Walter Gilbey.

Riding and driving horses; their breeding and rearing online

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04 225 465







First Published in 1885
Second Edition ,, igoi
Third Edition ,, K^oy





An Address delivered at the Farmers' Club, London,
2nd March, 188^, and discussions thereon

8 Bream's Buildings, Chancery Lane, London, E,C.

f (LONDON) 1












Address delivered by Sir Walter Gilbey at the
Farmers Club, London, 2nd March, i88^

Discussion by :

The Earl of Carington ...

The Late Mr. Edmund Tattersall

The Late Duke of Westminster, K.G

The Late Mr. Anthony Hamond

Sir Nigel Kingscote, K.C.B

Mr. J. K. Fowler ...

Mr. F. Sherborn ...

Sir Jacob Wilson ...

Major Dashwood

Mr. T. B. Woodward

Captain Fife...

Sir Walter Gilbey's Reply

.. 46

49 & 55


^ Cornell University
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For many years the subjects dealt with in this
Address have interested me deeply. Twelve months
ago I made application to Mr. Druce, the Secretary of
this Club, to make this address, but was unfortunately
too late, all arrangements for 1884 having been then

Very many causes have been assigned for the
decline of horse-breeding. It will be noticed that I
accept one more particularly, to wit, the failure in per-
severing to raise animals of size, quality, and value.
The principal object which I have in view, therefore,
is to make our shortcomings in this respect more gene-
rally known, and to offer suggestions for breeding
horses of greater size, as they will always command
a ready sale at prices remunerative to the breeder.

It is an admitted fact that we possess the
true-bred English sires and dams which cannot be

equalled in any other country. We may import from
foreign lands corn, meat, dairy-produce, vegetables,
eggs, and other luxuries of excellent quality, and at
an unlimited extent, but sizeable horses of a high
class, such as hunters, carriage horses, and heavy
draught horses, must be raised at home.

At the present time there is a greater demand
than ever for animals carrying from 12 to 15 stone,
which will hunt or hack, and also prove suitable as
match horses for carriage purposes. Horses of this
type, indeed — square-made, sizeable, with proper
courage and action — can scarcely be obtained.

In proof of this it is only necessary for a good
judge to visit the yards of our metropolitan and
country dealers, and he will soon discover how hard
and costly a job it is to pick up a London brougham
horse or a match pair from 15 '2 to 16 '2 hands in
height, with good feet and legs, stylish in carriage,
and workably sound. During the past few years,,
for such purposes buyers have had to content
themselves but too often with foreign horses at


extravagant prices.

Hundreds of pairs of carriage and coach
horses are sold yearly in London to purchasers,
unconscious of their origin, at from ^^200 to ^500
the pair, an anomaly for which it is unjust to blame
the dealers when English bred horses are not to be
found in the country. As the demand is thus beyond
the supply, these enterprising dealers have now their
agents on the Continent always ready to purchase

the most " English"-looking animals they can find.
And in nearly all cases they have been bred from
English stock.

To show to what an extent this foreign trade
is being carried on, it is only necessary to refer to
the annual returns of horses imported into this
country. The following table of foreign imports
speaks for itself: — In the ten years between 1863
and 1S72, foreign horses were imported into these
islands to the extent of only 29,131 head; but in
the corresponding ten years, between 1873 and
1882, no less than 197,092 head were imported.
How can this alarming increase be accounted for ?
Supposing these animals to be of the value of .^^35
each, we have a loss to this country of ^5,850,600.

It was stated in the Daily Telegraph only as
recently as the 24th March last: — " Seven years ago
one of the greatest authorities upon the subject of
horseflesh that ever entered a stable, concluded a
letter with the following inquiry: — 'What then has
become of our boasted English horse ? Those that
I now see are for the most part tall, leggy animals,
without bone or action, and not fitted to make a
hunter or a carriage horse, or a riding horse up to
any weight.' "

Similar opinions to the above were expressed
by many witnesses who appeared before Lord
Rosebery's Select Committee of the House of Lords,
in 1873. That Committee sat seventeen times, heard
evidence, and finally reported that "The deficiency

of native-born English horses is due, first, to the
exportation of mares to foreign countries ; secondly,
to the increased profits on sheep and cattle, which
from being more rapidly realised, are doubly attractive
to the farmers as compared with those obtained hy
the breeding of horses ; and, t/m^dly, to the increased
demand for horses consequent upon a multiplication
of population and wealth." And yet, with all this,
and as a proof that there has been no lack of money
offered as prizes at the various shows in the United
Kingdom for thoroughbred stallions, hunters,
hacks, and carriage horses, I estimate that hundreds
of thousands of pounds have been given away in
prizes to these classes during the past twenty-five

The subject of our present supply of horses is one
also that has met with ample consideration at the
hands of most competent authorities. Earl Cathcart
says that, failing other writers, he was inspired
to undertake, from an agricultural point of view, the
difficult task of compiling some opinions on what he
is pleased to call the " too-long-neglected subject of
half-bred horses for field or road, their breeding and

The article occupies fifty-five pages, and, with,
a view of showing the importance he attaches to the
subject, he remarks, "The horse is one of God's
precious gifts to the nation for our comfort and

* Lord Cathcart's article in the Journal (Vol. ig) of the Royal Agri-
cultural Society, published in 1883 by John Murray, London.


pleasure in peace, for our credit and advantage in
commerce, and may be for our safeguard in war."

He supports his statements by the opinions of
several practical breeders, and gives also the names,
extending back over twenty years, of persons asking
for information on various points connected with his

In addition, he quotes from the reports of
the Stewards and Judges of the Royal Agricultural
Society, complaining of the Hunters and Carriage
Horses exhibited at the different shows for a period
•of twenty years, from 1863 to 1883.

Thus we find that in 1868, at Leicester, in a
fox-hunting country, "Stallions were a moderate
lot, the Hunters being- especially disappointing."

At Manchester, in 1869, "the Thoroughbred
Horses were bad."

At Oxford, in 1870, we were told that "In-
feriority generally prevails."

At Hull, in 1873, "The Show was not grand
for Yorkshire."

At Taunton, in 1875, Lord Cathcart says, " In
Somersetshire the Thoroughbred Horse is almost as
unknown as the Dodo."

The Honble. Francis Lawley,* in his Report on
the International Horse Show at Kilburn in 1879,
states that no less a sum than ^^ 1,060 was offered

*"The Report upon the Exhibition of Horses at Kilburn," by the
Honble. Francis Lawley, Journal Royal Agricultural Society, Vol. 15, Second
Series, 1879.

in classes for Riding and Driving Horses, and
Thoroughbred Stallions forgetting Hunters; that the
Thoroughbreds were not good, and goes on further
to say that some of the Anglo-Norman stallions
from France mig-ht well be left in England to
improve our carriage horses.

At the Royal Agricultural Show at Derby, in
1881, _;^ 1,000 was offered in prizes, but the Judges'
Report was that " Thoroughbreds, never strong at
the Royal Shows, were a very bad lot, the stallions
for o-ettincf hunters bein^ few in number and inferior
in quality."

The foregoing remarks seem clearly to indicate
a general falling off in high-class horses.

In the case of half-bred horses it is to my
mind easy to explain why these have been bred in
less numbers of late years than formerly. There may,
perhaps, be other causes besides those which I shall
assign, but the most important one is that we have
failed to follow up the system adopted by our

W(t have, I fear, been taken off the true and
direct line by reason of the often expressed belief
" that our best mares have left the country."* There
is no foundation for such constantly repeated, and, as
I believe, wrong assertions. We possess two " races"
distinct in lineage which, if properly mated, will

* We have not been breeding ; hence in great measure the want of
mares ; foreigners have always bought the best we would sell.


produce mares of the type and usefulness attained
fifty or one hundred years ago.

Every farmer who possesses a mare, whether
well or ill-shaped, sound or lame, thinks her good
enough to breed from. I should say, on the contrary,
do not breed from the old mare becaitse she is an old
mare, but select a sizeable and suitable two- or three-
year-old filly, and the produce from her will repay
you for its keep.

On this point Mr. Lumley Hodgson, in com-
' menting on Lord Cathcart's article, says : —

" Concerning mares generally we breed from the
refuse, the worn-out and worthless.

"On many small holdings, now consolidated,
small farmers worked useful mares and bred valuable

"We have lost the old useful short-legged
Suffolk Punch, which could ride, drive, plough, cart,
or breed a hunter.

"A thoroughbred horse can get a general purpose
horse from an active cart mare — you must have one
with quality, a good game head, silky mane, good
sloping shoulders, good action ; but do bear this in
mind, you must have game and mettle in the mare.
A sluggish, coarse, heavy mare, will assuredly breed
a slug. The old-fashioned and unhappily virtually
extinct Cleveland could ride, hunt, plough, and, to
a short-legged thoroughbred horse, breed the best of


It is well known that in the breeding of every

species of animal the research after one quaHty,
while it leads to greater perfection therein, is often
accompanied by manifest deterioration in other
attributes. Such has been the consequence of aim-
ing at speed, while the other essentials, such as size,
shape, action, and strength, have been wholly lost
sight of Horses can be reared according to the
wishes and instinct of man, and the blood of the
thoroughbred has been sought for and used as
though pace was the first and only essential.

Earl Cathcart says: —

"In addition and supplementary to blood we
must have substance from somewhere. Weight-
carrying half-bred horses, chargers and hunters, and
strong and nimble enduring hacks are, and will con-
tinue to be for ages to come, more and more in
demand, and will and must be continually, perhaps
increasingly, produced in their natural home —
England — and that in the greatest possible per-
fection. And if in this affair we cannot attain to
the absolute certainty of science, the convergence
of many minds and many experiences towards one
centre may result in the evolution of some recognised
principles. See, for example, how Mr. James Howard,
M.P., practically treats the physiology of breeding* ;
he comes to the conclusion that certain cardinal
points in the art of breeding have been fairly
established. Such, for instance, as outward con-

*" Application of Natural Laws to the Breeding of Horses, Cattle
and Sheep."— /oKrart/ Royal Agricultural Society, Vol. 17, 1881.

formation being derived from the male parent,
the internal organs chiefly from the female, and
so on."

While on this question of speed and breeding,
I may draw attention to another point. We often
find that a mare has been mated with a thorough-
bred horse because she is fast, in order to produce
something still faster. She has proved to be good
as a hunter, as a hack, or for driving purposes, and
has already continuous strains of thoroughbred in her
veins, and her dam was perhaps not so big as herself.
According to all established principles, the
produce from mares answering this description must
degenerate in size, as the bulk of the foal must
accord with the room through which the foal has tO'

When the male is much larger than the female,,
the offspring is generally of an imperfect form.
If the female be proportionately larger than the
male, the offspring is of an improved form.

The improvement depends on this principle,
that the power of the female to supply her offspring
with nourishment is in proportion to her size, and tO'
the power of nourishing herself from the excellence
of her constitution. The size of the foetus is generally
in proportion to that of the female parent, and, there-
fore, when the female parent is disproportionately
small, the quantity of nourishment is deficient and
her offspring has all the disproportions as a


The larger female, as a rule, has also a larger
quantity of milk, and her offspring is more abundantly-
supplied with nourishment after birth. Abundant
nourishment is necessary to produce the most
perfectly formed animal, from the earliest period of
its existence until its growth is complete. The
power to prepare the greatest quantity of nourish-
ment from a given quantity of food dejDends
principally on the magnitude of the lungs, to which
the organs of digestion are subservient.

To obtain animals with large lungs, crossing is
the most expeditious method ; because well-formed
females may be selected from a variety of large size
to be put to~a well-formed male of a variety that is
smaller. By such a mode of crossing, the lungs and
heart become proportionately larger, in consequence
of a peculiarity in the circulation of the fcetus, which
■causes a larger proportion of blood, under such
circumstances, to be distributed to the lungs than
to other parts of the body ; and as the shape
and size of the chest depend upon that of the lungs,
hence arises a large chest, which is produced
by crossing with females that are larger than the

As an illustration of this, we have the larger foal
obtained from the roomy draught-mare crossed with
a thoroughbred stallion, in comparison with the
opposite cross of a thoroughbred mare with a cart

The foregoing embrace the opinions of Henry

1 1

Cline, * deduced from experience gained upon his farm
at Southgate, near London, in the last century, and
are ■ supported by all the most eminent practical
breeders, such as Bakewell, Cully, Somerville, Parry,
and others ; as well as by most theorists, among
whom we may mention Dr. Coventry — who wrote
a pamphlet in 1806, entitled, "Remarks on Live
Stock " — and also Darwin, Hunt, and Young.

It must be admitted that during the past half-
century we have not made a study, or given much
thought to breeding horses, with the exception of
Thoroughbreds and the draught massive beasts of
burden. The farmers have considered it more
remunerative to till the soil and grow corn, cattle and
sheep. The intermediate animals, other than the
race-horse or the draught- horse, have received but
little attention.

Of those two definable types the race-horse
descends from the Arab or Barb — we now call them
Thoroughbreds ; the thoroughbred coming pure
from the Eastern animals imported into England
with no intermixture of alien blood.

Of the draught type we have the old English
Cart-horse, spoken of by mediaeval writers as the
Great-horse and the War-horse.

On these two types, long continued, costly, and
thoughtful care has been bestowed, with a view to

* Henry Cline (born 1750, died 1827), a celebrated surgeon in London.
" Form of Animals," two editions published in 1805, and republished in
1806 and 1829).


found or constitute in them a distinctive lineage.
From each of them classes have been established^
which, by common practice, are called "breeds."
Thus, as an outcome of the light breeds we have
the Race-horse, the Hackney, and other varieties.
As an outcome of the heavy breeds we have the
Shire, Suffolk, Cleveland, and Clydesdales.

This opinion I find supported in a work by
Cully,* who was a pupil of Robert Bakewells,
published so long ago as 1794, in which the author
says: — "It is generally thought that we have only
two original breeds of horses in this Island, viz., the
race of blood kind and the black cart breed ; the rest
have been supposed to be only variations from these
two by repeated crossings."


The size and weight-carrying power of horses
bred in Ireland have not kept pace with the
demand. For one sizeable animal bred and up to
weight or fit for coach or carriage purposes, there
are at present twenty-five small undersized horses.
In reality, the craze for pace has been increasingly
in the ascendant, and size and substance have been
sacrificed. Those persons who have occasionally
attended the Royal Dublin Show can but have
noticed this.

* " Observations on Live Stock," by George Cully, published in 1799
and afterwards republished, the 4th edition dated 1807.

Ireland being a country which still holds its
name as producing horses of rare excellence— the
climate is most suitable, and it has the best pasture
lands in the world for growing the right sort of bone
— it is certain that very many of the best hunters
are bred there. Nevertheless, the number of size-
able riding and driving horses is a small percentage
of the enormous number bred every year.


As previously mentioned, the breed is of Eastern
origin, descending in a direct line from imported
Arabians and Barbs, and has not that antiquity in
this country which many people imagine. The
history should be well known, since it has been told
by hundreds of able and experienced writers during
the past century.

Let me turn first to the Sporting Magazine,
Vol. I, November, 1792, in which I find the following
remarks : —

"In taking a review of horses in England, from
early times to the preserjt, they seem only to have
been divided into two general classes, which may be
ranged under two distinct periods of time ; in the
FIRST era it was a universal custom for horsemen to
fight in armour, and the service was so severe that
only large stout horses were equal to the task. It
was therefore the constant endeavour of the English

to raise such a breed as should be able to answer
the purposes required of them.

" When armour was rendered useless by the
invention of fire-arms, the great horse ceased to be
necessary. Lighter and more active animals were
introduced, and here begins the era which com-
prehends the SECOND class of light and soft de-
nomination. To encourage and promote a race of
these horses, public rewards were given, wagers
allowed to be risked, and races instituted, which,
from the curiosity they excite, and the pleasure
they afford, always draw an incredible number of
spectators, so as almost to supply the place of an
Olympic triumph to the owner of the victorious
steed, and, from the concurrent causes, prove a
most powerful incitement to self interest, too
powerful- for the advancement of that plan which
they were originally intended to promote ; for, as
if mere speed were the only requisite in a horse,
all the properties and qualities have been sacrificed
to it ; but, losing on one hand what they gain on
the other, and being weakened and refined, they
becqrne less serviceable from the excess of the
very quality which is reckoned their chief recom-

It is not necessary that I should contrast the
thoroughbred of to-day, for racing purposes, with
his predecessor of the last century. They doubtless
have more speed in short distances, but less power
for carrying weight on a long course, which is

verified by the old records of the long-distance
courses and four-mile heats, in which horses carrying
twelve stone competed, and in which bottom and
stoutness were equally important ; and by reference
to past numbers of the Racing Calendar, in which
particulars of such performances are fully recorded.
Happily, also, we possess innumerable old
pictures of race-horses by celebrated animal painters,
such as Wootton, Seymour, Sartorius, George
Stubbs, Chalon, Ben Marshall, Garrard, Gilpin, and
others. Among these George Stubbs, R.A., was the
pioneer of horse painting, and his six years spent in
Lincolnshire on the wolds, in depicting the horse,
will immortalize his name. He occupied there an
old barn-like sort of a home, where he carried on
his studies in anatomy, the results of which he
pubhshed.* "The Anatomy of the Horse," eighteen
■engraved plates, has gone through but two editions.
This celebrated publication and extracts from
it have been used in all the veterinary colleges and
schools during the past century, and the original
eighteen drawings are now to be seen at the Royal
Academy's rooms in Old Burlington Street, to which
Society they were bequeathed by the late Thomas
Landseer, brother of Sir Edwin Landseer, the
eminent animal painter.

Previous to 1750 — George Stubbs' time— all

* " The Anatomy of the Horse ; including a particular description of
the bones, cartilages, facias, ligaments, nerves, arteries, veins, and glands, in
eighteen tables, all done from nature." By Geo. Stubbs, R.A., oblong
folio. London : published 1766.


other animal painters had merely delineated the horse
without possessing any genuine knowledge of its-
anatomy ; hence the stilty and rocking-horse appear-
ance of these animals, which did not depict them as-
the works of animal painters after Stubbs' time. As-
I have thought perhaps it would be of interest, I
have brought here with me pictures of the celebrated
race-horses Marske, Eclipse, Shark, and Mambrino,
by George Stubbs, R.A., that you may the more
realise the character of the race-horse of a century

Art, indeed, may claim to have done much for
the horse, and there was something, therefore, in the
suggestion of Earl Cathcart that : —

" The Royal Academy might perhaps with
advantage devote one of its empty rooms to a
Winter Loan Exhibition of the portraits of famous,
horses by excellent artists, of which pictures, say
from 1700 to 1820, the country is replete. How
popular, how 'instructive and encouraging such an
exhibition, would be; and how its arrangement would
have delighted the late President of the Royal
Academy, Sir Francis Grant, who took pleasure
not only in the weapon of his art, but also in the
more exciting brush of Reynard the fox. What a
trotting-out there might be of clever old artists as

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Online LibraryWalter GilbeyRiding and driving horses; their breeding and rearing → online text (page 1 of 5)