roomy paddock do not suffer from a shower in summer any more than schoolboys in a cricket-field; but long exposure to rain in a confined space is injurious to them.

The question of blood versus bone is so often raised without receiving any satisfactory solution, that I am induced to make a few remarks on it.

The practice of cross-breeding is constantly resorted to by farmers, sporting and amateur breeders of various animals, all of whom have evidence to show that they can produce certain desirable qualities in the offspring, which neither of the parents possessed. The mule may be referred to as a case in point. Here we find the produce much superior in size, power and action to the ass; whilst its continuous powers of endurance under exposure of weather and privations, exceed those of the class of horse to which his dam belonged. This superiority is in part traceable to differences in physical conformation, and in part to the temperament resulting from a combination of races. In this case, however, nature has, as is well known, set a boundary to modifications of race, which protects the noble horse from becoming an utter mongrel.

Breeders of dogs obtain, even in the first cross, courage and larger size for hunting and other uses, without the sacrifice of reliable exactness; those breeders, however, who succeed best, are most careful to select from types of the purest blood on either side, and without the English bull dog the means of producing many of the most useful specimens, combining high courage and great strength with the other requisites, would be wanting.

Since different classes of English horses, varying in height, form and power, are available for breeding hunters, these can be more readily brought to any standard desired than any particular race, even the blood horse. Power, speed and bottom are the first requisites in the hunter, in whom, if the first two qualities are combined, the last or staying power usually results as a consequence.

The height best suited for the hunter, required to carry a given weight, is a point on which turf statistics throw but little light. The Derby is sometimes won by a horse more than sixteen hands high, and a little less frequently by one under fifteen; but in the majority of cases by horses. which measure between fifteen hands two inches and sixteen hands, so that fifteen hands three inches may fairly be laid down as the nearest standard height of the blood horse; and within an inch under or over that standard will be found eight-tenths of the best race horses and blood stallions in England.

An attempt to produce horses of any given class much above its normal standard, will, with few exceptions, be realized at the expense of symmetry, action and power, the latter being dependent on form. Where great power is required, and some of the speed of the race horse can be dispensed with, the well chosen blood stallion may be put to a stout, well formed, well bred hunting mare, with a probability of the best result.

[AG. TRANS.]

14

One of the greatest errors that has been made in the employment of thorough-bred stallions for country mares has been the preference given to the largest horses exhibited, particularly if these spurious monsters had a pedigree going back to "Eclipse" or "Childers." As a rule the overgrown, thorough-bred stallion, i. e., those of about sixteen hands two inches, have done harm in the counties where they have traveled.

When the powerful, half-bred mare breeds to the blood horse, there is always a disposition in the produce to increase in height and length. Some of the largest, ill-formed and least useful horses have been the produce of bad, overgrown blood horses and Yorkshire mares, the stock often exceeding seventeen hands in height. On the other hand, the old Cleveland horse, on short looking legs (short because of his deep and wide frame), measures, when of the best form, about sixteen hands; and from mares of that stamp, and a good blood horse of fifteen hands two inches, it is easy to produce in the second or third generation hunters which could carry eighteen stone over a heavy country, and jump double fences, despite the ground and weight. Though the present requirements of Leicestershire can hardly be met by one or two crosses of blood, still it is important to know how size, with good form, may be had when wanted.

In selecting a mare to breed hunters form is usually more regarded than pedigree; not that knowledge of descent is unimportant, but, because with all but blood horses, it is commonly so very hard to go far back; nay, it is good policy, when doubt arises, to stop inquiry, lest more than the truth should be heard.

Young mares should be selected in preference to aged and hard-wrought animals, the latter being uncertain till tried. Exception, however, should be made in favor of a mare of ten or twelve years which had produced some good foals; if sound, she is in her prime. Those destined from the first for breeding should be put to the horse at three years old, instead of being left barren till a year or two later, as is commonly the case; if they have been well kept they will be sufficiently developed at that age.

Mares of the stamp for producing hunters are very scarce now, as may be inferred from the small number presented at exhibitions of general stock; yet, with our climate, soil and national resources, the few good animals still obtainable for breeding would suffice for laying a foundation, if breeders were encouraged to produce and keep stock of the right sort.

The real good half-bred stallion, such as we used to see, with his large clean legs, well-defined knee, hock, and pastern joints, with good head, shoulders, barrel, and hind quarters, is now become scarce; these horses when about 16 hands high, formed a connecting link between the thoroughbred and the stronger classes, from such sires, mares fit to breed hunters used to be obtained, besides many of the most valuable horses in England for general purposes; of late years whenever such a stallion has made his appearance it has only been to be favored with a few mares preparatory to his being exhibited, and then sold to go abroad. To find a really good half-bred stallion of this old stamp, at five years old, has to the writer's knowledge, been a rare occurence during the last ten or fifteen years, even in the first horse-breeding districts of the kingdom.

To do justice to this subject it must be regarded both in its general and

particular aspects; individual breeders who seek to promote their own particular interests cannot be expected to take as broad a view of this question as constituted bodies like the Royal Agricultural Society, which is founded to promote national improvements, yet the breeder who succeeds in producing fine specimens of the class of horses best suited to his locality and requirements will promote the general good; whilst by classifying and bringing them into notice, the Royal and other agricultural societies will do their part.

The breeders of horses are for the most part either wealthy amateurs or tenant farmers; to the latter we must turn for the general supply of every description, the race-horse excepted, though it must be admitted that English horses of the best type owe their state of perfection to royal, noble and gentleman amateurs. At the present day the stud belonging to her Majesty forms a model to all breeders, and to royal patronage was due the high perfection to which the English blood-horse attained during the last and previous centuries.

From 1750 to 1764 inclusive, three horses were bred in England, by his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, uncle to King George III., which together did more to advance the value of the English horse, than any set of incidents on record. The horses alluded to were Marske, King Herod, and Eclipse. If we pass over the first mentioned horse Marske, because he was the sire of the last-Eclipse-we will still have in the other two the elements of an entire reformation in the character of the blood-stock of the Kingdom. The sons and daughters of Herod and Eclipse are unexampled for their character and numbers; and through these, in parallel lines, we obtained such a stock as no other country has possessed. So effectual has been the patronage of those in a high station, in advancing the improve ment of our horses, that whenever we search out the origin of any of our best blood-horses, without which the hunter could not have attained his special excellence, we find in almost every instance some cherished historical name connected with him as the breeder.

One important point in which the rearing of horses at the present day differs from the practice of the last century, consists in the small paddock and artificial forcing management being substituted for the range of the spacious park, with the necessary adjuncts, until maturity was reached.

Amongst the essential conditions for breeding horses, next to that of selection of stock to breed from, is the choice of the land as regards its nature and extent; to this point too little attention has been paid of late, and it has a special importance in the case of hunters, because they require longer time in pasture than others, to complete their growth and consolidate the frame.

When the subject of rearing horses on farms which contain little or no pasture, has been under discussion of late, and the relative cost of a young horse produced in the farm-yard, has incidentally been contrasted with that of one purchased, of the same age, it has been argued that the price of the horse bred on the farm is not felt like the payment of all the money in a lump. It is strange that men of the sagacity of farmers should make any such exception to the broad commercial rule of exchange, which never applies more forcibly than in this case.

« PředchozíPokračovat »