Oscar Wilde.

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

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It is but just that I should say here, that from a wide knowledge
of men and from a study of their moral fiber extending through
many years in connection with horse affairs, I have found many
Kentuckians that were thoroughly truthful and reliable in pedi-
gree matters; but at the same time it must be admitted that the
conditions there for generations past have not been favorable,
among horsemen, for the cultivation of the highest type of truth-
fulness. Many of them have been making their own pedigrees
for so long, and padding them out with nameless dams by sup-
positious sires, to suit themselves — and the market — that they
don't take kindly to any restraint in what they consider their own

The great central truth in reproduction, whether of animals
or plants, is summed up in the homely but axiomatic phrase,
"like begets like. " With the rank and file of intelligent breeders
who were able to think, this axiom was soon accepted as a funda-
mental and basic truth. The phrase "trotting instinct" was
soon in everybody's mouth, and the broad, plain distinction be-
tween that and "running instinct" was so palpable and easy of
practical comprehension that the fallacy of a "thoroughbred
foundation" was buried out of sight. When it was considered
that the instinct of the one was to put forth his supreme effort
at the trot, and of the other to put forth his supreme effort at
the gallop, the irreconcilable antagonism between the two gaits
was apparent. The cumulative evidences furnished year after
year by the official records of performances on the tracks, and all
going to show that the trotting horse must have a trotting in-
heritance, soon became so overwhelming in the uniformity of
their teachings, and so completely unanswerable in the force of
numbers, that no man able to observe and think could any longer
doubt the truth of the position taken. But, unfortunately, some
men can neither observe nor think, and, what is still more un-
fortunate, they not infrequently undertake to fill the r61e of
public teachers and leaders of public thought. We can under-
stand how a man of average intelligence may be wise in many


things and foolish in others. When we come to study the
phenomena he presents, we find he has studied the subjects on
which he is wise, and he is ignorant on the subjects on which he
is foolish. Like "Brother Jasper," the negro preacher, he is
ready to maintain against all comers that "the sun do move."
Another class of men in the writing fraternity, but fortunately
they are restricted in numbers, have brains enough to apprehend
the facts surrounding them and their teachings, but they have
not conscience enough to lift them above their toadying instincts,
for fear they might miss the crumbs from a rich patron's table.
Another type of man, generally a beginner in the breeding busi-
ness, has a half-and-half-bred stallion at the head of his little
stud, and he is uniformly an enthusiast for the "thoroughbred
foundation." As might be expected, he fills the columns of all
the papers accessible with his "views of breeding," which are
always shaped to fit his own stallion and bring him patronage.
We might here go on and point out other types of would-be
"teachers" that would be entertaining, but certainly not profita-
ble or instructive. We might follow the vagaries of different
writers and show the origin and reason for those vagaries, but as
the breeding world has become far more intelligent, and I think
more honest, than it was twenty-five years ago, one vagary after
another has disappeared and been buried out of sight. All such
trumpery as, "to breed the trotter you must go to the runner,"
"more running blood in the trotter," "thoroughbred founda-
tion," etc., are phrases that are never heard in our dtty among
intelligent breeders. A mile in two minutes and thirty seconds
is "played out" as an evidence of trotting speed, but it is still
held in its place as such evidence to suit the blood and methods
of development at one particular establishment, and to gather in
the money for registration from the little felloAvs.

Anything slower than "two-twenty" is no longer looked uj)on
as of any value in a trotting sense.

This astonishing increase of speed has come hand in hand with
a closer and more careful observance of the law of inheritance,
or heredity. If we breed the merino ram upon a merino ewe, we
know that the produce will be a merino. If we breed the
cotswold on the cotswold we know the produce will be a cotswold,
but if we breed the merino on the cotswold the produce will be a
mongrel. The phsyical inheritance is destroyed, and in projjagat-
ing from this mongrel confusion, uncertainty and disappoint-


ment always follow. If we go a step higher and consider those
types of domestic animals endowed with a species of mentality
that we call instinct, we find the illustrations still more marked
and effective. The finely bred greyhound coupled with the
finely bred pointer produces neither a greyhound nor a pointer,
but only a nondescript cur. Sometimes the instincts of the
greyhound and sometimes the instincts of the pointer may be the
more masterful, but the inheritance is broken and divided, and
the mongrel should never be used for propagation. If we couple
the very best specimen of the English race horse with the very
best and fastest American trotting mare, the produce would be
literally half-and-half bred. The sire never could trot a mile in
four minutes and the dam never could run a mile in two minutes,
and what is the produce good for? Once in a hundred times the
running instinct might predominate and develop something of
a runner, and once in a hundred times the trotting instinct
might predominate, as in the case of Bonnie Scotland and Water-
witch, and produce something of a trotter, but of what value
would the half-and-half progeny be for breeding purposes?
Whatever might be the characteristics of their progeny, physi-
cally, they would undoubtedly and invariably inherit and transmit
not only divided, but antagonistic, instincts that would require
generations of careful selection and training to get rid of. While
the "featherheads" may, for the sake of personal consistency,
which is a very weighty matter of public concern, still advocate
"more running blood in the trotter;" and while one great con-
cern may still look one way, on this question, and row the other,
it being literally true that she has not added a single drop of
running blood to her trotting stud in a quarter of a century, it
is safe to say that the whole body of intelligent breeders of this
country have come to accept and obey the great central truth
that the American trotter has reached his present state of perfec-
tion by the development of his unbroken and undivided trotting
inheritances. These inheritances have been cumulative and thus
made stronger in each developed generation of ancestors, and if
this high development of speed is kept up for a series of succes-
sive generations the speed of the American trotter will be placed
at a point of which we have never yet dreamed. The inherited
and developed instinct to stick to the trot as the fastest gait of
which the horse is conscious, coupled with skillful preparation


and handling, are the two factors that will always put the Ameri-
can trotting horse in the front rank and keep him there.

In the early chapters of this work we have considered the
horse in his original habitat and his distribution among the
different peoples of the then known world, but we have not con-
sidered the distribution of the trotter through the different
regions of our own country. Fifty or sixty years ago tlie trot-
ting horse was hardly known outside of a limited territory em-
bracing the cities of New York and Philadelphia. In the New
England States the trappy little Morgan filled the place of the
driving horse with very great acceptance, but he had no speed as
a trotter. We then began to see and hear something of the
*' Maine Messengers," that were trotters in reality and able to
demonstrate their speed and courage on the track. Occasionally
a converted pacer would strike a trot and show speed that was
phenomenal in that day, but it was uniformly treated as "acci-
dental." There was a great deal of high-class trotting blood in
the region of Philadelphia, and for a time that was the leading
center of the trotting interest, but it did not receive that measure
of encouragement and support that was necessary to its permanent
growth, and the seat of empire was transferred to Long Island
and Orange County, New York. South of Mason and Dixon's
line the trotter was tabooed, as a mongrel nondescript, and ''not
worthy of the attention of a gentleman, sah." They had run-
ners and they had pacers, and as ail excellence in the shape of a
horse, at whatever gait, as they argued, must come from the
running horse or his progenitor, the Arabian, they had already
tlie very best material in the world for the production of the fast
trotter. The belief as expressed in their motto, "Speed at the
gallop was a guarantee of speed at any other gait required," per-
vaded all minds and directed all action in matters of breeding.
Thus they worked away for years trying to breed trotters from
blood that never could and that never did trot, and, strange as
it may seem, there are still some people in that region, at the
olose of the nineteenth century, trying to breed trotters from
runners. From New York as a common center all the breeding
States obtained their supplies of trotting blood, and they in time
became sources of supply. The only exception to this is tliat of
the pacer, which eventually developed into a trotting element
of some prominence and value, especially in the West and South.

The prominence of Kentucky as a breeding center is wholly


due to the trotting blood she obtained from New York. She had
plenty of pacing blood that was good, of its kind, but it was so
uncertain and sporadic that it did not commend itself to the
breeders of that section as a source of trotting speed. From an
early period in the history of the State the habits and fancies of
the people, in the richer portions, had been "horsey," from"^their
knowledge and familiarity with running races for many years,
and thus when the demand came for trotters they struck out
vigorously to meet that demand. When Mr. E. A. Alexander
organized the great Woodburn Farm he established a department
of trotters, which was among the very first of any magnitude in
the State. As he had been reared abroad he knew nothing about
American pedigrees, and in making his purchases of breeding
stock he was victimized by every sharper who came along with a
brood mare to sell. He was a man of honest purpose and excel-
lent natural judgment which told him to buy such breeding
animals as could trot themselves or had produced trotters, and if
he had been content to stop with what little he knew of their
breeding he would have been all right; but, meantime, the pro-
fessional pedigree-maker — the successor to the famous Patrick
Nesbitt Edgar — came along and tricked them out in an excel-
lent quality of pinchbeck pedigrees containing plenty of running
blood that had never trotted nor produced a trotter. When the
first Mr. Alexander died he was succeeded in the proprietorship'
of the great estate by his brother, a very worthy gentleman who
made it a law to the establishment that none of his horses should
ever start in a race. His fancy and knowledge were all in the
line of cattle, and he seemed to neither know nor care anything
about horses. Soon after this change in the ownership of the
estate a new manager was placed in charge, and it was soon
manifest that however absurd and untruthful the pedigrees of
breeding stock might be, they must not be questioned nor cor-
rected by any authority whatever. This doctrine of infallibility
as api)lied to Woodburn pedigrees was wholly incompatible with
what I conceived to be my duty to the breeding public. I had
accepted the Woodburn pedigrees, at the start, as trustworthy,
on the grounds of the eminence and high character of the first
Mr. Alexander, and it was far more than a surprise to me when
I discovered something of the extent to which the pedigrees of
the whole establishment had been honeycombed with the dis-
honesty of "sharpers" and "pedigree-makers.'* These fictions.


antedated any compilation or known authorit}' of trotting pedi-
grees, and there can be no doubt they were accepted as honest
statements of the blood of the animals in question, while many
of them were wholly fictitious and all of them contained crosses
on the maternal side that were merely imaginary. These embel-
lishments, to call them by no harder name, were uniformly in
one and the same direction, all stretching out to embrace as
much of the blood of the running horse as possible, and often a
great deal that was impossible. Here I may state the general
fact that all Kentuckians had claimed and exercised the right so
long to shape up their pedigrees to suit themselves and to bring
the most nioney in the market that a number of them still
claimed that as a right and became somewhat restive when told
that their pedigrees would be recorded just as far as they were
proved, and no further. Two or three breeders expostulated
against this rule, and in reply they were assured that they had a
perfect right to shape their pedigrees as they pleased, but that in=
sertion in the Register was the same as my personal indorsement,
and that this indorsement could not be given to any pedigree
that I did not know or believe to be honest and true. This
ended all doubts about the position and character of the Register,
and I think that every breeder of any standing in Kentucky
submitted to the rule, with the solitary exception of Woodburn
Farm. The manager of that establishment was not only unwill-
ing to have the infallibility of Woodburn pedigrees called in
question, but he aspired to the control of the pedigrees of all
other breeders in the whole country. When the National Asso-
ciation of Trotting Horse Breeders was organized in December,
1876, he was not only asked, but pressed, to become a member
and take part in its management and control. But no, he would
be "boss," or he would be nothing. New York was not the
right place to organize it. It should be organized in Kentucky,
and with the manager of Woodburn at the head of it. The
arrogance of this young manager was something amazing, his
intrigues to get control of registration were continued for a num-
ber of years, and the means employed to accomplish his endis
were of such a character as clearly to demonstrate that of all the
men in the world he was the last one who should be placed in
the control of such a trust. As this controversy extended
through the period of building up the breed of trotters, it is of
necessity a part of the literature of the formation of that breed,


and as some of the more salient points seem to be of sufficient
importance to hand down to future generations, I will here con-
sider them very briefly. In doing this I am conscious of some
feeling of embarrassment on account of the personal matters that
must enter into the recital, but it is a part of the trotting history
of the times, and I prefer that the truth may be preserved, what-
ever may be the teachings of the canons of taste.

In the collection and registration of pedigrees that seemed to
be more or less closely allied to trotting blood, embracing all
contained in the first, second and third volumes of the "Trotting
Register," there was no guide or rule to determine what was-
Avorthy of registration, in a trotting sense, and what was un-
worthy. I had a general conception of the families that had
produced trotters and those that had not, but I had no rule by
which I could decide what to admit and what to reject, except
that all actual performers of reputable speed must be admitted.
To undertake, on individual responsibility, to determine what
amount of trotting blood should be requisite to admission, and
how that amount should be measured, was quite too hazardous,
except when backed by a strong moral and numerical force of
breeders. Hence my active interest in the organization of the
National Association of Trotting Horse Breeders, and my earnest
desire that it might be composed of breeders of high standing
and character from all parts of the country. Upon the organiza-
tion of the association, its character was so entirely acceptable to
me that I did not hesitate to place in its hands the supervisor3i con-
trol of the registration of pedigrees for the "Trotting Register,"
to be exercised by a Board of Censors to be appointed annually.
The first board was appointed and entered on its functions Janu-
ary 15, 1877, by formulating the first set of rules relating to the
requisites necessary to the acceptance of pedigrees, in their form
and completeness. The third volume was then approaching
completion and the Board of Censors commenced their super-
visory duties on that volume.

The members of the Breeders' Association were generally men
of intelligence, and capable of thinking, and every suitable op-
portunity was improved to get their individual views on the ques-
tion as to whether a set of rules could be adopted by the associa-
tion that would distinguish between animals that had trotted
themselves or produced trotters in say 2:30, and animals that
had not. Not many had ever thought of the subject, but all


were ready to think of it more. The only objection urged was
that such a scheme would certainly reduce the fees for registra-
tion in large degree. To this I assented as doubtless true for the
time being, though in the end it would largely increase them,
but declared that it was not for the fees I was working, but to
establish a breed of trotting horses. When satisfied that a good
number of the leading breeders were thinking favorably of the
subject, it was presented to the public in a very modest and un-
pretentious way. In discussing "The Future of the Breeders'
Association," in Wallace's Motithly for April, 1878, the following
language occurs:

" lu addition to the thought and labor necessary to secure such an organiza-
tion as the interest demands, there is another topic that will require great
deliberation and wisdom, in the near future. The association must fix a stand-
ard of admission to the official record of pedigrees. Up to the present time
there has been no standard of blood requisite to secure a place in the Register.
This matter has been left wholly to the compiler, without even so much as
advice on the subject. The Register, therefore, has no value as a classifica-
tion of blood, but only as a reliable record of the pedigrees of the animals it
contains, whatever their blood may be."

This is the first intimation ever given to the public, so far as
I know, that any body of men ever contemplated the con-
struction of a standard to control the admission of trotting horses
to specific rank and registration. The question was thus placed
openly before the public and it was looked upon favorably by
those most immediately interested. In due time, at a meeting
of the Breeders' Association, a committee was appointed to whom
was referred all the suggestions that had been made for the pro-
posed scheme. Soon afterward (November 19, 1879) the com-
mittee reported the standard to a large, enthusiastic and har-
monious meeting of the Association, and it was unanimously
adopted as follows:


(Established by the National Association of Trotting-Horse Breeders,
November 19, 1879.)

In order to define what constitutes a trotting-bred borse, and to establish a
BREED of trotters on a more intelligent basis, the following rules are adopted
to control admission to the records of pedigrees. When an animal meets the
requirements of admission and is duly registered, it shall be accepted as a
standard trotting-bred animal.


First. — Any stallion that lias, himself, a record of two minutes and thirty
seconds (2:30) or better; provided any of his get has a record of 2:40 or better;
or provided his sire or his dam, his grandsire or his grandam, is already a
standard animal.

Second. — Any mare or gelding that has a record of 2:30 or better.

Third. — Any horse that is the sire of two animals with a record of 3:30 or

Fourth. — Any horse that is the sire of one animal with a record of 2:30 or
better; provided he has either of the following additional qualifications :

1. — A record himself of 2:40 or better.

2. — Is the sire of two other animals with a record of 2:40 or better.

3, — Has a site or dam, grandsire or grandam that is already a standard

FiPTH. — Any mare that has produced an animal with a record of 2:30 or

Sixth. — The progeny of a standard horse when out of a standard mare.

Seventh. —The progeny of a standard horse out of a mare by a standard

Eighth. — The progeny of a standard horse when out of a mare whose dam
is a standard mare.

Ninth. — Any mare that has a record of 2;40 or better, and whose sire or
dam, grandsire or grandam is a standard animal.

Tenth. — A record to wagon of 2:35 or better shall be regarded as equal to
a 2:30 record.

In this, its original form, the standard was administered suc-
cessfully and smoothly through the period of the compilation of
volumes four, five, six, and seven of the "Trotting Register,"
when it was revised by the Breeders' Association as follows:



In order to define what constitutes a trotting bred horse and to establish a
BREED of trotters on a more intelligent basis, the following rules are adopted
to control admission to the records of pedigrees. When an animal meets the
requirements of admission and is duly registered it shall be accepted as a
standard irotting-bred animal.

First. — Any stallion that has himself a record of two minutes and thirty
seconds (2:30) or better, provided any of his get has a record of 2:35 or better,
or provided his sire or his dam is already a standard animal.

Second. — Any mare or gelding that has a record of 2:30 or better.

Third. — Any horse that is the sire of two animals with a record of 2:30 or

FOORTH. — Any horse that is the sire of one animal with a record of 2:30 or
better, provided he has either of the following additional qualifications: (1) A
record himself of 2:35 or better. (2) Is the sire of two other animals with a


record of 2:35 or better. (3) Has a sire or dam tbat is already a standard

Fifth. — Any mare that has produced an animal with a record of 2:30 or

Sixth. — The progeny of a standard horse when out of a standard mare.

Seventh. — The female progeny of a standard horse when out of a mare by
a standard horse.

Eighth. — The female progeny of a standard horse when out of a mare
whose dam is a standard mare.

Ninth. — Any mare that has a record of 2:35 or better, and whose sire or
dam is a standard animal.

From the indefinite and unsatisfactory starting point, and
without any rule or guide as to what should be admitted, except
the pointless phrase, *'well related to trotting blood," it soon be-
came evident that the Register would soon contain as much chaff
as wheat. Through the Monthly, which was established for
that purpose, I did not despair of the success of my aim in lead-
ing the intelligent breeders of the country up to the point of
recognizing and establishing the American trotting horse as a
BREED. The road was long, steep, rough in places, and beset
with prejudices on all sides, but labor conquers all things, and
we have in the standard and its revision, as given above, the
culmination and perfection of the implements that were to effect
this purpose: To reject a horse from registration merely because
he was running bred would have been "flying in the face" of the
prejudices of nearly everybody, but to reject him because neither
he nor any of his tribe had ever been able to trot, Avas philosoph-
ical and just; and as it gave no section of the country an advan-
tage over any other section, and no theory an advantage over a

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 54 of 61)