William Chambers.

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

. (page 7 of 59)
Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 7 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

position undiminished by domestication and bondage. " My
neighbour's horse," says White of Selborne, " will not only not
stay by himself abroad, but he will not bear to be left alone in a
strange stable without discovering the utmost impatience, and
endeavouring to break the rack and manger with his forefeet.
He has been known to leap out at a stable-window, through
which dung was thrown, after company ; and yet in other
respects he is remarkably quiet." The same disposition cha-
racterises less or more every member of the family. Many
horses, though quiet in company, will not stay one minute in a
field by themselves ; and yet the presence of a cow, of a goat,
or a pet lamb, will perfectly satisfy them. The attachments
which they thus form are often curious and inexplicable.

A gentleman of Bristol had a greyhound, which slept in the
stable along with a very fine hunter of about five years of age.
These animals became mutually attached, and regarded each
other with the most tender affection. The greyhound always lay
under the manger beside the horse, which was so fond of him,
that he became unhappy and restless when the dog was out of his
sight. It was a common practice with the gentleman to whom



they belouged to call at the stable for the greyhound to accompany
him in his walks : on such occasions the horse would look over
his shoulder at the dog- with much anxiety, and neigh in a
manner which plainly said — "Let me also accompany you."
When the dog retm'ned to the stable, he was always welcomed
by a loud neigh — he ran up to the horse and Hcked his nose ; in
return, the horse would scratch the dog's back with his teeth.
One day, when the groom was out with the horse and greyhound
for exercise, a large dog attacked the latter, and quickly bore
him to the ground ; on which the horse threw back his ears,
and, in spite of all the efforts of the groom, rushed at the strange
dog that was worrying at the greyhound, seized him by the back
with his teeth, which speedily made him quit his hold, and shook
him till a large piece of the skin gave way. The offender no
sooner g-ot on his feet, than he judged it prudent to beat a-
precipitate retreat from so formidable an opponent.

The following singular instance of attachment between a pony
and a lamb is given by Captain Brown : — " In December 1825,
Thomas Rae, blacksmith, Hardhills, parish of Brittle, purchased
a lamb of the black-faced breed from an individual passing with
a large flock. It was so extremely wild, that it was with great
difficulty separated from its fleecy companions. He put it into
his held in company with a cow and a little white Galloway.
It never seemed to mind the cow, but soon exhibited manifest
indications of fondness for the pony, which, not insensible to
such tender approaches, amply demonstrated the attachment to
be reciprocal. They were now to be seen in company in all cir-
cumstances, whether the pony was used for riding* or di'awing.
Such a spectacle no doubt drew forth the officious gaze of many ;
and when likely to be too closely beset, the lamb would seek an
asylum beneath the pony's belly, and pop out its head betwixt
the fore or hind legs, with looks of conscious security. At
night, it invariably repaired to the stable, and reposed under the
manger, before the head of its favourite. When separated, which
only happened when effected by force, the lamb would raise the
most plaintive bleatings, and the pony responsive neighings. On
one occasion they both strayed into an adjoining field, in which
was a flock of sheep ; the lamb joined the flock at a short distance
from the pony, but as soon as the owner removed him, it quickly
followed without the least regard to its own species. Another
instance of the same description happened when riding through
a large flock : it followed on without showing any symptoms of
a wish to remain with its natural companions."

As already remarked, the attachments which the horse will
form, when separated from his own kind, are often curious and
inexplicable, showing how much the whole animal creation,
from man himself to the humblest insect, is under the influence
of a social nature. " Even great disparity of kind," says AYhite,
" does not always prevent social advances and mutual fellow-



sliip; for a very intelligent and observant person has assured
me, that in the former part of his life, keeping- but one horse, he
happened also on a time to have but one solitary hen. These
two incongruous animals spent much of their time tog-ether in a
lonely orchard, where they saw no creature but each other. By
degrees an apparent regard began to take place between these
two sequestered individuals. The fowl would approach the
quadruped with notes of complacency, rubbing herself quietly
against his legs, while the horse would look down with satisfac-
tion, and move with the greatest caution and circumspection,
lest he should trample on his diminutive companion. Thus, by
mutual good offices, each seemed to console the vacant hours of
the other ; so that Milton, when he puts the following sentiment
in the mouth of Adam, seems somewhat mistaken —

Much less can bird with beast, or fish with fowl
So well converse, nor with the ox the ape."

We shall close this pleasing section of the horse's history with
an extract from the Biographical Sketches, which speaks volumes
for the intelligence and affection of the brute creation : — " My
friend, Dr Smith, of the Queen's County Militia, Ireland, had a
beautiful hackney, which, although extremely spirited, was at
the same time wonderfully docile. He had also a fine New-
foundland dog', named Csesar. These animals were mutually
attached, and seemed perfectly acquainted with each other's
actions. The dog was always kept in the stable at night, and
universally lay beside the horse. When Dr Smith practised in
Dublin, he visited his patients on horseback, and had no other
servant to take care of the horse, while in their houses, but
Csesar, to whom he gave the reins in his mouth. The horse
stood very quietly, even in that crowded city, beside his friend
Caesar. When it happened that the doctor had a patient not far
distant from the place where he paid his last visit, he did not
think it worth while to remount, but called to his horse and
Caesar. They both instantly obeyed, and remained quietly oppo-
site the door where he entered, until he came out again. While
he remained in Maryborough, Queen's County, where I com-
manded a detachment, I had many opportunities of witnessing
the friendship and sagacity of these intelligent animals. The
horse seemed to be as implicitly obedient to his friend Csesar as
he could possibly be to his groom. The doctor would g-o to the
stable, accompanied by his dog, put the bridle upon his horse,
and giving the reins to Csesar, bid him take the horse to the
water. They both understood what was to be done, when off
trotted Cfesar, followed by the horse, which frisked, capered, and
played with the dog all the way to the rivulet, about three hun-
dred yards distant from the stable. We followed at a great dis-
tance, always keeping as far off as possible, so that we could
observe their manoeuvres. They invariably went to the stream,



and after the horse had quenched his thirst, both returned in the
same playful manner as they had g'one out.

The doctor frequently desired Csesar to make the horse leap
over this stream, which miglit be about six feet broad. The dog-,
by a kind of bark, and leaping up towards the horse's head,
intimated to him what he wanted, which was quickly under-
stood ; and he cantered off, preceded by Caesar, and took the leap
in a neat and reg'ular style. The dog- was then desired to bring
him back again, and it was speedily done in the same manner.
On one occasion Csesar lost hold of the reins, and as soon as the
horse cleared the leap, he immediately trotted up to his canine
guide, who took hold of the bridle, and led him through the
water quietly."


Horses have exceedingly good memories. In the darkest
nights they will find their way homeward, if they have but once
passed over the road ; they will recognise their old masters after
a lapse of many years ; and those that have been in the army,
thoug'h now degraded to carters' drudges, will suddenly become
inspirited at the sight of military array, and rush to join the
ranks, remembering not only their old uniform, but their own
places in the troop, and the order of the various manoeuvres.
Many interesting anecdotes might be recited under this head,
which place the retentive powers of the horse in a hig'hly pleas-
ing and creditable light.

A g-entleman rode a young horse, which he had bred, thirty
miles from home, and to a part of the country where he had never
been before. The road was a cross one, and extremely difficult
to find ; however, by dint of perseverance and inquiry, he at
length reached his destination. Two years afterwards, he had
occasion to go the same way, and was benighted four or five miles
from the end of his journey. The night was so dark that he
could scarcely see the horse's head. He had a dreary moor and
common to pass, and had lost all traces of the proper direction he
had to take. The rain began to fall heavily. He now contem-
plated the uncertainty of his situation, " Here am I," said he to
himself, " far from any house, and in the midst of a dreary waste,
where I know not which way to direct the course of my steed.
I have heard much of the memory of the horse, and in that is
now my only hope." He threw the reins on the horse's neck,
and encouraging" him to proceed, found himself safe at the gate
of his friend in less than an hour. It must be remarked, that the
animal could not possibly have been that road but on the occasion
two years before, as no person ever rode him but his master.

Sometimes the recollection of the horse serves him so well, that
he will perform actions with as much precision when left to him-
self, as though he had been under the guidance of his master.
A Wiltshire gentleman, in 1821, lent a well-bred and fierv mare



to a friend from town, who had come down to try the Essex
dog's against the Wilts breed of greyhounds. At the close of a
very fine day's sport, the huntsman had to beat a small furze-
brake, and, for the purpose of better threading- it, the London
gentleman dismounted, and gave the bridle of his mare to the
next horseman. Puss was soon started; the "halloo" was
given. The person w^ho held the mare, in the eagerness of the
sport, forgot his charge, loosed his hold, and, regardless of any
other than his own steed, left the mare to run, like Mazeppa's,
" wild and untutored." But, to the astonishment of all, instead
of so doing, or even attempting to bend her course homewards
(and she was in the immediate neighbourhood of her stable), she
ran the whole course at the tail of the dogs, turned as well as she
could when they brought the prey about ; and afterwards, by
outstripping all competitors (for the run was long and sharp),
she stopped only at the death of the hare, and then suffered her-
self to be quietly regained and remounted. What renders it still
more remarkable is, that the animal had only twice followed the
hounds previous to this event. It is true that her conduct may
have been influenced by the circumstance, that the brace of dogs
which were slipped were the property of her owner, and the
groom had been in the habit of exercising them with her.

To prove that the notes of hounds have an overpowering in-
fluence upon horses which have once joined the chase, another
incident, which occurred in 1807, has often been related: — As the
Liverpool mail-coach was changing horses at the inn at Monk's
Heath, between Congieton and Wilmslow in Cheshire, the horses
that had performed the stage from Congieton having just been
taken off" and separated, hearing Sir Peter Warburton's fox
hounds in full cry, immediately started after them with their
harness on, and followed the chase till the last. One of them, a
blood mare, kept the track with the whippeiwn, and gallantly
followed him for about two hours over every leap he took, till
Reynard ran to earth in Mr Hibbert's plantation. These spirited
horses were led back to the inn at Monk's Heath, and performed
the stage back to Congieton the same evening.

Horses being highly susceptible in their dispositions, are also
peculiarly mindful of kind treatment. " This," says Colonel
Smith, " was very manifest in a charger that had been two years
our own. and which was left with the army, but had subse-
quently been brought back and sold in London. About three
years after, we chanced to travel up to town, and at a relay,
getting out of the mail, the ofF-w^heel horse attracted our atten-
tion, and upon going near to examine it, we found the animal
recognising its former master, and testifying satisfaction by rub-
bing its head against our clothes, and making every moment a
little stamp with the forefeet, till the coachman asked if the
horse was not an old acquaintance. We remember," continues
the colonel, " a beautiful and most powerful charger belonging



to a friend, then a captain in the 14th drag-oons, bought by him
in Ireland at a low price, on account of an impetuous viciousness,
which had cost the life of one or two g-rooms. The captain was
a kind of centaur rider, not to be flung" by the most violent
efforts, and of a temper for gentleness that would eifect a cure, if
vice were curable. After some very dangerous combats with his
horse, the animal was subdued, and became so attached, that his
master could walk anywhere with him following like a dog, and
even ladies could mount him with perfect safety. He rode him
during several campaigns in Spain ; and on one occasion, when
in action, horse and rider came headlong to the ground, the ani-
mal, making an effort to spring* up, placed his forefoot on the
captain's breast, but immediately withdrawing it, rose without
hurting him, or moving till he was remounted."

The most remarkable instances of minute recollection, however,
occur in horses that have been accustomed to the army. It is
told that in one of their insurrections in the early part of the
present century, the Tyrolese captured fifteen horses belonging
to the Bavarian troops sent against them, and mounted them
with fifteen of their own men, in order to g'o out to a fresh ren-
contre with the same troops ; but no sooner did those horses hear
the well-known sound of their own trumpet, and recognise the
uniform of their own squadron, than they dashed forward at full
speed ; and, in spite of all the efforts of their riders, bore them
into the ranks, and delivered them up as prisoners to the Bava-
rians. " If an old mihtary horse," we quote the Cyclopaedia of
Natural History, " even when reduced almost to skin and bone,
hears the roll of a drum or the twang of a trumpet, the freshness
of his youth appears to come upon him, and if he at the same
time gets a sight of men clad in uniform, and drawn up in line,
it is no easy matter to prevent him from joining them. Nor
does it signify what kind of military they are, as is shown by
the following- case: — Towards the close of last century, about
the time when volunteers were first embodied in the different
towns, an extensive line of turnpike road was in progress of con-
struction in a part of the north. The clerk to the trustees upon
this line used to send one of his assistants to ride along occa-
sionally, to see that the contractors, who were at work in a great
many places, were doing their work properly. The assistant, on
these journeys, rode a horse which had for a long time carried a
field-officer, and though aged, still possessed a great deal of
spirit. One day, as he was passing near a town of considerable
size which lay on the line of road, the volunteers were at drill
on the common; and the instant that Solus (for that was the
name of the horse) heard the drum, he leaped the fence, and was
speedily at that post in front of the volunteers which would have
been occupied by the commanding officer of a regiment on parade
or at drill ; nor could the rider by any means g'et him off the
ground until the volunteers retired to the town. As long as they



kept the field, the horse took the proper place of a commanding
officer in all their manoeuvres ; and he marched at the head of
the corps into the town, prancing in military style as cleverly
as his stiffened legs would allow him, to the great amusement of
the volunteers and spectators, and to the no small annoyance of
the clerk, who did not feel very highly honoured by Solus making
a colonel of him against his will."

The following illustration of combined memory and reasoning
has often been recorded^ we are not aware, however, upon whose
authority it originally appeared : — A cart-horse belonging to Mr
Leggat, "^ Gallowgate Street, Glasgow, had been several times
afflicted with the hots, and as often cured by Mr Downie, farrier
there. He had not, however, been troubled with that disease
for a considerable time ; but on a recurrence of the disorder, he
happened one morning to be employed in College Street, a dis-
tance of nearly a mile from Mr Downie's workshop. Arranged
in a row with other horses engaged in the same work, while the
carters were absent, he left the range, and, unattended by any
driver, went down the High Street, along the Gallowgate, and
up a narrow lane, where he stopped at the farrier's door. As
neither Mr Leggat nor any one appeai^ed with the horse, it was
surmised that he had been seized with his old complaint. Being
unyoked from the cart, he lay down and showed by every means
of which he was capable that he was in distress. He was again
treated as usual, and sent home to his master, who had by that
time persons in all directions in search of him.

In point of sagacity and memory, the ass is nothing inferior
to his nobler congener, as is shown by the subjoined well-known
anecdote : — In 1816, an ass belonging to Captain Dundas, then
at Malta, was shipped on board the Ister frig-ate, bound from
Gibraltar to that island. The vessel struck on a sand-bank off
Cape de Gat ; and the ass was thrown overboard, in the hope
that it might be able to swim to land ; of which, however, there
seemed little chance, for the sea was running so high, that a
boat which left the ship was lost. A few days after, when the
gates of Gibraltar were opened in the morning, the guard was
surprised by the ass presenting himself for admittance. On
entering, he proceeded immediately to the stable of his former
master. The poor animal had not only swam safely to shore,
but, without guide, compass, or travelling map, had found his
way from Cape de Gat to Gibraltar — a distance of more than two
hundred miles — through a mountainous and intricate country,
intersected by streams, which he had never traversed before, and
in so short a period that he could not have made one false turn.


The docility of the horse is one of the most remarkable of his
natural gifts. Furnished with acute senses, an excellent memory,
high intelligence, and gentle disposition, he soon learns to know



and obey his master's will, and to perform certain actions with
astonishing" accuracy and precision. The range of his per-
formances, however, is limited by his physical conformation : he
has not a hand to grasp, a proboscis to lift the minutest object,
nor the advantages of a light and agile frame ; if he had, the
monkey, the dog-, and the elephant, would in this respect be left
far behind him. Many of the anecdotes that are told under this
head are highly entertaining.

Mr Astley, junior, of the Royal Amphitheatre, Westminster
Bridge, once had in his possession a remarkably line Barbary horse,
forty-three years of age, which was presented him by the Duke
of Leeds. This celebrated animal for a number of years officiated
in the character of a waiter in the course of the performances at
the amphitheatre, and at various other theatres in the United
Kingdom, At the request of his master, he would ungirth his
own saddle, wash his feet in a pail of water, and would also bring*
into the riding'-school a tea-table and its appendages, which feat
was usually followed up by fetching a chair, or stool, or what-
ever might be wanted. His achievements were generally wound
up by his taking a kettle of boiling water from a blazing lire, to
the wonder and admiration of the spectators. Ray affirms that
he has seen a horse that danced to music, which at the com-
mand of his master affected to be lame, feig-ned death, lay
motionless with his limbs extended, and allowed himself to be
dragged about till some words were pronounced, when he in-
stantly sprang to his feet. Feats of this kind are now indeed
common, and must have been witnessed by many of our readers
in the circuses of Astley, Ord, Ducrow, and others. Dancing',
embracing, lying down to make sport with their keepers, fetch-
ing cane and gloves, selecting- peculiar cards, and many similar
performances, are among the expected entertainments of all
equestrian exhibitions.

A few years ag"o, one of the most attractive of Ducrow's ex-
hibitions was " The Muleteer and his Wonderful Horse." The
feats of this pair are pleasantly described in a popular journal,
by an individual who witnessed them in 1838 : — " The horse,"
says this writer, " is a beautiful piebald, perfect almost in
mould, and adorned about the neck with little bells. At first, it
playfully and trickishly avoids its master when he affects an
anxiety to catch it ; but when the muleteer averts his head, and
assumes the appearance of sullenness, the animal at once stops,
and comes up close to his side, as if very penitent for its untimely
sportiveness. Its master is pacified, and after caressing it a
little, he touches the animal's fore-legs. It stretches them out,
and, in doing so, necessarily causes the hind-legs to project also.
We now see the purpose of these movements. The muleteer
wishes a seat, and an excellent one he finds upon the horse's pro-
truded hind-legs. A variety of instances of docility similar to
this are exhibited by the creature in succession, but its leaping*



feats appeared to us the most striking of all. Poles are brought
into the ring"; and the horse clears six of these, one after the
other, with a distance of not more than four feet between ! After it
has done this, it g"oes up limpirifi to its master, as if to say, ' See,
I can do no more to-ni^-ht ! ' The muleteer lifts the lame foot,
and seems to search for the cause of the halt, but in vain. Still,
however, the horse g-oes on limping*. The muleteer then looks it
in the face, and shakes his head, as if he would say, ' Ah ! you
are shamming', you rog-ue; arn't you V And a sham it proves to
be ; for, at a touch of the whip, the creature bounds off like a
fawn, sound both in wind and limb."

One of the earliest equine actors in this country was Banks's
celebrated horse " Morocco," alluded to by Shakspeare in Love's
Labour Lost, and by other writers of that time. It is stated
of this animal that he would restore a g"love to its owner
after his master had whispered the man's name in his ear,
and that he would tell the number of pence in any silver coin.
He danced likewise to the sound of a pipe, and told money
with his feet. Sir Walter Raleigh quaintly remarks, ''■ that had
Banks lived in older times, he would have shamed all the
enchanters in the world ; for whosoever was most famous among
them, could never master or instruct any beast as he did his
horse." M. le Gendre mentions similar feats performed by a
small horse at the fair of St Germain in 1732. Among others
which he accomplished with astonishing precision, he could
specify, by striking his foot so many times on the gTound, the
number of pips upon a card which any person present had drawn
out of a pack. He could also tell the hour and minute to which
the hands of a watch pointed in a similar manner. His master
collected a number of coins from different persons in the com-
pany, mixed them together, and threw them to the horse in a
handkerchief. The animal took it in his mouth, and delivered
to each person his own piece of money. What is still more
wonderful, considering his size, weig'ht, and peculiarity of con-
struction, the horse has been known to pass along the tig-ht-rope.

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 7 of 59)