Oscar Wilde.

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

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— The term " thoroughbred" much abused — Definition of "thorough-
bred" — How trotters may be made " thoroughly bred" — How to study
pedigrees — Reward offered for the production of a thoroughbred horse
that was a natural pacer — The trotter more lasting than the runner —
The dam of Palo Alto — Arion as a two-year-old — Only three stallions
have been able to get trotters from running-bred mares — " Structural
incongruity" — The pacer and trotter inseparable — How to save the trot
and reduce the ratio of pacers— Development a necessity — Table prov-
ing this proposition — The "tin cup" policy a failure — Woodburn at
the wrong end of the procession 480-507



Breeding the trotter intelligently an industry of modern development —
Plethora of turf papers, and their timidity of the truth — The accepted
theories, old and new — Failure of the "thoroughbred blood in the
trotter" idea — "Thoroughbred foundations," and the Register —
" Like begets like," the great central truth— Long-continued efforts
to breed trotters from runners — New York the original source of
supply of trotting blood to all the States— Kentucky's beginning in
breeding trotters — R. A. Alexander, and the founding of Woodburn
— The " infallibility " of Woodburn pedigrees — Refusal to enter fic-
titious crosses in the Register and the results — The genesis and
history of the standard — Its objects, effects, and influence — Establish-
ing the breed of trotters — The Kentucky or "Pinafore" standard —
Its purposes analyzed — The "Breeders' Trotting Stud Book" and
how it was compiled — Failure and collapse of the Kentucky project
— Another unsuccessful attempt to capture the Regrister — How
honest administration of the Register made enemies — The National
Breeders' Association and the Chicago Convention — Detailed history of
the sale and transfer of the Register, the events that led up to it,
and the results — Personal satisfaction and benefits from the transfer,
and the years of rest and congenial study in preparing this book —
The end 508-546



By a Friend of the Author.


Mr. Wallace's early life and education — Removal to Iowa, 1845 — Secretary
Iowa State Board of Agriculture — Begins work, 1856, on " Wallace's
American Stud Book," published 1867 — Method of gathering pedigrees
— Trotting Supplement — Abandons Stud Book, 1870, and devotes ex-
clusive attention to trotting literature — "American Trotting Reg-
ister," Vol. I., published in 1871— Vol. II. follows in 1874— The
valuable essay on breeding the forerunner of pre.sent ideas — Standard
adopted 1879 — Its history — Battles for control of the "Register" —
Wallace's Monthly founded 1875 — Its character, purposes, history,
writers, and artists — "Wallace's Year Book" founded 1885 — Great
popularity and value — Transfer of the Wallace publications, and their
degeneration 547-559


Portrait op the Author Frontispiece.

Map of Armenia, Cappadocia, Syria, etc To face page 24

Map of Pucenician Colonies and the Mediterranean. . . " " 36

GoDOLPHiN Arabian, True Portrait^

>■ In one view " " 67

OoDOLPHiN Arabian, Distorted )

Star Pointer, THE Champion Pacer. (1:59J) " " 155

John R. Gentry, Pacer. (2:00^) " " 173

Alix, THE Present Champion Trotter. (2:03^) " " 255

Hambletonian (Rysdyk's) " " 267

George Wilkes, Son of Hambletonian '• " 284

Electioneer, Son of Hambletonian " " 289

Abdallah (Alexander's). Son OF Hambletonian " " 294

Nancy Hanks, BY Happy Medium. (2:04) " " 306

Ethan Allen, by Vermont Black Hawk " " 381

Note.— Nine of the above engravings have been reproduced, by permission, from the
Portfolio issued by The Horse Review.



General View of the Field Traversed.

In undertaking to fulfill a promise made years ago, to write a
history of the American Trotting Horse and his ancestors, I am
met with the inquiry: What were his ancestors and whence did
they come? To say that the American Trotter, the phenomenal
horse of this century, is descended from a certain horse imported
from England in 1788, does not fully meet the requirements of
the truth, for there are other and very distinctive elements
embodied in his inheritance that are not indebted to that partic-
ular imported horse. In searching for these undefined elements,
I have found myself in the fields of antiquity, reaching out step
by step, further and further, until the utmost boundaries of all
history, sacred and profane, were clearly in view. There I found
a field that was especially attractive because it was a new field,
and the relations of the peoples of the earliest ages to their horses
had never been investigated nor discussed. Having no engage-
ments nor necessities to hurry me, the careful exploration of this
hitherto unknown territory has afforded me very great enjoy-

As the result of these investigations, the breadth and scope of
this volume will be greatly widened, touching upon the originals
of most of the lighter types of horses, and many of the idols of
the imagination will be demolished. The objective point is the
history of the Trotting Horse, but before reaching that point we
must consider the beginnings of, practically, nearly all the vari-
eties of horses in the world. The assistance that I may be able
to gain from modern writers will be very limited, and restricted


to a few citations. Many Englishmen have written books on the
horse, mostly horse doctors, who have been very learned in veter-
inary matters, but wholly unlearned in the history of the horses
of their own country. The editor of the "Hackney Stud Book"
was the first Englishman to make known to his readers that the
most popular horse in all England for many centuries was the
despised little pacer, and this historical fact he first learned from
this side of the water. Most of the English books on the horse
are practically reprints of what somebody said before, and given
without credit. In some of them nothing is changed but the
title page and, possibly, the name of the author. An examina-
tion of the leading magazines of our own country discloses the
fact that an astonishing number of gentlemen have been afflicted
with an itch for writing on the horse, without ever having given
the honest study of an hour to the subject. This is the kind of
"literature of the horse" with which the whole English-speaking
people have been long afflicted.

To go back to the fountain head and consider in what country
and among what people the horse was indigenous, or, in other
words, to seek to determine his original habitat, may strike some
of my readers as going too far away to either interest or instruct
them. But in the very center of all popular horse knowledge
will be found a vital error that has dominated, to a large extent,
the whole horse history of the past three hundred years. If you
ask a dozen horsemen of average intelligence. What country was
the original habitat of the horse? a majority of them will an-
SAver, Arabia. If you put the same question to the same number
of writers on the horse, every one of them will answer, Arabia.
As this question is more fully considered in the second chapter
of this work, I will here pass it over by giving a few dates.
Armenia, Media, Cappadocia, and indeed all the countries border-
ing on the Black and Caspian Seas, were abundantly supplied
with horses at least eighteen hundred years before the Christian
era. At this time Egypt had no horses, but about one hundred
years later, as shoAvn by the history of Joseph and the inscrip-
tions on her monuments, she had received a supply. At the
very beginning of the Christian era, Strabo, the Greek geographer
and historian, informs us Arabia had no horses. In the year
356 A.D. the Emperor Constantius sent to the prince of the coun-
try now called Yemen, in Arabia Felix, two hundred "well-bred
Cappadocian horses" as a present. This is the first introduction


of the horse into Arabia, so far as we have any tracings or indica-
tions of history, and thus the error of more than two thousand
years is exposed.

Many of the more conservative and thoughtful writers have
maintained that the original habitat of the horse was on the
steppes of Asia, but I have never been able to discover any rea-
sonable basis for such an hypothesis. It seems to rest chiefly on
two conditions, viz., that there were vast multitudes of horses
running wild on the steppes; and, second, that the Barbarians
brought their horses with them when they overran Europe;
hence, as they argue, the horse must have been indigenous in
that region. The first of these ideas will not hold without some
shadow of proof, for it is overthrown by our own experience on
our own continent; and^as to the second, the whole of Southern
Europe, including Britain, and the whole of Northern Africa,
were amply supplied with horses many centuries before the
hordes from Asia made their appearance. Besides all this, there
is no evidence, either in reason or history, that there ever was a
period when the horse was not the companion, friend, and servant
of man.

The several facts, conditions, and circumstances pointing to
Armenia as the original home of the horse, and which are consid-
ered in the next chapter, have afforded me a succession of most
agreeable surprises in their approximate completeness. The
salubrity of the climate, the varied and abundant productions of
the soil, and the ten thousand streams of pure water flowing from
the mountains furnished a home and a breeding place just
suited to the best of all animal creation, whether man or beast.
To this fitness of the environment we can add the historical fact
that more than eighteen hundred years before the Christian era
horses abounded there in great numbers and of most excellent
quality. To this we may add the other fact, that this is the first
instance in all history, sacred or profane, so far as we have dis-
covered, in which horses are so spoken of. The Armenians are
the oldest people on the face of the earth, inhabiting the same
territory in which they grew into a nation. They are the direct
descendants of Japheth, the son of ISToah, and they spread out
from their original home, at the foot of the mountains of Ararat.
They grew into a mighty nation, and at one time their dominion
extended from the Mediterranean to the Caspian. The su-
premacy of the tribal relation ,vas maintained until Haic or


Haicus, the great grandson of Japlieth, became the ruler of his
people. Descending from him, in the direct male line, there
were five or six long reigns before the dynasty was overthrown
by the Assyrians. They were largely an agricultural people, and
the ancient historians have told us they were famous for the
great numbers and fine quality of the horses they produced. The
market for their horses, the prophet Ezekiel tells us, was in the
great commercial city of Tyre, whence they were carried ''in the
ships of Tarshish" by the Phoenician merchants to all portions of
the known world. Having here reached back to the N^oachic
period and country, with all that this implies, I will leave the
problem, with the more extended consideration that will be
given it in the chapter on the general distribution of horses in all
parts of the commercial world.

Horsemen of average intelligence and writers on the horse,
oftentimes much below average intelligence in horse matters, all
seem to unite on the Arabian horse as their fetish, when in fact
they know nothing about him. The songs of the poets and the
stories of the novelists have taken the place, in the minds of the
people of all nations, of solid history and sober experience. When
a story writer wishes to depict an athletic and daring hero, he
never fails to mount him upon an "Arab steed," when some
blood-curdling adventures are to be disclosed. When Admiral
Eons, the great racing authority in England, anjiounced some
years ago, that the Euglish race horse was purely descended from
the horses of Arabia Deserta, without one drop of plebeian
blood, all England believed him, and this rash and groundless
dictum has served all writers as conclusive evidence ever since.
Now, it is not probable that more than two or at most three per
cent, of the blood of the English race horse as he stands to-day is
Arabian blood. The greatness and value of the Arabian horse is
purely mythical. He has been tested hundreds of times, both on
the course and in the stud, and in every single instance he has
proved a failure. This is what all history and experience teach.
There are biit few horses bred in Arabia and there are, compara-
tively, but few there now. From the time of their first intro-
duction into Yemen — Arabia Felix — up to the time of Mohammed,
about two hundred and seventy years, they were still very scarce.
Mohammed was not a horseman nor a horse breeder, nor is it known
that he ever mounted a horse but once, and then he had but two
in his army. When he made his first pilgrimage to Mecca he rode


■a camel; and when he went the second time in triumph, mounted
on a camel, he made the requisite number of circuits round the
holy place, then dismounted and broke the idols that had been
set up there. Then came the triumphant shout of his followers;
"There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet."
Since then, this cry has rung over a thousand battlefields, and
as I write it is still heard in the homes of the slaughtered Arme-
nians. From a great, warlike, and conquering people, the fol-
lowers of Mohammed have degenerated into an aggregation of
robbers and murderers of defenseless Christians. Since the days
of Mohammed, horses no doubt have increased in numbers, but
all modern travelers express their surprise at the small numbers
they see. The horse is an expensive luxury in Arabia, and none
but the rich can afford to keep him. He fills no economic place
in the domestic life of the Arab, for he is never used for any pur-
pose except display and robbery. Nobody is able to own a horse
but the sheiks and a few wealthy men. Nobody would think of
mounting a horse for a journey, be it long or short. The camel
fills the place of the horse, the cow and a flock of sheep, all in
one, and surely the Arabs are right in saying, "Job's beast is a
monument of God's mercy." It is very evident that nearly all
the horses said to have been brought from Arabia never saw
Arabia. As an illustration of the uncertainty of what a man is
getting when he thinks he is buying an Arabian, in the Orient, I
will give, in some detail the experiences of Mr. Wilfrid S.
Blunt, a wealthy Englishman who had an ambition to regenerate
tlie English race horse by bringing in fresh infusions of Arabian
blood. He went to Arabia to buy the best, but he didn't go into
Arabia to find it. He skirted along through the border land
where agriculture and civilization prevailed, while away off to the
south the wild tribes roamed over the desert, and to the north,
not far away, was the land of abundance that had been famous
for more than three thousand years for the great numbers and
excellence of the horses bred there. Here on the banks of the
Euphrates Mr. Blunt found the town of Deyr, and he soon dis-
covered it was a famous horse market. The inhabitants were the
only people he met with who seemed to understand and appre-
ciate the value of pedigrees, and there were no horses in the town
l3ut "thoroughbreds." Here Mr. Blunt made nearly all his pur-
chases which amounted to eighteen mares and two stallions "at
reasonable prices. " As will be seen in the extracts from his book.


he was strikingly solicitous that the friends at home should have
no doubt about the quality of the stock he purchased being all
"thoroughbred." ISIo doubt he realized the awkwardness of the
location as not the right one in which to secure "thoroughbred"
Arabians and hence the vigorous indorsement of the honesty of
the "slick and experienced" dealers as honest men and true de-
scendants of the Bedouins of the desert. In this "he dt)th
protest too much" and thus suggests that while the pedigrees
came from the tribes of the desert to the South, it might be pos-
sible that the horses came from the farmers who bred them to the
North. However this may have been, the whole enterprise
turned out to be a flat failure, and after a number of years spent
in begging for popular support, the whole collection was dispersed
under the hammer of the auctioneer, not realizing a tithing of
the cost.

While it is not necessary that I should express any opinion as
to whether Mr. Blunt Avas deceived in the breeding of the animals
which he brought home, I will make brief allusion to an Amer-
ican experience which is more fully considered elsewhere. Some
forty or more years ago Mr. A. Keene Eichards, a breeder of race
horses in Kentucky, became impressed with the idea that the way
to improve the race horse of America was to introduce direct in-
fusions of the blood of Arabia. He did not hesitate, but he
started to Arabia and brought home some horses and mares and
put them to breeding. The pure bloods could not run at all and
the half-breeds were too slow to make the semblance of a contest
with Kentucky-bred colts. He concluded that he had been
cheated by the rascally Arabs in the blood they put upon him.
He then determined to go back and get the right blood, and as a
counselor he took with him the famous horse painter, Troye,
who was thoroughly up on anatomy and structure. They went
into the very heart of Arabia and spent many weeks among the
different tribes of the desert. They had greatly the advantage of
Mr. Blunt or any other amateur, for they were experienced horse-
men and knew just what they were doing. When they were
ready to start home they believed they had found and secured
the very best horses that Arabia had produced. When the
produce of this second importation were old enough to run it was
found that they were no better than the first lot, and thus all the
bright dreams of enthusiasm were dissipated. Thus was demon-
strated for the thousandth time that the blood of even the best


and purest Arabian horse is a detriment and hindrance rather
than a benefit to the modern race horse. Mr. Kichards, with all
his practical knowledge and experience, was no more successful
than the amateur, Mr. Blunt. The blood which Mr. Richards
brought home was, no doubt, purer and more fashionable, as esti-
mated in the desert, than that brought home by Mr. Blunt, but
when tested by modern advancement it was no better.

A careful study of the chapter on the English Race Horse will
present to the minds of all my intelligent readers the considera-
tion of several points to which they will be slow in yielding
assent. These points run up squarely against the preconceived
opinions and prejudices of two centuries, and these preconceived
opinions and prejudices are well-nigh universal. The first point
upon which the public intelligence has gone wrong is in the
general belief that horse-racing had its origin in the seven-
teenth century, when Charles II. was restored to his throne.
The truth is we have accounts of racing by contemporaneous his-
torians in the twelfth century, and indeed, we might say from the
time of the Romans in Britain. To go back four centuries, how-
ever, is far enough to answer our present purpose. After select-
ing, breeding, and racing four hundred years we must conclude
that the English had some pretty good race horses. This is
fully verified by the writers at the close of Queen Elizabeth's
reign as well as at the beginning of Charles II. 's. They had native
English horses that were able to beat all the imported exotics, in-
cluding the Arabian owned by King James. We must, therefore,
conclude that the race horse was not created by Charles II., but
that racing was simply revived by him, after the restrictions of
Crcmwell's time, and that the old English blood was the basis of
that revival. The importations of so many exotics in his reign
were simply so many reinforcements of the old English racing

The next point to which exception will be taken is the con-
clusion reached as to the character and influence of the exotics
that were introduced in the reign of Charles II. These exotics
have been designated in a general way, by the phrase "foundation
stock," which has been introduced more out of deference to
the popular understanding than to its legitimate and true
meaning. For the real "foundation stock" we must look away
back in the centuries, long before Charles was born. The
analysis of the data furnished by Mr. AVeatherby as "foun-


dation stock" clearly shows that the Turks predominated in
numbers, but, possibly, the Barbs in influence. The Arabian
element, in both numbers and influence, seems to be practically
Qiil, and this is the "gist of my offendiug." The one great horse
— Godolphin Arabian — exerted a greater and more lasting influ-
ence upon the English race horse than any other of his century
and probably than all the others of his century, and his blood 'is
wholly unknown. Fortunately, a few years ago I was able to
unearth his portrait and prove it a true portrait, and in that
picture we must look for his lineage. He was a horse of great
substance and strength on short legs, with no resemblance what-
ever to a race horse. About fifty years after his death Mr.
Stubbs, the artist, who prided himself upon representing the
character of a horse rather than his shape, came across this
picture, from which he made an "ideal" copy of what he thought
the horse should have been, which is a veritable monstrosity.
These two pictures will appear together in their proper places,
where they can be leisurely studied, and the honest and the dis-
honest compared.

The American race horse is the lineal descendent of the English
race horse, and like his ancestor he is very largely dependent upon
the ''native blood" for his existence as a breed. The first
English race horse was imported into Virginia about 1750, and
he there met a class of saddle mares that had been selected, bred,
trained, and raced at all distances up to four-mile heats, for nearly
a hundred years. These mares were the real maternal founda-
tion stock upon which the American race horse was established,
as a breed. The phrase "native blood" is here used as applying
to the animals and their descendants, that were brought over
from England at and soon after the plantation of the American
colonies. Up to the time of the Kevolution there were but few
racing mares brought over — as many as you could count on your
fingers — but they must have been marvelously prolific, for thirty
or forty filly foals each would hardly have accommodated all the
animals with pedigrees tracing to them. Quite a number of our
greatest race horses and sires of forty or fifty years ago traced to
some one of these mares through links that were wholly fictitious.
Indeed, from the period of the Kevolution, and even before that,
down to our own time, the pernicious and dishonest habit of
adding fictitious crosses beyoTid the second or third dam became
- the rule in the old American families, and an animal with a strictly


honest pedigree was the exception. In spreading abroad these
dishonest fictions as true pedigrees, the press — perhaps not
venally, but ignorantly — was made the active agent. Whenever
a rogue could get a pedigree into print, however absurd, nothing
coukl prevent its spread as the truth. The early sporting and
breeding press was not in the hands of men remarkable for con-
science and still less remarkable for knowledge. But the worst
of all was the "professional pedigree maker" who knew so many
things that he never knew, and stopped at nothing. In all this
dirty work of manufacturing pedigrees there is a very striking
resemblance between the awkward efforts of the early English
and the early American pedigree maker. This wliole topic of the
ignorance of the press and the dishonesty of the pedigree makers
will be considered fully in its proper place. Fortunately, al-
though still far from perfect, the methods and care in the pres-
ervation of the true lineage of the race horse in our own day

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 2 of 61)