Oscar Wilde.

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

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Now, in view of the fact that Smetanka was of Saracenic origin
— a strain of blood that has always been antagonistic to the pacer,
and never produced a pacer or a trotter; and in view of the fact
that his grandson, Barss, is accepted as the first of all Orloff
trotters; and in view of the further fact that in thousands of
American experiences the trotter has come from the pacer, it
seems to be a reasonable conclusion that the "Dutch Mare" that
produced Barss had a strong pacing inheritance, and possibly
had her speed fully developed, as the Bitugue in the count's own
team.

Among all the pleasures which Count Orloff derived from his
experiments in breeding, whether of gamecocks, or race horses,
or saddlers, or trotters, Barss was his greatest favorite because he
was his highest achievement in the art of breeding. This judg-
ment of his master has been confirmed in the ex2ieriences and
liistory of all succeeding generations for a hundred years, and the
name of Barss will be known through the coming centuries as
the founder of a mighty breed of trotters. I once possessed a
fine picture of Barss hitched to a sleigh and driven by his
breeder. Count Orloff, himself; and I have seen it stated some-
where that this picture was a copy of a bronze statue erected to
the memory of the Count Orloff and the greatest horse of Russia.

It has been stated by some writers, but with what measure of
authority I do not know, that for about thirty years after the
appearance of Barss. his daughters were bred to English thor-
oughbreds, to Arabs, to Anglo- Arabs, and, indeed, to all the
hipjhly bred crosses that the great establishment was able to
iurnish, and there was no imijrovement in either the quality or



396 THE HORSE OF AMERICA.

the speed of the produce. From this it is evident that the
count ai'.d his managers were at that period entangled in the
same foolish notions that befogged the minds of so many very
worthy gentlemen in this country some years ago, viz., that the
way to improve the trotter was to go to the runner — the horse
that never could trot. This foolish notion, that never had a
spark of reason in it, naturally and necessarily weakened the
trotting instinct of the descendants of Barss, and would have
wiped it all out if it had been followed persistently, and there
would have been no OrlofE trotters to-day.

After this narrow escape from the annihilation of much of the
good that Barss had done, the management then began to look
for the same blood and the same habit of action tliat the "Dutch
Mare" transmitted to her son, and, with this element to the
front, progression was resumed. Out of his great variety of
forms and of strains of blood the count and his managers could
pick and choose for the size, shape and forms they wanted, but
they were not able to transfer with the size, shape and form the
instincts and psychical nature of the horse. The count seems
to have carried forward his great enterprise rather with a view
to experimentation than its commercial possibilities. Smetanka
lived but a year or two, and when he stumbled upon the produc-
tion of Barss, a magnificent individual and a great trotter, his
head seems to have been turned, as he evidently supposed that-
he could breed any kind of horse he wished to breed, and be able
to do anything he wished him to do. At his death, in 1808, he-
left no male heir to succeed him, but he provided in his will that
his stud should not be dispersed. It was kept intact till about
1845, when it was purchased by the government, and finally
divided among a number of prominent breeders in dijfferent por-
tions of the empire.

Without having any knowledge on the subject that is definite
and specific, I am led to infer that the rules on registration and
racing in Russia are a hindrance to the breeding and develop-
ment of the trotter. As I understand it, no horse can be regis-
tered unless he is purely descended from Barss. And I under-
stand further, that he must possess the same requirements in
order to enter and start in a public race against the Orloffs. If
it be true that these restrictions are really in existence and are
enforced, we can understand why the American trotter is so far
ahead of the Orloff in speed and in the markets of Europe. The



THE ORLOFF TROTTER. 397

•Orloff is restricted to certain lines of blood and is protected
against competition from others that might beat hiii. The
American is free from all restrictions of blood and gathers up
all that is best and fastest. He neither asks nor accepts protec-
tion from any quarter, but throws down the glove to all comers.

Bellfounder was imported from England, July, 1822, by
James Boott, of Boston, Mass. He was placed in the hands of
Samuel Jaques, Jr. — a very shrewd manager who understood the
use of printer's ink and did not hesitate about employing it liber-
ally. In his advertisement for 1823 he says: "This celebrated
horse is a bright bay with black legs, standing fifteen hands
high." From this we are safe in concluding he was not more
than fifteen hands, and from another contemporaneous source
it is learned that he was a little below that measurement. On
this point the recollections, or perhaps impressions, of Orange
County horsemen are not very trustworthy, as one of them places
his height at sixteen hands and others at fifteen and a half.
His pedigree was given on the card which was distributed by his
groom in the form following: "Got by old Bellfounder, out
of Velocity by Haphazard, by Sir Peter out of Miss Hervey
by Eclipse." "Velocity trotted on the Norwich road in 1806,
sixteen miles in one hour, and although she broke five times into
a gallop, and as often turned round, she won her match." Al-
though after diligent search I have not been able to find this
performance of Velocity, it may be true that a mare so named
may have trotted as represented, but she was not a daughter of
Haphazard. The dates make this utterly impossible, and Mr.
Jaques was smart enough never to put this humbug pedigree in
his elaborate advertisements that appeared in the leading agricul-
tural papers of the country, year after year.

As the great mass of people of that day knew nothing and
oared but little about pedigrees, the astute manager of the horse
struck an expedient in the way of advertising that was very
t^tfective. He had a cut made of a horse trotting loose on the
road, at the rate of a hurricane, and in the background was an
entablature with the legend "Seventeen and a half miles an
hour," which anybody and everybody would interpret to mean
that this was a record made by imported Bellfounder, and there
he was doing it. This cut in reduced form went the rounds of
the agricultural press, and in 1831 made its appearance in the



398 THE HORSE OF AMERICA.

"Family Encyclopedia of Useful Knowledge." This dodge was-
exceedingly effective, and as it appeared in a book it must be true.
Thousands of people interpreted the picture to mean that im-
ported Bellfounder had trotted seventeen and a half miles in an.
hour. Mr. Jaques did not say this in letters and figures, but he
said it even more plainly in a picture. The basis of this decep-
tion is found in the advertisement itself, where, in speaking of
the speed of old Bellfounder in England, he says: " His
owner challenged to perform with him seventeen miles ai]d a half
in one hour, but it was not accepted." Here we have a possible
challenge of the sire transmuted into an actual performance of
the son, for the sole jDurpose of securing public patronage.

There can be no doubt that this horse was a true representative
of what was then known as the Norfolk Trotters and at this time
designated as Hackneys or Cubs. Bellfounder was of a quiet,
docile disposition, with a display of great nervous energy in his
movements when aroused. His knee and hock action was high
and showy, giving the impression of a great trotter, without,
much speed. At several points his form was measurably repro-
duced in Hambletonian, especially in his low, round withers and
his great, meaty buttocks. In seeing these points so plainly de-
veloped in his idol it is not remarkable that Mr. Kysdyk should
have placed too high an estimate on Bellfounder blood as a factor
in the American trotting horse. If he had thoughtfully asked
himself the question, What has Bellfounder blood done in its
own right in the way of getting trotters? the illusion would have
vanished.

Bellfounder was in the control of Mr. Jaques for six years, and
never in my knowledge of trotting stallions have I known one so
widely and successfully advertised. The name "Bellfounder"
was heard and known every where. From 1829 to 1833, inclusive,,
he was under the control of Mr. T. T. Kissam, of Long Island.
After that time he seems to have gone "a-begging" wherever
there seemed to be a chance to earn his oats. At last, at
Jamaica, Long Island, he died, having made twenty-one seasons
in this country — one more than Messenger. The question was
once raised as to where Hambletonian got his aversion to the
chestnut color, and it was flippantly assigned to Bellfounder.
The truth is, quite a number of Bellfounder's get were chestnuts,
perhaps as large a percentage as would naturally come from the
average stallion.



THE ORLOFF TROTTER. 399

It is the testimony of several gentlemen who were familiar with
trotting affairs in the time of the Bellfounclers, that a number of
them were skillfully and persistently trained and none of them
could trot faster than about 2:50. The one excejition to this fact so
widely established is the case of the dam of Hambletonian. After
this filly passed into the hands of Peter Seely he gave some at-
tention irregularly to the development of her speed, and before
he sold her he gav^o her two trials to saddle on the Union Course
and she trotted in 2:43 and 2:41. As she was then but four years
old it is safe to conclude that she would have made a trotter, be-
yond all doubt. This is the only one, old or young, from the
loins of Bellfounder that ever trotted so fast. I once put the
question directly to Mr. Rysdyk as to whether the Kent Mare
was as good and as fast as her dam. One Eye, and he promptly re-
plied that One Eye was much the faster and greater mare. To
this answer he added that One Eye, under the same circum-
stances, would have been the equal of Lady Thorn or any other
that ever lived. This may account for the superiority of the
Kent Mare over all the other Bellfounders, and it may account
for the superiority of Hambletonian over all other stallions.

Bellfouxder (Brown's or Kissam's), was a bay horse, foaled
1830, got by imported Bellfounder; dam Lady Alport, by Mam-
brino, son of Messenger; grandam by Tippoo, son of Messenger;
great-grandam by imported Messenger. With such breeding he
should have been a great horse. lie was bred by Timothy T.
Kissam, of Long Island, and sold along with a full brother one year
younger, named Bellport, about 1834-5, to L. F. and A. B. Allen,
of Buffalo, New York. Bellfounder was a bay horse, sixteen
hands high, and Bellport was sixteen and one-half hands, but was
poisoned and died at four years old. Bellfounder passed into
the hands of some parties at Cleveland and then to Mr. Brown, of
Columbus, Ohio, made most of his seasons in that portion of the
State, and died September, 1860. This was altogether the most
valuable son the imported horse left — indeed the only one that
made any mark in the world. He was not much of a trotter and
did not get trotters, but got. colts that Avere excellent types of
the coach horse, and for that purpose was very highly esteemed.
Some of his sons and daughters, especially the latter, are met
with sometimes in trotting records as having i^roduced some-
thing that had more or less speed.

CoxQUEROR was a bay gelding, foaled 1842, and got by Lat-



400 THE HOKSE OF AMERICA.

tonrett's Bellfounder, a grandson of the imported horse, and out
of Lady McClain by imported Bellfounder, and she out of Lady
Webber by Mambrino, and she out of a mare brouglit from
Dutchess County and represented to be a daughter of imported
Messenger. This gelding had been pounded about in slow races
for years and had the reputation of being a stayer. In 1853 a
match was made with him to trot a hundred miles in nine hours.
The race was started and the horse won in 8h. 5om. and 53s.,
and he died three or four days afterward. This is the only in-
stance that I know of in which the advocates of Hackney blood
can point to a trotting record made in this or indeed in any
other country.

In closing the account of this family — for out of courtesy we
have called it a "family" — we find we have nothing left but a
name with nothing in it. The name that was more widely known
than that of any other horse of his generation has now practi-
cally ceased from the earth, with nobody so poor as to do it
reverence.

The type of horse now known as the "Hackney" is found
chiefly in the shires bordering the northeastern coast of England
— Norfolk, Lincoln and Yorkshire. The name now given is not
only new but it is appropriate and applies to any one part of
England as well as another, and applies to any one horse, suited
to the general use of a Hack, as well as another, no difference
what his blood or what his country. The name "Norfolk Trot-
ter" fifty or a hundred years ago was often applied to horses of
this type coming from that part of the country, but it did not
follow that they were "trotters." In the discussions of the asso-
ciation preceding the adoption of a name it was urged that the
qualifying word "trotter" would imply the ability to trot fast,
and as the material to be registered could not do this, it would
subject the whole movement to ridicule and contempt. It was
also urged that the name "Norfolk" would give that particular
region an advantage over all other parts of England in the pros-
pective sales of registered stock, and thus the old title was fully
disposed of. When the name "cob" was suggested, it was con-
ceded that it represented just what they had, but it was too com-
mon, as everybody in all England, rich and poor, had "cobs."
Then came the term "Hackney," which meant the same kind of
a horse as the cob, but as it was not in such universal use it was



THE OKLOFF TROTTER. 40i

adopted. On this point it must be admitted that it is an honest
name.

The Hackney is a good horse for all the uses to which he is
adapted. He is short on his legs and stout, with a good share of
nervous energy. He is symmetrical, and, we might say, hand-
some, if we can use that word without any show of fine breeding,
for he is far short of the ideal blood horse. But he is not a sad-
dle horse, he is not a hunter, he is not a runner, and he is not a
trotter. As against these desirable and useful qualifications, he has
been bred and trained when in action to jerk up his limbs to the
highest point anatomically possible, and put them down again
with a thud at a point but little removed from where he started.
In this showy, undesirable action he exhausts his nervous energy,
pounding the earth without covering much of the distance. In this
excessive knee action every element of easy, graceful and rapid
progression is wanting. This fad will have its day and then along
with the barbarous excision of the caudal appendage they will
disappear together as they came, and we will know them no more
forever.

There are two points in advocating the merits of the Hackney
with which every Englishman is thoroughly familiar and which
he will call to your attention on the slightest provocation: (1)
Bellfounder was a Hackney and it Avas his blood that gave us the
greatest trotting sire that the world has ever produced. This is
the Englishman's estimate of Bellfounder when he has a Hackney
for sale, and especially if the prospective purchaser be an Ameri-
can. (2) He is descended from a long line of distinguished
trotters. To the first of these reiterated and parrot-like claims
an answer will be found in the chapter relating to that horse,
where his twenty-one years of stud service have been carefully
considered, and where he is shown to have been a monumental
failure. In the second claim there is some truth and we must
consider it very briefly.

Of all the elements entering into the families of horses locally
and indefinitely called Norfolk Trotters, there were two that
might be looked upon as the founders — Useful Cub and Shales —
for they were more conspicuous and valuable than any others.
Mr. John Lawrence was not only a practical horseman, but he
was the most intelligent and reliable of all the writers on the
horse in the latter part of the last century. He was the only
one who gave any attention to the trotter and trotting aifairs.



402 THE HORSE OF AMERICA.

He says: "To old Shales and Useful Cub the Isle of Ely, Cam-
bridgeshire and Norfolk are indebted for their fame in the pro-
duction of capital Hackneys." Useful Cub was bred by Thomas
Jenkinson, of Long Sutton in Lincolnshire, and was foaled about
1865-70, and was got by a Suffolk cart horse, doubtless a light
weight, and his dam was .by Golden Farmer, a son of the famous
half-bred Sampson, that was the great-grandsire of Messenger
and beat most of the best horses of his day. Mr, Lawrence knew
Useful Cub well, and was beaten by him in Hyde Park. We
have no details of this horse's performances, but it seems to be
conceded that he trotted fifteen, sixteen and seventeen miles in
the hour. Old Shales, or Scott's Shales, as he is sometimes
called, is described by Lawrence as "the bastard son of Blank,"
son of Godolphin Arabian, but Mr. Euren, the compiler of the
Hackney Stud Book maintains that he was the son of .Blaze and
not the son of Blank. The reasons given for this change I dO'
not remember, but they would have to be well founded before I
could throw overboard the contemporaneous evidence of Mr.
Lawrence. It will not do to say that Mr. Lawrence mistook the
name Blaze for Blank and so wrote it by mistake, for he knew
all about both horses. This distinction, however, is of but little-
practical value. The horses Shales and Useful Cub were both fast,
and successful trotters, in their day, and they both became dis-
tinguished sires of trotters. By this I do not mean that they
were the sires of all the trotters, for there were many that were
wholly unknown in their breeding.

Judging from the numbers of leading contests that were re-
ported in the Sporting Magazine and other publications, we must
conclude that trotting contests reached their height as well in
numbers as in public interest about the last decade in the last,
century. The contests were all to saddle, on the road, and the
leading ones were made under the watch and over a long distance
of ground, specifying such or such a distance to be made inside
of an hour. To form a correct estimate of the speed of those'
horses, I will copy one paragraph, entire, from the description
given by Mr. Lawrence concerning his own mare Betty Bloss:

" My own brown mare, known by the name of Betty Bloss, was the slowest,
of all the capital trotters, but at five years old trotted fifteen miles in one
hour, carrying fourteen stone, altbougii fairly mistress of no more than ten.
She afterward trotted sixteen miles within the hour, with ten stone, with,
much ease to herself and her rider. She was nearly broken down at four



THE OKLOFF TROTTER. 4,03

years old, had bad feet, and, besides, too much blood for a trotter, having beea
got by Sir Hale's Commoner, out of a tbree-part-bred daughter of Rattle, son
of Snip."

In this paragraph, from the best-informed man of his genera-
tion, it will be noted incidentally that the cry, "no more running
blood in the trotter," is not new, but more than a hundred years
old. The best performances were about sixteen miles in the
hour, but there was an occasional one that reached sixteen and
a half. A black gelding called Archer was recognized as the fast-
est of that period, and on one occasion under a stop watch he trotted
the second one of two miles in a little less than three minutes.
From my gleanings I find but a single instance from which we
might be able to approximate the money value of trotting horses of
that day, and this is given as a phenomenal price, viz.. Marshland
Shales, a paternal grandson of the original Shales and out of a
mare by Hue and Cry. He had beaten Reed's Driver in a match
of seventeen miles for 200 guineas. He was foaled 1802 and in
1812 he was sold at auction for 3,051 guineas — $15,255. He was a.
great horse, but this price was just as startling to Englishmen of
that day as the $105,000 was in our own day, when Axtell was
sold. This seems to have been the culmination of the "boom"
in Norfolk Trotters, and from then till the present there has been
a steady deterioration in the trotting step of the Norfolk horse.
In the earlier part of this period of eighty or ninety years, possi-
bly some exceptions may be found, but they are only individual
exceptions and do not controvert the broad fact that must be ap-
parent to all observers. They had been breeding and training
their horses to strike their chins with their knees — the up-and-
down motion — instead of getting away and covering some ground
in their action. I have stood and watched scores of them in the
show-ring, on their native heath, with their grooms at the ends
of long lines running and yelling like wild Indians to rouse up
their horses, and they called this training the trotters. When I
privately expressed the wish that saddles might be put on a few
of the best and the ring cleared so that the trotting action might
be studied, I was very kindly and politely assured that they did
not show their trotters that way in England. Thus with the
taut check-rein, the long leading-line and the whoops of the
groom they got the up-and-down action upon the perfection of
which the prizes were awarded. This explained why the splendid.



404 THE HORSE OF AMERICA,

foundation of a breed had been lost by non-use and why England
had produced no trotters in the past fifty or eighty years.

While our English cousins know they have no trotting horses
of their own they seem to be exceedingly anxious, possibly for
commercial reasons, to make it appear that the American trot-
ting horse is the lineal descendant of the Norfolk Trotter. This
effort is not restricted to the idle twaddle about Bell ounder,
which everybody on this side of the Atlantic estimates at its true
value, but it has taken an oflEicial and wider range, which, trifling
though it be, my duty as a historian impels me to expose. Mr.
Henry F. Euren, the compiler of the Hackney Stud Book, wrote
to the Commissioner of Agriculture, at Washington, D. C, in
1888, taking exceptions to some conclusions reached in an article
written by Mr. Leslie E. Macleod, in my office, on "The National
Horse of America," and published in the report of the Depart-
ment of Agriculture for 1887; Mr. Euren claiming that the Amer-
ican trotting horse came originally from Norfolk, in England.
In proof of this he says: "I beg to inclose you a cutting which
confirms my idea." And now for the "cutting" which he offers
as proof:

"It appears from an Act of Parliament, passed December 6, 1748, in the
T>egislature of the State of New Jersey, America, that on and after the publi-
cation of this Act, all Norfolk pacing or trotting of horses for lucre or gain,
or for any sum or sums of money at any time (excepting such times as are
hereafter expressly provided for by this Act), shall be and are hereby declared
public nuisances, provided always that at all fairs that are or may be held with-
in this province, and that on the first working day after the three great festivals
of Christmas, Easter and Whitsuntide, etc., etc."

The act passed by the provincial legislature of the colony of
New Jersey in 1748 embraced very stringent regulations against
dice, lotteries, etc., as well as horse racing. It is divided into
several sections, and at Section 4 we reach the provision against
racing as follows:

"And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that after ihe
publication of this Act, all horse racing, pacing or trotting of horses for lucre
or gain, or for any sum or sums of money at any time (excepting such times
as are hereafter expressly provided for and allowed by this Act), shall be and
are hereby declared public nuisances, and shall be prosecuted as public
nuisances, in manner hereinbefore directed. Provided always, and it is the
true intent and meaning of this Act, that at all fairs that are or may be held



Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 42 of 61)