Oscar Wilde.

Lady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest online

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three generations, the pace is liable to appear again, at any time.
So it was, doubtless in English experiences, but as the revolution
was not retarded by the development of pacing speed, in one
hundred years from the restoration, in 1660, there was no longer
a pacer on British soil.

When the first Mr. Weatherby assumed the task of making and
keeping a registry of English race horses, he seems to have had
only a very faint conception of the magnitude of the undertak-
ing. The first volume of his "General Stud Book" was published
in 1803, and when it appeared it was found to contain so many
things that were not true that the necessary work of revision
and excision reduced its contents fearfully. In these elimina-
tions he started in with a free hand, as is shown by comparison
with later editions, but soon found that his book was disappear-
ing very rapidly, and not much of it would be left, if he did not
stay his hand. At this point he seems to have adopted some
new rule, unfortunately, either of evidence or of date, probably
the latter, for his work discloses the fact that he declined all re-
sponsibility for pedigrees as they came to him, of an earlier
period than about 1780. Beyond that date nearly all the crude
and impossible things of fiction Avere allowed to remain and are
thus propagated as true, down to our own day. There was one
rule, however, adopted very early in the management of this
compilation that saved it from degeneracy, and that was the
difficulty of getting into it. In all its history, from the begin-
ning, it has been a kind of "close corporation," and the animals
in the volume of the last year are almost uniformly descended
from the animals to be found in the first. volume. The applica-
tion of this rule, no doubt, worked an injustice in very many cases.


but it made the English race horse a BEEED, pre-eminent above
all other horses for his unequaled speed as a running horse.
This general rule restricting admissions to the descendants of
such as had places in preceding volumes seems to have been
followed and maintained with a good share of rigidity, by the
different generations of the Weatherby family, in whose hands
the compilation still remains. Whatever may have been the ratio
of fables and forgeries in the first volume, they were there
compacted and neither the Weatherbys nor the breeders have
been much annoyed with them since. The plan of the Stud
Book itself is very unsatisfactory to the careful student, for the
reason that it admits of no details of breeder, owner, etc., that
are of vital importance in tracing and identifying an unknown or
disputed pedigree. While the plan is very desirable and effect-
ive in placing the produce of mares underneath the dams, it is
very defective in relation to breeders, and subsequent owners.
Unless the identity of the animal can be traced and established
by the records, the pedigree is always doubtful. But notwith-
standing the unsatisfactory plan of its construction, it has been
honestly compiled, and we may safely accept its contents, back
as far as the beginning of the nineteenth century, when Mr.
Weatherby began his work; but when we reach the period of the
eighteenth century, facts, fables and frauds are so inextricably
mixed that whatever we accept must be cum grano salis. Be-
yond that period Mr. Weatherby furnishes nothing but the wild-
est fancies and traditions shaped up by those contributing them
with a view to lengthen a pedigree and a price accordingly. All
that we can ever know of the horses of that period we must
gather from the little snatches dropped by contemporaneous his-

In establishing his "General Stud Book," Mr. Weatherby's
work may be compared to the building of an embankment around
a great field which contained all the race horses of the realm. They
were of all colors, all markings and all sizes, except the monster
cart horse and the diminutive Shetland. They had all raced or
possessed blood that had raced, and they all had pedigrees of
various lengths and various degrees of reliability. They all
walked and trotted and galloped, and there was not a pacer
among them, for the last pacer had disappeared from England
probably fifty years before this. The antagonism of the Saracenic
horse had triumphed, and that antagonism was bred in the blood


rand bone of every animal in the field. They were placed there
to be inter-bred and to produce race horses. Every one of the
thousand owners was anxious to produce a great winner, and he
was left to the exercise of his own fancy and Judgment as to
what cross would be most likely to prove successful, and to vindi-
cate his superior intelligence. With all experimenting outside
of the breed practically barred, the instincts of the breed ripened
and intensified until its representatives are able to beat the fleet-
est in the world at the gallop, but they could neither walk fast
nor trot fast. It is doubtful whether any person in the world
has ever seen a true-bred race horse that could trot a mile in
four minutes. At this gait they show no ajjtness nor speed what-
ever. By breeding to fit the modern methods of racing, the
speed of the race horse has been greatly increased, for short dis-
tances, but his stamina and endurance no longer command ad-
miration as in former generations.

In the latter half of the last century there were a good many
•excellent trotters in England, but the further we get away from
the blood of the old English pacer, the fewer the trotters we
find, until at last there are none at all. It seems to be true of
all countries that where there are no pacers there are no trot-
ters. It was not the purpose nor wish of the English people to
banish the trotter, but when the pacer was banished the trotter
soon followed him.



Antiquity of American racing — First race course at Hempstead Plain, 1665 —
Racing in Virginia, 1677 — Conditions of early races — Early so-called
Arabian importations — The marvelous tradition of Lindsay's "Arabian" —
English race horses first imported about 1750 — The old colonial stock as a
basis — First American turf literature — Skinner's American Turf lleginter
and Spoi'tinff Magazine, 1829 — CadwalladerR. Q'0\6.en's Sporting Magazine
short-lived but valuable — The original Spirit of the Times — Porter's^
Fpint of the Tiines — Wilkes' Spirit of the Times, 1859 — Edgar's Stud Book
— Wallace's Stud Book — Bruce's Stud Book — Their history, methods, and
value — Summing up results, showing that success has followed breeding
to individuals and families that could run and not to individuals and
families that could not run, whatever their blood.

Horses were kept for running, and horse racing was a com-
mon amusement in some of the American Colonies for about a
hundred years before the first English race horses were imported.
This embraces a century of horse history that, hitherto, has been
practically unexplored and unknown. For the details of what I
have been able to glean of this neglected and unknown ceiltury
my readers are referred to the chapters on the different colonies.
The first racing in this country of which we have any historical
knowledge was organized by Covernor Nicolls. In 1664 the
Dutch surrendered the province of New Netherlands to the Eng-
lish, and the next autumn, 1665, the new race course at Hemp-
stead Plains was inaugurated by the new governor of the colony.
This course was named Newmarket, after the famous English
course, and Governor Nicolls' successors continued to offer
purses on this course for many years, and after a time there were
two regular meetings held there, spring and autumn. Owing to
the distance of this course from the city, other courses, near at
hand, were soon constructed and racing of all kinds and at all
gaits held high carnival. The principal prizes were called "Sub-
scription Purses," the distance almost invariably two miles, and
the weight carried ten stone. The horses that ran were known


as "Dutch horses," and were descended from the original stock
brought from Utrecht, in Holland. They were larger than the
English horses, and brought better prices, although the latter
were esteemed more highly for their saddle gaits. I think the
Dutch horses, originally, had no natural pacers among them, but
for the pleasures and uses of the saddle they were inter-bred with
the English horses and the mixed blood soon produced many
pacers. It is probable also that this mixture increased the speed
of the whole tribe. Thus racing continued with but few inter-
ruptions and without any known changes in the rules or condi-
tions governing performances, except that after fifty years or more
the weight to be carried was reduced from ten stone to eight
stone. In the year 1751, which was eighty-six years after Gover-
nor Nicolls had established the Newmarket course on Long
Island, we find the following significant condition inserted in
the terms of entrance to the races, for the first time: "Free to
any horse, mare, or gelding bred in America." The simple
meaning of this new condition was to "head off" the scheme of
some "sharp" fellows who were, probably, then on the ocean
with two or three English race horses, with which they expected
to "gobble up" whatever stakes or purses came within their

The first record we have of racing in Virginia is to be found in
the court records of Henrico County, in the year 1677 — twelve
years after the establishment of racing in New York. For fuller
particulars of this, the reader is referred to the chapter on that
colony. The Virginians were a horse-racing people from the
start, and it is impossible to tell how long before racing first com-
menced, but probably Just as soon as any two neighbors met, each
owning a horse, a few hundred pounds of tobacco were put up
the next day, to make it interesting, in determining which was
the faster. This racing feeling was not confined to neighbors
nor to neighborhoods, but it pervaded the whole colony, and the
people of every county had their annual and semi-annual meet-
ings, which everybody attended. Their methods of handicap-
ping will strike the present generation as somewhat peculiar. In
their advertisements of the meetings, such language as the fol-
lowing was very common: "Sized horses to carry one hundred
and forty pounds and Galloways to be allowed weight for
inches." From this we learn that the tribe of little Scotch pacers
were still to the fore on this side of the water and that they


were just as fleet as the larger horses, provided the weight was
graduated to their inches. There was one feature in these race
meetings that will be a surprise to many of my readers, as it was
to myself, and that is the fact that at most of these meetings
there was one four-mile race. Smaller prizes were run for by
horses classed as to size, and it may be noted that there was one
class "not exceeding thirteen hands." At these meetings the
distance never seems to have been less than, one mile, while on
the southern border of the colony and in North Carolina, quarter
racing was very popular and very common from the earliest dates,
and it was kept up through the greater part of the eighteenth
century. For a fuller account of the racing of those early days
the reader is referred to the chapter on Virginia.

In this old English, Irish and Scottish blood, full of the pacing
element, which we may now call "native" blood, we have the
real foundation upon which the English race horse was bred and
from which has come the ajDproximate if not the complete equal
of the highest type of the English horse, in both speed and
stamina. The English and the American race horse came from
the same source and jjossess the same blood, Avith this trifling
distinction — the native mares in England were bred to horses of
exotic, Saracenic origin, while the native mares of America were
I)red to the descendants of that native-exotic combination.
Hence, with the original maternal ancestry of the same blood,
the combined and improved English descendant of that blood
became the paternal ancestor of the American race horse. We
must not forget that this "paternal ancestor" had been the re-
sult of crossing and recrossing, selecting, breeding and develop-
ing for nearly a hundred years, and that he was, therefore, a far
better horse and far more prepotent as a sire than the j^roduce
of the first cross made under the direction of the Duke of New-
castle. We must not ignore the fact that while there were many
stallions brought over in the early days there were also a few
mares, but they were so few in number that their influence was
hardly appreciable in the new breed to be established. Saracenic
blood was touched very sparingly in the colonial days, as even
the names of not more than three or four have been preserved
in history. The only one of that period fully identified was
named Bashaw and was kept on Long Island about the year 1768.
Like all the others, he was called an Arabian, but according to
the showing of his advertisement he was bred by the Emperor of


Morocco, and was not an Arabian. Of the later period and com-
ing down to about 1860 there are twenty-five or thirty that have
been called "Arabians." Near the head of the list stands one
called "Arab Barb" or "Black Arabian Barb." He was claimed
to be an imported Barb from Algiers, and was seventeen hands
high "and coarse in proportion." Many other so-called "im-
porters" were equally absurd and dishonest in their claims, but
there horses all passed as genuine "Arabians." Out of the
whole number called "Arabians" not more than five or six seem
to have had a shadow of riglit to the name, and these exceptions
were practically restricted to the animals imported by Mr. A.
Keene Richards, of Kentucky. That each and all of these ex-
ceptions were irredeemable failures is a fact well known to all
intelligent horsemen. This motley crew of "Arabian" importa-
tions came from all the countries bordering on the Mediterranean,
except Arabia, were all called "Arabians," and they were all flat
disappointments both as race horses and as producers of race

Out of this list of thirty-five or forty so-called Arabian horses,
there is one that requires special mention, not only because a cor-
rection may be made in his history, but because I have frequently
spoken of him as the only Arabian that had left any mark upon
the horse stock of the country. Lindsay's Arabian, as he was
called, was a grey horse and represented to be over fifteen hands
high. The story is that he was a Barb and had been presented
to the commander of a British man-of-war, when a colt, by the
ruler of one of the Barbary States, as an expression of gratitude
to the captain for having saved the life of his son. The captain
sailed aAvay for a South American port, and while lying there he
took his present ashore to let him have a little exercise. The
colt was given the free range of a lumber-yard, as the story goes,
and in his playfulness a pile of lumber fell upon him and broke
three of his legs. The British officer was greatly grieved at his
loss and proposed to put the colt out of misery by knocking him
on the head. There happened to be an American trading vessel
in port and the skipper "allowed if he had that critter on his
vessel he could save him." The officer at once gave him to the
skipper and told him his history. Yankee ingenuity and thrift
soon got him aboard the trader and he was swung wp and his
legs properly bandaged. The surgical treatment was good, the
bones knit, and in due time the vessel arrived at New London, .


and the colt was taken to the vicinity of Hartford. Just where
this story originated it is not jDossible now to say, nor do I know
that it ever had currency in Connecticut, but it was certainly
rehearsed and probably believed in Maryland. He was owned by
Colonel Wyllis of Hartford, and was advertised in 1770. under the
single name of Eanger, and described as '"a fine English stallion
of the Barbary breed, bred in England." From this it would
appear that nothing was then known of his romantic history.
As a part of his Maryland history it was said that General Wash-
ington's attention had been attracted to a body of Connecticut
cavalry by the excellence of their horses, and at his instance
Captain Lindsay bought Eanger, because he was the sire of many
of those horses, and took hini to Maryland, where he was ever
afterward known as ''Lindsay's Arabian." The story of the
indorsement of Washington made an excellent stallion card, aiid
it is not necessary that we should inquire into it too closely, for
the dates might raise a question. The horse passed from Colonel
Wyllis to James Howard, of Windham, and was advertised by
him as ''The Imjoorted Arabian Horse called The Ranger to
stand at his stable tlie season of 1778." Hence we must conclude
that he was not taken to the South before the season of 1779, or
possibly later. Then, as now, to catch the popular fancy, North
and South, the horse is no longer an "English stallion of the
Barbary breed" but an "Imported Arabian Horse." His cross
was well esteemed in his day, and it has held its place in the esti-
mation of all the experienced horsemen as a good cross in an
old pedigree. AVe now see that he was bred in England, that he
was got by a Barb horse or the son of a Barb horse, and that it is
not probable there was a single drop of Arabian blood in his
veins. This little sketch will serve to illustrate the methods,
general and particular, that were invariably used to place a 'ficti-
tious value upon the so-called imported "Arabians." In no
other department of human knowledge has there been such a
universal and persistent habit of misrepresenting the truth of
history as in matters relating to the horse. It seems to have
been, and still is, a kind of pyschical contagion that has been
generating dishonesty and a habit of lying in the minds of the
great body of horsemen for the past two hundred and fifty years.
If a horse is brought from Turkey, or Syria, or Egypt, or Spain, or
Morocco, or any of the Barbary States, he is at once called an
"Arabian." This is worse than a misnomer, for it is an essential


untruth, and its universal use does not redeem it from its es-
sence of deception and fraud. It must be conceded, however,
that this deception may have sprung from bad teaching and
ignorance rather than from a depraved moral sense, for many
people, as well as the poets and the novelists, may have concluded
that as the nations named above got their religion from Arabia,
so they got their horse stock from the same country, and thus
the horses brought from Turkey, or Syria, or Egypt, or Spain,
or Morocco, or any of the Barbary States, are descendants of the
Arabian horse and thus entitled to the name "Arabian." This
seems to be the only theory upon which this universal misrepre-
sentation can be palliated. Let us repeat a sentence or two here,
to show what history reveals on this point. Strabo says there
were no horses in Arabia at the beginning of the Christian era.
Philostorgius says that in the year 356, two hundred "well-bred"
Cappadocian horses were sent as a present to the prince of
Yemen, by the Emperor Constantius. These were the first
horses in Arabia. In the days of Mohammed horses were ex-
ceedingly scarce in Arabia, and they have remained so to the
present time. The horse is an expensive exotic in Arabia, as he
is never used for any domestic purpose, nor for any other pur-
pose except robbery or display. For all domestic and commercial
lases the camel is far better. All the countries named above were
abundantly supplied with horses, at least eight hundred or a
thousand years before there Avere any horses in Arabia. The
Moslems got their religion from Arabia, but not their horses.
This topic is more fully discussed in the chapter on the Arabian

The importation of English race horses to this side of the
water commenced about the year 1750, and that being the mid-
dle of the last century it is easy to remember the date when the
line was drawn between the old and the new elements appearing
on the race course. The following six animals were brought over
within a year or two of that date — Monkey, Traveller, Dabster,
Childers, Badger, and Janus. A few others might be named,
but some at least are mythical. Of those here named. Traveller
was the great horse. Janus became the progenitor of a tribe of
very fast quarter horses, and although he did not found that
tribe, which had been in existence for a hundred years on the
border line betAveen Virginia and North Carolina, he doubtless
Improved it. Monkey was twenty-two years old when he came


and did not live long. The whole number imported into all the
colonies before the war of the Kevolution counts up to about fifty,
and some of these are practically unknown, and a few of them
were wholly fictitious. Maryland, I think, was first in the field
of importations, and then followed Virginia, New York, and
North Carolina. Possibly the very earliest importations were'
made in South Carolina, but there is not much evidence that
those importations were utilized to any extent for racing pur-
poses, and hence we know but little of the doings of that colony -
till a later date. There were not more than about twenty mares-
of English race-horse blood imported, in the quarter of a century
preceding the Revolution, into all the colonies. As many of
these animals of both sexes were stolen or destroyed during the-
war, we can approximate with some degree of certainty the great
reduction in this producing force by the time the war ended and
importations again commenced.

Now, we have before us the old colonial running stock that
had been tested in many a battle and found able to cover the
distance of two to four miles, and we have also the new running
stock that had never been asked to go any further, but we have
no actual, authentic and reliable knowledge of the comparative
speed of the two classes. There were no stop watches nor
records of time kept in those days. This much only we know,
that prizes were offered for "half-breds" for a few years, but
when it was found that some of the half-breds could run just as
fast and as far as some of the whole-breds, this class of prizes was
withdrawn. Then commenced the manufacture of fraudulent
pedigrees, for, it was argued, "How could an American horse
beat an English horse unless he had English blood and plenty of
it?" Hence, when a horse won that fact was taken as proof that
he was full bred, and no time was lost in investing him with a.
first-class, pure -bred pedigree. This was a little onerous on the
few imported mares that were known and named, as in the case
of imported Mary Gray, for she had to j^roduce eleven filly foals
by imported Jolly Eoger in order to accommodate her numerous
progeny, as alleged, and how many more claims were made of
the same pedigree it would be very difficult to estimate. When it
began to appear a little awkward to reqiiire Mary Gray to have,
on paper, more than eleven filly foals by Jolly Roger, it was soon
discovered that it was less perplexing and at the same time less
liable to be "cornered" by saying "dam an imported English.


mare." No doubt there was a great deal of sharp practice, to
say nothing of cheating and lying, about horse matters in Colonial
times, but those little venialities were only the blossoms indicat-
ing the mature fruits of deceptions and frauds that were to follow
when pedigrees would be considered an element of value in the
running horse, and when every man Avould have the power, in
fact, to make and print his pedigrees to suit himself. This
brings us to a very brief consideration of what has been done in
the direction of correcting the frauds of the past and preventing
them in the future.

The period of fable and of falsehood in the genealogy of the
American race horse seems to have commenced not long after the
first importations of English race horses. In the first generations
from the imported English horse and the native mare, it was rather
difficult for a man to fix up a pedigree for his half-bred colt that
would show him to be full bred, but after forty, fifty, or sixty
years had elapsed the events became misty, and then every man

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 11 of 61)