Oscar Wilde.

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

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have been a tincture of pacing blood in the Spanish horses of the
sixteenth century. The Visigoths, one of the early Asiatic hordes
that overran Europe, first settled in Scandinavia, and the south-
ern part of Sweden is still called "Gothland." After a long stay
in that country they became dissatisfied with soil and climate
and determiued to seek another. According to the historians,
they first migrated in a southeastward direction and from
there in a southwestward till they reached the southern part of
France, from which they soon passed over into Spain, which they
subdued, and established there a dynasty which lasted two hun-
dred years. In a.d. 711 the Saracens from Africa crossed over,
and after a very bloody battle lasting two days, defeated Rhoderic,
the last of the dynasty, and cut his army to pieces. In Scandina-
via, and especially in Norway and Sweden, we find plenty of dun
horses that are pacers, and they are recognized as a very old
breed. In the mountains of Sjiain we also find small dun horses,
and it is, perhaps, not an unreasonable possibility that the
Visigoths may have carried some of their horse stock with them
in their migration from the North to the South of Europe, and
thus this habit of action that may have remained for centuries
latent in the breed may have been unusually plastic in its res-
toration. This, however, is a mere surmise as to a possibility
And cannot displace the historic observations reported by M.
Roulin and presented before the French Academy. The gait of
the South American pacers, as I understand it, is not that of the
pure pace, with two strokes completing the revolution, but is
more like the "saddle gaits" that we find in the West and South-
west of our own country. The true pace seems to be exceptional,
because that is not a saddle gait. It is a fact often observed in
this country that foals from parents trained to the saddle gaits
will take to those gaits naturally and as soon as they are dropped.
In a preceding part of this work I have given some consideration
to the fact that three or four hundred years ago the horses of our
English ancestors were largely pacers, and to the methods adopted
in that day for changing the action from the diagonal to the
lateral gait — the hopples, rattles, weights, etc. The descendants
of those horses, brought to this country by the colonists, as will
be seen at another place, were nearly all pacers.

The following letter, addressed by Dr. William Huggins to
Charles Darwin and by him published in "Nature" twenty years
iigo, very strongly illustrates the heredity of instincts, and as it


is authentic and true beyond question I will here insert it. Dr.
Huggins says: ^

"I wish to communicate to you a curious case of mental peculiarity. I pos-
sess an English mastiff, by name Kepler, a son of the celebrated Turk out of
Venus. I brought the dog, when six weeks old, from the stable in which he
was born. The first time I took him out he started back in alarm at the first
butcher's shop he had ever seen. I soon found he had a violent antipathy to
butchers and butchers' shops. When six months old a servant took him with
her on an errand. At a short distance before coming to the house she had to
pass a butcher's shop; the dog threw himself down (being led by a string),
and neither coaxing nor threats would make him pass the shop. The dog was
too heavy to be carried, and as a crowd collected, the servant had to return
with the dog more than a mile, and then go without him. This occurred about
two years ago. The antipathy still continues, but the dog will pass nearer to
a shop than he formerly would. About two months ago, in a little book on
do^s, published by Dean, I discovered that the same strange antipathy is shown
in the father, Turk. I then wrote to Mr. Nichols, the former owner of Turk,
to ask him for any information he might have on the point. He replied : " I
can say that the same antipathy exists in King, the sire of Turk, in Turk, in
Punch (son of Turk), out of Meg, and in Paris (son of Turk out of Juno).
Paris has the greatest antipathy, as he would hardly go into a street where a
butcher's shop is, and would run away after passing it. When a cart with a
butcher's man came into the place where the dogs were kept, although they
could not see him, they all were ready to break their chains. A master
butcher, dresssd privately, called one evening on Paris' master to see the dog.
He had hardly entered the house before the dog (though shut in) was .'■o much
excited that he had to be put into a shed, and the butcher was forced to leave
before seeing the dog. The same dog, at Hastings, made a spring at a gentle-
man who came into the hotel. The owner caught the dog and apologized, and
said he never knew him to do so before, except when a butcher came to his
house. The gentleman at once said that was his business. So you see that
they inherited these antipathies, and show a great deal of breed."

Some ancestor, not far removed, of these three generations of
dogs must have suffered a life of oppression and cruelty at the
hands of an unfeeling master, and that master must have been a
butcher. We fail to understand and appreciate the mentality of
the dog and the horse, and as they are above the average of the
brute creation we fail of a word midway between instinct and
reason to express that mentality. We call it "instinct," and cor-
rectly, too, but this grade of instinct requires a more expressive
word to represent it. That a feeling of antipathy should have
been so deeply seated in the nature and life of a dog that the
resentment and hatred should have been transmitted to his de-


scendants for three generations in succession is a very remarka-
ble instance of the heredity of instinct. As a companion piece
to the foregoing and as showing the difference between the
hatred of one dog and the gratitude and love of another, I will
relate an instance that came under my own observation and
knowledge more than forty years ago. General John G. Gordon
was a merchant in Muscatine, Iowa, and Dr. George Reeder was
a physician of great skill and very large practice. These two
gentlemen were among my most intimate personal friends. On
a certain occasion one of Gordon's well-to-do farmer customers
brought him a puppy a few months old as a present. He had
no use for a dog and didn't want one, but he was not willing to
forfeit either the good wishes or the custom of his farmer
friend, so he accepted the gift with thanks. When he took the
puppy home in the evening there was consternation in the house-
hold, and in a family conference it was decided that he should
not be allowed to run through the house with his dirty feet, and
thereupon he was consigned to the cow stable, and that became
his home as long as he lived. Every night and morning he got
a liberal ration of milk fresh from the cow and they soon became
inseparable friends. In cold nights, as if by mutual agreement,
he always slept cuddled up close to the cow. At that time in
the history of the town, the country was open and pasture abun-
dant in every direction, and everybody kept a cow. In the morn-
ings these cows would start out to their grazing grounds, in
bands, radiating in every direction, and in the evenings could be
seen "the lowing herds wind sloAvly o'er the lea." Gordon's
dog never missed a day for years in going with his friend the
cow and returning with her in the evening.

Dr. Reeder used two or three horses in his practice, and his sta-
ble was on the same alley, and some ten or twelve rods distant from
Gordon's cow stable. One day in winter time he was having his
bins filled with corn in the ear, and to make room for it all he
had to fill up a large dry-goods box that stood in one"corner of
the »table. While he was supervising the delivery of the corn
Gordon's dog came in, reared up on his hind legs, seized an ear
of corn and made off with it. The doctor was very much sur-
prised at this act of the dog as he never had seen or heard of a
dog eating corn. While he was thinking about this strange act
of the dog, he came back again and seized another ear and made
off with it. This time the doctor watched him, and he carried it


direct to his friend the coav, dropjaed it before her, and she soon
made away with it. This phenomenal exhibition of the attachment
of one animal to another of entirely different nature aroused the
doctor's desire for a further confirmation of what he had seen.
Concealing himself behind the door he awaited further develop-
ments and in a little while the dog came back, seized the third
ear, and whipping past some other cows, carried it safely to his
friend. I have seen this dog a hundred times, and he was a
mongrel nondescript, about the size of the average pointer, with
nothing remarkable about his appearance; but in all the illustra-
tions of all the naturalists I have not met with any authenticated
instance where character in a dumb animal was so beautifully
■exhibited. In history we have many touching examples of the
attachment of the dog to his master and of his heroism in de-
fending the weak against the strong, but this case seems to be
unique. Here is a character developed that is far more than **the
sum of inherited habits." We may call it instinct, but that word
fails to express it. In' whatever light we view this character, it has
in it an element of re9,son and we have no word that expresses it.

The oldest written evidence we have of the origin of the setter
■dog dates back about two hundred years, in which we find John
Harris agreeing to teach Henry Herbert's "spaniel bitch Quand "
to set game. Allusions are made in the old writers to dogs used
for this purpose long before, but the setter certainly has an
ancestry dating back at least two hundred years. The pointer
is of much more recent origin and seems to have come from an
ancestry wholly distinct from that of the setter, and yet, in the
field, it would be very difficult for the most competent jury to
decide which stands to his game with the greater steadiness. It
is agreed, I think, among experienced sportsmen and breeders
that the best dogs are the result of couplings made in the midst
of the hunting season when the instincts of the parents are aroused
and active under the gun. Puppies so bred are already half-
trained when they are whelped. The instinct to point the game
instead of rushing upon it is an instinct acquired at an earlier or
later date, well within the historic period, and we know that it is
transmitted and inherited under the laws of heredity. We know
also that this instinct is strengthened and improved by training
and use; and at the same time it is weakened, if not obliterated,
by neglect and non-use for a few generations.

The Scotch collie, with plenty to do, is altogether the most


useful, and hence, in a utilitarian sense, the most valuable of all
the varieties of the canine race. In understanding his master's
commands and the motions of his hand in the management of the
flock, he evinces an intelligence, an instinct, that is almost human.
There is a marked distinction between the instinct of the pointer
and the collie. The former acts chiefly by his innate mental
endowments, while the latter is at his best when carrying out the
will of his master. In both cases the instinct was acquired in
comparatively recent years, and it is now fixed in the breeds and
is transmitted with great certainty.

The most remarkable results in the development and use of an
instinct that was practically latent, or never developed, are to be
found in the history of the American Trotting Horse. Fifty-one
years ago Lady Suffolk was the first trotter to cover the mile in
3:29^. Four years later Pelham, a converted pacer, trotted in
2:28, and four years still later Highland Maid, a converted pacer,
trotted in 2:27. In 1859 Flora Temple trotted in 2:19f ; in 1874
Goldsmith Maid trotted in 2:14; in 1885 Maud S. trotted in
2:08|; in 1892 Nancy Hanks trotted in 2:04; and in 1894 AJix
trotted in 2:03f. But a greater performance than any of these
was that of the two-year-old colt, Arion, when in 1891 he covered
the mile in 2:10f. I have no hesitation in pronouncing this the
greatest perforrnance ever made, to this date, not because it was
the fastest, as shown by the watch, but because it was made by a
two-year-old, and from this fact there had been no time for pro-
longed and skillful training. He was essentially the product of
heredity and not the result of education.

Fifty-one years ago there was but one animal in the 2:30 list,
and at the close of 1896 there were over fifteen thousand within
that limit and far more than fifteen thousand others hovering on
its border. This astouTiding result must be attributed primarily
to a trotting inheritance, but this inheritance has been constantly
strengthened, reinforced, fortified by the acquired capacities re-
sulting from the development of the trotting speed of succeeding
generations. This is not a mere estimate of what has resulted
from acquired characters and instincts, for if we put all the
observations of all the writers on subjects of natural history,
large and small, together, they make but a meager and unsatis-
factory showing when compared with the fifteen thousand actual
experiences, officially noted and recorded on the spot and printed
in "Wallace's Year Book." In all the world there is no other


collection of statistics so vast, so accurate and so valuable as is
there to be found, touching the question we are considering.

"While the heredity of acquired characters and instincts is thus
clearly and fully established, there is another truth intimately
connected with it that should not be forgotten. In an inherit-
ance springing from recent acquisitions there seems to be less of
adhesive strength than in one that has come down through many
generations. This being true, it follows that whether the lines
of inheritance be long or short there must be an intelligent and
constant exercise of good judgment in strengthening them
by bringing the best and strongest together and uniting them in
the prospective foal. When this has been done it is possible that
the foal may not be of much value, but the cliances of success
are in exact proportion to the strength of all the lines of inherit-
ance that are united in the foal. Beyond the chance of failure
and beyond the average chance of an average production, there
is a chance for something better than any of the ancestors. This
latter hope always has been and always Avill be the inspiration of
the breeder. In his structure and form he may be an improve-
ment on his parents, but his value as a trotter can only be de-
termined by the development of his instincts and speed as a
trotter. Without such development he may transmit what he
inherits, but he adds nothing to his inheritance except by the de-
velopment of his own powers. These accretions, growing out of
the development of succeeding generations, are the material cause
that has placed the American Trotter at the very edge of two
minutes to the mile, and with wise management will eventually
carry him away beyond that rate of speed. This whole topic
may be summed up in a single sentence: every acquisition of
eminence and superiority adds something to the value of what
is transmitted.

Heredity of Bad Qualities, Unsoundness, etc. — Under the
laws of inheritance no distinction can be made between the de-
sirable and the undesirable, nor between the earlier or later
acquisitions, as they are all liable to be transmitted and to be-
come hereditary. The bitter must go with the sweet. Dropping
below is just as liable to occur as rising above what might be con-
sidered the average inheritance of the immediate parents. This
may result from following or throwing back to some undesirable
or unsound cross that may exist in some of the lines of inherit-
ance which possibly may be distant several generations. As a


practical consideration it makes but little difference whether a
tendency to, or a fully developed, unsoundness has been in the
inheritance for generations, or whether it may be the result of
some recent accident or injury, it is liable to be transmitted. It
is known to everybody that the great running horse Lexington
was blind, and it was urged that his blindness Avas not congenital,
but the result of an accident; hence it was argued by those in-
terested that it would not be unsafe to breed to him. It was
stated and repeated a hundred times that while in training he
got loose in his stable and stuffed himself at the oats bin, and
without knowing this his trainer took him out next morning and
ran him a trial of four miles, from the effects of which he lost
his sight. "Without giving full credence to this as the cause of
his blindness, it is nevertheless true that he filled the country
with blind horses. If, for example, a joint or a ligament or a
muscle of the hind leg be sprained by overexertion or by a mis-
step, a spavin or a curb may develop, or possibly something still
worse, and this is a blemish and generally an unsoundness that is
likely to be transmitted, if not in a developed form, then in an
unmistakable tendency in that direction, which, in turn, will
make its appearance in succeeding generations. The horse world,
and I might say, the whole animal kingdom under domestication,
abounds in examples, seen and unseen, of unsoundness originat-
ing in injuries to the parents.



Trotting speed first supposed to be an accident — Then, that it came from
the runner — William Wheelan's views — Test of powers of endurance —
The term " thorouglibred " much abused — Definition of "thoroughbred"
— How trotters may be made "thoroughly bred" — How to study pedi
greesj— 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 incon-
gruity " — The pacer and trotter inseparable — How to save the trot and re-
duce tlie ratio of pacers — Development a necessity — Table proving this
proposition — The "tin cup" policy a failure — Woodburn at the wrong
end of the procession.

Before the question of speed in the trotter began to be con-
sidered, either from a historical or a philosophical standpoint, or,
in other words, a question involving scientific truths, there was a
universal concurrence in the idea that speed at the trot was an
accident and that there was nothing of inheritance or heredity
about it. This idea was greatly strengthened by the performances
of such horses as Boston Horse, Rattler, Edwin Forrest, Dutch-
man, Confidence, Moscow, Pelham, Flora Temple, Tacony, etc.,
whose origin and blood were wholly unknown, while they were
on the turf. Contemporaneous with these there were such
splendid performers as Topgallant, Screwdriver, Lady Suffolk,
Sally Miller, 0' Biennis and many others that were known to be
descended from Messenger, a horse that was looked upon by
everybody as a "thoroughbred." Hence, the conclusion that the
flying trotter was either an accident in breeding, or his speed
qualities came from the English running horse. The fact that
such champion trotters, in their day, as Pelham, Highland Maid,
etc., had originally been pacers and changed from the lateral to
the diagonal gait was sedulously concealed from the public, dur-
ing their day, and only after they had passed away was this bar-


sinister in their origin brought to light. Doubtless this same
fact might have been developed in the origin of Edwin Forrest
and others, if action had been taken in time. In that day — say
the first half of this century — it is not remarkable that the
plebeian origin of some of our most famous early trotters was con-
cealed, for everybody was claiming a thoroughbred ancestry, and
the more famous the performer the more certain he was to be
furnished Avith a thoroughbred pedigree.

"Whatever is of value in the trotter must come from the run-
ner, and whatever is of value in the runner must come from the
Arab," was the view that was universally accepted when I was
a boy. And yet there were thousands of fast trotters and fast
pacers in this country long before the first running horse was
brought from England, and England itself was abundantly sup-
plied with horses several hundred years before there was a horse
in Arabia. These two facts are historical, and the dates make
them incontrovertible. Some forty or fifty years ago AYilliam
Wheelan, a successful trainer and driver of trotting horses in this
country, took some trotters over to England, to try his "luck,"
as others had done before him, in making matches and winning
stakes. He was quite successful, and when he came home he was
kept busy answering questions about English horses and why
they did not have more trotters there. He replied that "there were
plenty of horses that could trot as well or better than our Ameri-
can horses, if they were trained; they had plenty of blood and
most of them good limbs and feet, with all the substance that
was needed." This made William Wheelan an authority, and
his opinion was quoted all over the land; which went to prove
that the way to breed the trotter was to get plenty of running
blood into his veins. About this time the English running horse
Trustee was bred on a famous trotting mare, Fanny Pullen, a
daughter of Winthrop Messenger, of Maine, and the produce was
the gelding Trustee, the first to trot twenty miles within the
hour, or at least the first to make that distance regularly and to
rule. This gave a tremendous "boost" to running blood, as
everybody except Hiram Woodruff ascribed the result to the
great powers of the imported running horse. All subsequent ex-
periences fully demonstrated that Hiram Woodruff, although
alone, was right; for although Trustee's blood commingled more
k'ndly with trotting blood than most of the other running
horses, he left no trotters but this one. The highest rate of


speed of which this gelding was capable was about 2:40, and at
last, in a race of mile heats with some fifth-rate old pelter, at
Cincinnati, Ohio, on a very hot day, he fell exhausted on the
track and died from the effects of the heat. But the great fame
of being the only horse able to trot twenty miles within the hour
did not long remain with this son of imported Trustee. Five
others have done the same thing, viz.. Captain Magowan, Con-
troller, John Stewart, Mattie Howiird, and Lady Fulton, all of
whom went faster than Trustee, except Lady Fulton.

There have been many crucial tests of the "staying qualities"
of running blood in the trotter, as against the trotter without
any running blood, in which the running blood has uniformly
been worsted. The last of these which I now recall was a match
for two thousand dollars between Scotland, a half-bred son of
imported Bonnie Scotland, and Lizzie M., by Thomas Jefferson,
and out of a pacing mare. The race was two-mile heats, best
three in five — a very unusual race, and admirably adapted to test
the staying poAvers of the contestants. Scotland was a fast and
well-seasoned trotter; while the mare had, probably, a little
higher flight of speed she never had been tried at such a distance,
and in her breeding she was short, and had not a single drop of
running blood in her inheritance. The mare won the first and
second heats in 4:56-^5:03, and the gelding the third heat in
4:55^, the fastest in the race, but he was not able to come again,
and the last heat was Avon by the mare in 4:58|^. This race took place
at Philadelphia in 1883, and if, at that time, there still remained
any advocates of "more running blood in the trotter," they have
not since been in evidence, with two or three addle-pated excep-

In looking back over the many years I have devoted to the litera-
ture of the horse, and especially to the breeding of the trotting
horse, I can find no word in the English language that has been
so much abused as the word "thoroughbred." A minister wrote
a great, pretentious book on the horse in which he maintained
that the Morgan horse Avas a "thoroughbred." A lawyer Avrote

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 50 of 61)