William Chambers.

Chambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) online

. (page 6 of 59)
Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 6 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

in 1762, with ten horses, and five of them ridden twice, accom-
plishe*(J fifty miles and a quarter in one hour and forty-nine
minutes. In 1763 he won a second match, which was to provide
a person to ride 100 miles a-day, on any one horse each day, for
twenty-nine days together, and to have any number of horses
not exceeding twenty-nine : he accomplished the task on fourteen
horses ; and on one day he rode 160 miles, on account of the
tiring of his first horse. The celebrated Marquis de la Fayette
rode, in August 1778, from Rhode Island to Boston, a distance
of nearly seventy miles, in seven hours, and returned in six and
a half Mr Huell's Quibbler, however, afforded the most extra-
ordinary instance on record of the stoutness as well as speed
of the race-horse, when, in December 1786, he ran twenty-three
miles round the flat at Newmarket in fifty-seven minutes and
ten seconds. Hundreds of other examples might be quoted, some
of them even perhaps more wonderful than those above cited,
but these will serve at least to show the astonishing fleetness of
the horse, and to confirm our assertion, that in this particular
he is not surpassed by any other quadruped.

The strength and power of draught in the horse is not less
remarkable than his swiftness. " In London," says Bingley in
his Animal Biography, " there have been instances of a single
horse drawing, for a short space, the weight of three tons ; and
some of the pack-horses of the north usually carry burdens
weighing upwards of 400 pounds ; but the most remarkable proof
of the strength of the British breed is in our mill-horses, some
of which have been known to carry, at one load, thirteen mea-
sures of corn, that, in the whole, would amount to more than
900 pounds' weight." Useful as the horse may be to man on
account of his great natural strength, his utility is increased
tenfold by the assistance of art, as is well illustrated by the fol-


lowing- trial which took place near Croydon, in Surrey : — The
Surrey iron railway being- completed, and opened for the carriage
of goods from Wandsworth to Mertsham, a bet was made that
a common horse could draw thirty-six tons for six miles along
the road, and that he should draw his weight from a dead pull,
as well as turn it round the occasional windings of the road. A
number of gentlemen assembled near Mertsham to witness this
extraordinary triumph of art. Twelve wag'ons loaded with stones,
each wagon weighing- about three tons, were chained together,
and a horse belonging to Mr Harwood yoked to the team. He
started from near the Fox public-house, and drew the immense
chain of wagons, with apparent ease, to near the turnpike at
Croydon, a distance of six miles, in one hour and forty-six
minutes, which is nearly at the rate of four miles an hour. In
the course of the undertaking he was stopped four times, to show
that it was not by the impetus of the descent the power was
acquired. After each stoppage, a chain of four wagons was added
to the cavalcade, with which the same horse again set off with
undiminished power. And still farther to show the effect of
the railway in facihtating motion, the attending workmen, to
the number of about fifty, were directed to mount the wagons ;
still the horse proceeded without the least distress ; and, in truth,
there appeared to be scarcely any limitation to the power of his
draught. After the trial, the wagons were taken to the weigh-
ing machine, when it was found that the whole weight was little
short of fifty-five tons and a half !

The endurance of the horse is also exceedingly great, and
equalled only perhaps by that of the camel. The elephant either
breaks down under his own weight, or becomes infuriated when
goaded beyond his accustomed powers ; the ox, though extremely
patient, soon suffers in his feet, or becomes faint through hunger ;
but the horse toils on unilinchingly, till not unfrequently he
drops down dead through sheer exhaustion. The mares of the
Bedouin Arabs will often travel fifty miles without stopping;
and they have been known to go 120 miles on emergencies, with
hardly a respite, and no food. In 1804, an Arab horse at Banga-
lore, in the presidency of Madras, ran 400 miles in the course
of four successive days, and that without showing any symptoms
of more than ordinary fatigue. Sometimes our own English
horses will perform equally astonishing- feats, notwithstanding-
that they carry larger weights, and are more heavily harnessed.
In June 1827, a gentleman left Dublin, mounted on a small
g-elding, in company with the day coach for Limerick, and
arrived at Nenagh at six o'clock the same evening, having kept
the vehicle in view all the time, and entered the town with it,
riding the same horse. There was a wager of fifty guineas to
ten that he would not bring the horse alive to Nenagh. The
animal was, however, none the worse for it, after the extraor-
dinary ride of ninety-five English miles.



Even the ass, dull and stupid as our bad treatment too often
makes him, is not without his share of vigour and endurance.
In 1826, according" to Captain Brown, a clothier of Ipswich
undertook to drive his ass in a light gig to London and back
again — a distance of 140 miles — in two days. The ass went to
London at a pace little short of a good gig-horse, and fed at
different stages well; on his return he came in, without the
application of a whip, at the rate of seven miles an hour, and
performed the whole journey with ease. He was twelve and a
half hands high, and half-breed Spanish and English.


In submission and attachment to man, the horse is equalled
only by the dog and elephant. He soon learns to distinguish his
master's voice, and to come at his call; he rejoices in his presence,
and seems restless and unhappy during his absence; he joins
with him willingly in any work, and appears susceptible of emu-
lation and rivalry ; and though frequently fierce and dangerous
to strangers, yet there are few instances on record of his being
faithless to those with whom he is domesticated, unless under the
most inhumane and barbarous treatment. Colonel Smith relates
the following affecting incident of attachment in a charger which
belonged to the late General Sir Robert Gillespie : — When Sir
Robert fell at the storming of Kalunga, his favourite black
charger, bred at the Cape of Good Hope, and carried by him to
India, was, at the sale of his effects, competed for by several
officers of his division, and finally knocked down to the privates
of the 8th dragoons, who contributed their prize-money, to the
amount of £500 sterling, to retain this commemoration of their
late commander. Thus the charger was always led at the head
of the regiment on a march, and at the station of Cawnpore, was
usually indulged with taking his ancient post at the colour stand,
where the salute of passing squadrons was given at drill and on
reviews. When the regiment was ordered home, the funds of
the privates running low, he was bought for the same sum by a
relative of ours, who provided funds and a paddock for him,
where he might end his days in comfort ; but when the corps
had marched, and the sound of the trumpet had departed, he
refused to eat, and on the first opportunity, being led out to
exercise, he broke from his groom, and galloping to his ancient
station on the parade, after neighing aloud, dropped down and

The affection of the horse is sometimes displayed in joyous
gambols and familiar caresses like those of the dog, though, like
the man in the fable who was embraced by his ass, one would
willingly dispense with such boisterous manifestations. We are
informed in the Sporting Magazine, that a gentleman in Buck-
inghamshire had in his possession, December 1793, a three-year-
old colt, a dog, and three sheep, which were his constant



attendants in all his walks. When the parlour window, which
looked into the field, happened to be open, the colt had often
been known to leap through it, go up to and caress his master,
and then leap back to his pasture. We have ourselves often
witnessed similar sig-ns of affection on the part of an old Shetland
pony, which would place its forefoot in the hand of its young-
master like a dog, thrust its head under his arm to be caressed,
and join with him and a little terrier in all their noisy rompings
on the lawn. The same animal daily bore its master to school,
and though its heels and teeth were always ready for every aggres-
sive urchin, yet so attached was it to this boy, that it would wait
hours for him in his sports by the way, and even walk alone
from the stable in town to the school-room, which was fully half
a mile distant, and wait saddled and bridled for the afternoon's
dismissal. Indeed the young scape-grace did not deserve one-
tenth of this attention, for we have often seen old " Donald"
toiling homeward with him at the gallop, to make up for time
squandered at taw or cricket.

Occasionally equine attachment exhibits itself in a light as
exalted and creditable as that of the human mind. During* the
peninsular war, the trumpeter of a French cavalry corps had a
fine charg'er assigned to him, of which he became passionately
fond, and which, by gentleness of disposition and uniform doci-
lity, equally evinced its affection. The sound of the trumpeter's
voice, the sight of his uniform, or the twang of his trumpet, was
sufficient to throw this animal into a state of excitement ; and he
appeared to be pleased and happy only when under the saddle of
his rider. Indeed he was unruly and useless to everybody else ;
for once, on being removed to another part of the forces, and
consigned to a young officer, he resolutely refused to perfonn
his evolutions, and bolted straight to the trumpeter's station, and
there took his stand, jostling alongside his former master. This
animal, on being restored to the trumpeter, carried him, during
several of the peninsular campaigns, through many difficulties
and hair-breadth escapes. At last the corps to which he belonged
was worsted, and in the confusion of retreat the trumpeter was
mortally wounded. Dropping from his horse, his body was found
many days after the engagement stretched on the sward, with
the faithful charger standing beside it. During the long inter-
val, it seems that he had never quitted the trumpeter's side,
but had stood sentinel over his corpse, scaring away the birds
of prey, and remaining totally heedless of his own privations.
When found, he was in a sadly reduced condition, partly from
loss of blood through wounds, but chiefly from want of food,
of which, in the excess of his grief, he could not be prevailed
on to partake.

On the evening of Saturday the 24th February 1830, Mr
Smith, supervisor of excise at Beauly, was proceeding home
from a survey of Fort Augustus; and, to save a distance of about



sixteen miles, he took the hill road from Drumnadrochit to
Beauly. The road was completely blocked up with, and indis-
cernible amidst the waste of snow, so that Mr Smith soon lost
all idea of his route. In this dilemma he thoug'ht it best to trust
to his horse, and, loosening' the reins, allowed him to choose
his own course. The animal made way, though slowly and
cautiously, till coming to a ravine near Glenconvent, when both
horse and rider suddenly disappeared in a snow wreath several
fathoms deep. Mr Smith, on recovering, found himself nearly
three yards from the dangerous spot, with his faithful horse
standing over him, and licking the snow from his face. He
thinks the bridle must have been attached to his person. So
completely, however, had he lost all sense of consciousness, that
beyond the bare fact as stated, he had no knowledge of the
means by which he had made so striking and providential an

Very similar to the above is the following instance related
of a hunter belonging to a farmer in the neighbourhood of
Edinburgh : — On one occasion his master was returning home
from a jovial meeting, where he had been very liberal in
his potations, which destroyed his power of preserving his
equilibrium, and rendered him at the same time somewhat
drowsy. He had the misfortune to fall from his saddle, but in
so easy a manner, that it had not the eifect of rousing him from
his sleepy lit ; and he felt quite contented to rest where he had
alighted. His faithful steed, on being eased of his burden, in-
stead of scampering home, as one would have expected fi'om his
habits (which were somewhat vicious), stood by his prostrate
master, and kept a strict watch over him. The farmer was dis-
covered by some labourers at sunrise, very contentedly snoozing
on a heap of stones by the road-side. They naturally approached
to replace him on his saddle ; but every attempt to come near
him was resolutely opposed by the grinning teeth and ready
heels of his faithful and determined guardian.

The Biographical Sketches, on the authority of which we give
the preceding, also records the following, as exhibiting a still more
sagacious solicitude on the part of the horse for his master : — " A
farmer who lives in the neighbourhood of Belford, and regularly
attends the markets there, was returning home one evening in
1828, and being somewhat tipsy, rolled off his saddle into the
middle of the road. His horse stood still ; but after remaining
patiently for some time, and not observing any disposition in its
rider to get up and proceed further, he took him by the collar
and shook him. This had little or no eifect, for the farmer only
gave a grumble of dissatisfaction at having his repose disturbed.
The animal was not to be put off with any such evasion, and so
applied his mouth to one of his master's coat laps, and after
several attempts, by dragging at it, to raise him upon his feet,
the coat lap gave way. Three individuals who witnessed this



extraordinary proceeding then went up, and assisted him in
mounting- his horse, putting the one coat lap into the pocket of
the other, when he trotted off, and safely reached home. This
horse is deservedly a favourite of his master, and has, we under-
stand, occasionally been engaged in gambols with him like a

The generally received opinion, that asses are stubborn and
intractable, alike unmoved by harsh or affectionate usage, is in
a great measure unfounded, as appears from the following anec-
dote, related in Church's Cabinet of Quadrupeds. In most in-
stances their stubbornness is the result of bad treatment — a fact
that says less for the humanity and intelligence of man, than for
the natui'al dispositions of the brute. An old man, who a few
years ago sold vegetables in London, used in his employment an
ass, which conveyed his baskets from door to door. Frequently
he gave the poor industrious creature a handful of hay, or a
piece of bread, or greens, by way of refreshment and reward.
He had no need of any goad for the animal, and seldom
indeed had he to lift up his hand to drive it on. His kind
treatment was one day remarked to him, and he was asked
whether his beast were apt to be stubborn. " Ah ! master,"
replied he, " it is of no use to be cruel, and as for stubbornness, I
cannot complain ; for he is ready to do anything, and go any-
where. I bred liim myself. He is sometimes skittish and play-
ful, and once ran away from me ; you will hardly believe it, but
there were more than fifty people after him, yet he turned back
of himself, and never stopped till he ran his head kindly into my


Though Providence seems to have implanted in the horse a
benevolent disposition, with at the same time a certain awe of
the human race, yet there are instances on record of his recol-
lecting injuries, and fearfully revenging" them. A person near
Boston, in America, was in the habit, whenever he wished to
catch his horse in the field, of taking a quantity of corn in a
measure by way of bait. On calling to him, the horse would
come up and eat the corn, while the bridle was put over his
head. But the owner having deceived the animal several times,
by calling him when he had no corn in the measure, the horse
at length began to suspect the design ; and coming up one day
as usual, on being* called, looked into the measure, and seeing it
empty, turned round, reared on his hind-legs, and killed his
master on the sjDot.

In the preceding instance the provocation was deceit and
trickery ; the poor horse, however, often receives heavier incen-
tives to revenge. Can we blame him when he attempts it in
such cases as the following 1 — A baronet, one of whose hunters
had never tired in the longest chase, once encouraged the cruel



thouglit of attempting" completely to fatigue him. After a long
chase, therefore, he dined, and again mounting, rode furiously
among the hills. When brought to the stable, his strength ap-
peared exhausted, and he was scarcely able to walk. The groom,
possessed of more feeling than his brutal master, could not re-
train from tears at the sight of so noble an animal thus sunk
down. The baronet some time after entered the stable, and the
horse made a furious spring upon him ; and had not the groom
interfered, would soon have put it out of his power of ever again
misusing his animals.

It is told of a horse belonging to an Irish nobleman, that he
always became restive and furious whenever a certain individual
came into his presence. One day this poor fellow happened to
pass within reach, when the animal seized him with its teeth and
broke his arm ; it then threw him down, and lay upon him —
every effort to get it off proving unavailing, till the bystanders
were compelled to shoot it. The reason assig'ned for this ferocity
was, that the man had performed a cruel operation on the
animal some time before, and which it seems to have revenge-
fully remembered.

The ass, like his congener the horse, is also sometimes influ-
enced by the most determined revenge. At Salwell, in 1825, an
ass was ferociously attacked by a bull-dog ; but the poor animal
defended himself so gallantly with his heels — keeping his rear
always presented to his assailant — that the dog was unable to
Hx on him. He at length turned rapidly round on his adver-
sary, and caught hold of him with his teeth in such a man-
ner that the dog was unable to retaliate. Here the dog howled
most repentantly, and one would have thought that the ass
would have dismissed him with this punishment ; but no ; he
dragged the enemy to the river Derwent, into which he put him
over the head, and lying down upon him, kept him under water
till he was drowned.

Occasionally, the horse displays unparalleled obstinacy, suffer-
ing himself to be lashed and bruised in the severest manner
rather than yield to the wishes of his master. In most instances
there is some discoverable cause for such perversity, though in
some there appears to be no other impulse save that of a stubborn
and wilful disposition. We have witnessed a draught -horse,
working lustily and cheerfully, all at once stand still on coming
to a certain spot ; and no coaxing that could be offered, or
punishment that could be inflicted, would cause him to move one
step, until he was blindfolded, and then he would push forward
as if nothing had happened. On one occasion, we chanced to see
a carter's horse take one of these obstinate fits, when issuing
from a quarry with a load of stones. The most shameful tortures
were had recourse to by the carter and quarrymen ; but all to no
purpose. We believe the animal would have suffered himself to
be cut to pieces rather than stir one foot. At last the carter in



desperation threw an iron chain round the neck of the animal,
and yoked another horse to the chain; but no sooner did the
obstinate brute perceive the intention of this application, than he
rushed forward; and from that day, the simple jing'ling' of a
chain was quite sufficient to put him out of the sulks.

For the most part, however, there is some apparent cause for
these intractable fits, such as the remembrance of a frig'ht, of a
severe punishment, or of some other injury. Thus we have
known a riding-horse pass within a few feet of the wands of a
windmill when in motion ; and yet no force or persuasion would
induce him to pass them when they were at rest. This seemed
curious to his master, till told that one day, when the animal
was g'razing immediately under the wands, they were suddenly
set in motion, which so frightened him, that in his haste to
escape he came down, and was stunned by the fall. The recollec-
tion of this had never forsaken him ; and though he had courage
to pass a moving wand, he could never so much as face one that
had a chance of being* suddenly set in motion. Akin to this is
the following, related to us by a correspondent : — In travelling
by coach some years ago, we stopped at a country stag"e to change
horses. While this process was going* on, we remarked a pecu-
liar interest to attach to the left-wheel horse, a strong-built,
though rather hard-favoured and sinister-looking animal. After
unusual preparations had been made, and amid the leers and
jibes of a bevy of ostlers and post-boys, who stood by armed with
whips and staves, the order was given to start. The other
horses bounded forward, but the left-wheeler instantly squatted
down on the g*round, and there he lay, notwithstanding the
shower of blows with which he was forthwith assailed from the
bystanders. It was in vain that they beat, coaxed, and threat-
ened him — there he lay, sullen and unmoved, till at last they
were obliged to unyoke him, and supply his place with another.
This had not been his first trick of the kind ; yet we were told
that the same horse submitted quietly to be yoked in a g*ig, and
always proved a steady roadster. Some antipathy had rendered
the coach abhorrent to him, though he did not pretend to exempt
himself from other kinds of labour.

The ascendency which some individuals have over intractable
horses of this sort is truly wonderful, as the following curious
instance, related of James Sullivan, a horse-breaker at Cork,
and an awkward rustic of the lowest class, will show. This
man obtained the singular appellation of the Whisperer, from a
most extraordinary art which he possessed of controlling*, in a
secret manner, and taming into the most submissive and tractable
disposition, any horse that was notoriously vicious and obstinate.
He practised his skill in private, and without any apparent for-
cible means. In the short space of half an hour, his magical
influence would bring* into perfect submission and good temper
even a colt that had never been handled ; and the effect, though



instantaneously produced, was generally durable. When em-
ployed to tame an outrageous animal, he directed the stable in
which he and the object of the experiment were placed to be shut,
with orders not to open the door until a signal was given. After
a tete-a-tete between him and the horse for about half an hour,
during which little or no bustle was heard, the signal was made,
and upon opening the door, the horse was seen lying down, and
the man by his side playing familiarly with him, like a child with
a puppy dog. From that time he was found perfectly willing to
submit to any discipline, however repugnant to his nature before.
The narrator of this account says, " I once saw his skill on a horse
which could never before be brought to stand for a smith to shoe
him. The day after Sullivan's half-hour lecture, I went, not
without some incredulity, to the smith's shop, with many other
curious spectators, where we were eye-witnesses of the complete
success of his art. This, too, had been a troop-horse ; and it was
supposed, not without reason, that, after regimental discipline
had failed, no other would be found availing. I observed that
the animal appeared afraid whenever Sullivan either spoke or
looked at him. How that extraordinary ascendency, could have
been obtained, it is difficult to conjecture. He seemed to possess
an instinctive power of inspiring awe, the result perhaps of a
natural intrepidity, in which I believe a great part of his art
consisted, though the circumstance of a tete-a-tete shows, that
upon particular occasions something more must have been added
to it."


Gregarious when wild, the horse retains his sociable dis-

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 6 of 59)