William Gilpin.

Remarks on forest scenery, and other woodland views, (relative chiefly to picturesque beauty) illustrated by the scenes of New-Forest in Hampshire.. (Volume 2) online

. (page 12 of 18)
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long bog, defcribed under the name of Long-
flade-bottom -, which is crofTed by a mole,
thrown over it*. With this pailage the colt

'' See page 123.


( 252 )

is well acquainted ; and on being purfued, is
eaiily driven towards it. When he is about
the middle of the mole, two or three men
ftart up in front, and oblige him to leap'
into the bog, where he is intangled, and

At all the neio^hbourinor fairs, thefe horfes
are a principal commodity, and are bought
up for every purpofe, to which a horfe can
be applied. Diminutive as they are, you may
often fee half a dozen of them ftraining in
a waggon : and as it is fafhionable to drive
them in light carriages, their price has been
inhanced. It is a little fortune to a poor
cottager, if he happen to polTefs three or four
colts, that are tolerably handlbme, and match
well. He may probably fell them for ten, or
twelve pounds a piece.

In point of value, the New-foreft horfe
would rife higher, if the fame care was taken
in breeding him, which was formerly taken* ;
and which is ftill in fome degree, taken in
the neighbouring foreft of Bere ; where, I
have heard, the keepers are ordered to deftroy
all horfes, which, at three years of age, are

* See Manwood on foreft-law, page 29.


( 253 )

under thirteen hands ; and all mares under

There is another evil likewife, which tends
to injure the forefli-colt j and that is, put-
ting him to bufmefs at too early an age.
Tho a fmall horfe attains maturity earlier,
than a large one ; yet thefe horfes, bred
chiefly by indigent people, and generally of
little value, are introduced proportionably
fooner to labour, than abler, and better horfes
commonly are.

The fame, and exploits are ftill remembred
of a little beautiful, grey horfe, which had
been fuifered to run wild in the foreft, till
he was eight years of age ; when he had at-
tained his full ftren^th. His firil: fenfations,
on the lofs of his liberty, were like thofe of
a wild-beaft. He flew at his keeper with
open mouth ; or rearing on his hind-legs,
darted his fore-feet at him with the moft
malicious fury. He fell however into hands,
that tamed him. He became by degrees
patient of the bit, and at length fuifered a
rider. From this time his life was a fcene
of glory. He was well known on every road
in the county ; was the favorite of every
groom ; and the conftant theme of every


( 254 )

oftler. But in the chace his prowefs was
mofl fhewn. There he carried his mafter,
with fo much fwiftnefs, eafe, and firmnefs,
that he always attradled the eyes of the
company, more than the game they purfued.

I have heard alfo of a grey mare, belonging
to Mr. Powney, member for Windfor, which
does equal credit to the horfes of this country.
She was purchafed at the age of fix years,
in the neighbourhood of Brokenhurft, wild
from the fore ft. While fhe was breaking,
(he fell lame, which difqualified her for ufe.
She run wild therefore two years longer;
when {he was perfectly found. From this
time ftie became the favorite of her mafter.
She was rather more than thirteen hands high ;
was finely made ; had a round body ; a beau-
tiful head, and neck; and limbs like thofe
of a deer. But her motions were ftill more
admirable. Her paces, and mouth were un-
commonly pleafantj and her power of ad:ion
was furprifmg. Nothing but a bred horfe
could lead her in the chace ; and with a weight
proportioned to her ftrength, neither hedge,
nor ditch could oppofe her. The beauty of
her form, and the perfedlion of her motions
were fuch, that no judge of a horfe, who


( ^55 )

had once feen her, ever forgot her. Mr.
Powney rode her, till flie was twenty-three,
or twenty-four years of age.

The New-foreft horfe is often fuppofed to
be of Spanifh extra6tion ; from anceftors,
imagined to have been (hip-wrecked on the
coaft of Hampfhire, in the time of the armada.
But I look on this as a fpecies of the ancient
vaunt, ge/2us a yove fummo ; and to defervc
as little attention. Some of them have a
form, which would not difgrace fo noble a
lineage. The grey horfe reprefented in the
annexed plate, is among the moft beautiful.
But in general, the croup of the foreft-horfe
is low ; and his head ill-fet on, having what
the jockies call a Jiiff' jaw. Of this defect
a refemblance is given in the horfe on the
left, whofe head is fet on, as thofe of the
foreft-horfes commonly are. Their claim
therefore to high lineage mufl in general reft
more on their good qualities, than on their
beauty — on the hardinefs of their nature — •
on their uncommon ftrength — on their agility,
and furenefs of foot, which they probably
acquire by conftantly lifting their legs among


( 256 )

But tho the form of the New-foreft horle
is feldom beautiful; yet as the ornament of
a foreft-fcene, he is very pidurefque. The
horfe, in his natural ftate, rough with all
his mane about him, and his tail waving
in the wind, as he feeds, is always beautiful;
but particularly in fo wild a fcene as this,
which he graces exceedingly*.

On this fubjedl I cannot forbear digreffing
a little, (and I hope the reader will not be
too faftidious,) on the great indignity the
horfe fuffers from the mutilation of his tail,
and ears. Within this century, I believe,
the barbarous cuilom of docking horfes came
in ufe ; and hath palled through various mo-
difications, like all other cuftoms, which are
not founded in nature, and truth. A few
years ago the Pdort dock was the only tail (if

* Hogarth, in his analyfis of beauty, (in which, among
fome refinements, are many excellent remarks on forms) gives
us a very pifturefque idea of the movements of " a fine Arabian
" horfe, unbacked, and at liberty, in a wanton trot, prefling
" forward; and yet curvetting from fide to fide; whilft hii
*' long mane,' and tail play about in ferpentine motion." p. 140.


i^Ac^ na:A€/l /ac Y

^^A& ^/mtr aoc/i

//ix^^.^^'z/cAy /tuc^.


Jl/ne^Ja^f^ate /nil

( 2J7 )

it may be called fuch) in fafhion, both in the
army, and in carriages. The abfurdity how-
ever of this total amputation began to appear.
The gentlemen of the army led the way.
They acknowledged the beauty, and ufe of
the tail, as nature made it. The fiort dock
every where difappeared ; and all dragoon-
horfes now parade with long tails.

The nag-tail however ftill continued in ufe.
Of this there are feveral fpecies, all more or
lefs mutilated. The moft unnatural is the
nicked-tail ', fo named from a cruel operation
ufed in forming it. The under linews of the
dock being divided, the tail ftarts upwards,
dired:ly contrary to the pofition, which nature
intended. The nag-tail is jftill feen in all
genteel carriages. Nor will any perfon of
fafhion ride a horfe without one. Even
the gentlemen of the army, who have (hewn
the moil fenfe in the. affair of horfe-tails, have
been fo mifled, as to introduce the nag-tail
into the light-dragoons j tho it would be as
difficult to give a reafon now for the nag-tail,
as formerly for tho. Jhort-dock.

Two things are urged in defence of this
cruel mutilation — the utility, and the beauty
of it. Let us briefly as poflible, examine both.


( 258 )

To make an animal nfcjul is no doubt, the
firfi: confideration : and to make a horfe fo,
we mufl necefTarily make him fufFer fome
things, which are unnatural, becaufe we take
him out of a Jlate of nature. He muft be
fed with hay, and corn in winter, which
he cannot get in his open paftures : for if
he have exercife beyond nature, he muft have
fuch food, as will enable him to bear it.
As it is neceiTary likewife to make our roads
hard, and durable, it is neceffary alfo to give
the horfe an iron-hoof, that he may travel

over them without injuring his feet. But

all this has nothing to do with his tail, which
is equally ufeful in a reclaimed and in a natural

Yes, fays the advocate for docking; as it
is nccefTary for the horfe to travel, to hunt,
and to race, it is ufeful to lighten him of
every incumbrance. And as it is neceilary
for him to travel through dirty roads -, it is
ufeful to rid him of an inftrument, which is
continually colled:ing dirt, and lalhing it over
himfelf, and his rider.

To eafe your horfe of every incumbrance
in travelling, is certainly right. You ihould
fee that his bridle, and faddle, (which are


( 259 )

his great incumbrances) are as eafy as pofTible :
and that the weight he carries, or draws, be
proportioned to his ftrength. But depend upon
it, he receives no incumbrance from nature.
It is a maxim among all true philofophers,
that nature has given nothing in vain : and
there can be no reafonable doubt, but that
nature has given the horfe his tail to balance,
and affift his motions. That this is the cafe,
feems plainly from the ufe he makes of it.
When the animal is at reft, his tail is pendent :
but when he is in violent adtion ; he raifes,
and fpreads it, as a bird does in the /ame
fituation. Would the fwallow, or the dove
be affifted in their flight by the lofs of their
tails ? or the greyhound in his fpeed by dock-
ing him ? For myfelf, I have no doubt,
but if the experiment were tried at New-
market, which I fuppofe it never was, the
horfe with his long tail, however the literati
there might laugh at him, would not in
the leaft be injured in his fpeed ^ and might
anfwer better, in all his fudden turns, to the
intention of the rider.

Befides, his tail probably affifts him even
in his common exertions j and balances his

S 2 body.

( 26o )

body, when he trots, and prevents his ftum-.
bling. I heard a gentleman, who had travelled
much in the eaft, remark, that the Turkifh,
and Arabian horfes rarely ftumble -, which he
attributed, and with fome appearance of truth,
to their long tails.

But whatever ufe the tail may be to the
horfe in aBiojiy .it is acknowleded on all
hands to be of infinite ufe to him, at rejl.
Whoever fees the horfe grazing in fummer,
and obferves the conftant ufe he makes of
his long tail in lafhing the flies from his
fides, muft be perfuaded, that it is a moil
ufeful inflrument : and mufl: be hurt to fee
him fidget a ihort dock, back, and forward,
with ineffedual attempts to rid himfelf of
fome plague, which he cannot reach.

As to the objed:ion againft the tail, as an
inflrument, which is continually gathering
dirty and lajlnng it around, if there be any
truth in what I have already obferved, this
little objedlion difiblves itfelf; efpecially as
the inconvenience may with great eafe be
remedied, when the road is dirty, either by
knotting up the tail, or by tying it with a


( 26l )

But whatever becomes of utilityy the horfe
is certainly more beautiful, we are told, without
his tail. What a handfome figure he makes,
when he carries both his ends iDell ! This
is the conftant language of horfe-dealers,
ftable-keepers, and grooms ; and fuch lan-
guage, tho originating in taftelefs ignorance,
and mere prejudice, has drawn over men of

fenfe, and underftanding. It is inconceive-

able, how delulively the eye fees, as well as
the underflanding, when it is fafcinated, and
led aiide by fafhion, and cuflom. Aflbciated
ideas of various kinds give truth a different
air. When we fee a game-cock with all his
fprightly adlions, and gorgeous plumes about
him, we acknowledge one of the mofl beau-
tiful birds in nature. But when we fee him
armed with fteel, and prepared for battle ;
we cry, what a fcare-crow ! But a cock-
fighter, with all the ideas of the pit about
him, conceives him in this latter flate, in his
greatefl beauty : and if his picture be drawn, he
muft be drawn in this ridiculous manner. I
have often feen it.

S 3 Let

( 262 )

Let jockies, and ftable-boys, and cock-
fighters keep their own abfurd ideas : but let
not men, who pretend to lee, and think for
themfelves, adopt fuch ridiculous conceits. —
In arts^ we judge by the rules of art. In
nature, we have no criterion but the forms of
nature. We criticize a building by the rules
of architedure : but in judging of a tree, or a
mountain ; we judge by the moft beautiful
forms of each, which nature hath given us.
It is thus in other things. From nature alone
we have the form of a horfe. Should we then
feek for beauty in that objedt, in our own wild
conceptions ; or recur to the great original,
from whence we had it ? We may be afTured,
that nature's forms are always the moil beau-
tiful ; and therefore we fhould endeavour to

correct our ideas by hers. If however we

cannot give up the point, let us at leaft be
confident . If we admire a horfe without a
tail, or a cock without feathers, let us not
laugh at the Chinefe for admiring the difpro-
portioned foot of his miftrefs ; nor at the
Indian, for doting on her black teeth, and
tattooed cheeks. For myfelf, I cannot con-
ceive, why it iliould make a horfe more


( 263 )

beautiful to take his tail from him, than it

would make a man to clap a tail to him*.

With regard indeed to the natural beauty of a
horfe's tail, we want little reafoning on the
fubje(5t. In conjund:ion with his mane, it

gives him dignity. It hides his ftraddling

buttocks ; which is a decency in nature, we

fliould admire, rather than deflroy. It

forms a contrafl among the legs. The four
equal legs of every animal are it's greateft de-
formity ; and their famenefs of courfe gives
the painter the moft trouble in the management
of them. In many of her forms indeed, where
nature does not feem to aim at beauty, flie
negledts this economy : but a5 if ilie meant
the horfe for one of her moft elegant produc-
tions, Ihe has provided for him in this refpedl
alfo, by giving him a graceful flow of hair,
which hiding fometimes one leg and fome-
times another, introduces a pleaiing contrail

among them all. The accidental motion

alfo of the tail gives it peculiar beauty -, both
when the horfe moves it himfelf ; and when it
waves in the wind. The beauty of it indeed

* See lord Monboddo on that fubjed.

S 4 to

( 264 )

to an unprejudiced eye is confpicuous at once ;
and in all parade, and ftate-horfes it is acknow-
ledged : tho even here there is an attempt
made to improve nature by art : the hair mull
be adorned with ribbons ; and the bottom of
the tail clipped fquare, which adds heavinefs,
and is certainly fo far a deformity.

The captain of an Englifh man of war gave
me an account fometime ago, of his landing in
one of the principal ftates of Barbary, while his
Ihip anchored in the bay. He was received by
the Dey (I think, of Tripoli) with great civi-
lity ; and among other things, faw his ftables.
They were lined with a very long, double row
of the moft beautiful Barb, and Arabian horfes.
He was ftruck with their beauty, to which
their grand flowing tails, combed, and oiled
in the niceft manner, were no little addition.
As he continued his walk through the ftud, he
came to a couple of horfes with nag-tails. On
inquiring into their hiftory, he found that they
were Englifh horfes, which had been prefented
to the Dey. The horfes themfelves were fit
to appear any where ; but the contrafl; of their
tails, he thought, in fuch company, made fo
very ftrange, and difgraceful an appearance,
that he was afliamed of his countrymen. The


( 26s )

cafe was, his eye having been thus accuftomed
to the beautiful forms of nature, had gotten
rid of it's prejudices -, and being a rational man,
he faw the matter in it's proper light.

I fhall conclude my remarks on this cruel

mutilation, with an epigram by Voltaire.

That celebrated wit was in England about the
time, when the barbarous cuftom of docking
horfes was in high fafhion. He was fo
fhocked at it, that he wrote the following
verfes, which, it is faid, he gave to lord

Vous, fiers Anglois, barbares que vous etes,
Coupez la tete aux rois, la queue aux betes :
Nos, Francois, plus polls et plus aimants des loix,
Laiflent la queue aux betes, et la tete aux rois.

There is more indignation, than wit, I
think, in thefe verfes. Voltaire feems to con-
' fider docking a horfe, and killing a king, as
equal crimes -, which however is carrying the
matter fomewhat farther, than the pidturefque
eye wifhes to carry it.

The fame abfurd notions, which have led
men to cut off the tails of horfes, have led


( 266 )

them alfo to cut off their ears. I fpeak not
of low grooms, and jockies ; we have lately
feen the ftuds of men of the firft fafliion,
mifled probably by grooms, and jockies, pro-
ducing only cropt-horfes.

When a fine horfe has wide, lopping ears,
as he fometimes has, without fpring, or
motion in them; a man may be tempted to
remove the deformity. But to cut a pair of
fine ears out of the head of a horfe, is, if pof-
fible, a ftill greater abfurdity, than to cut off
his tail. Nothing can be alledged in it's
defence. The ear neither retards motion;
nor flings dirt.

Much of the fame ground may be gone over
on this fubjed, which we went over on the
laft. With regard to the utility of the ear, it
is not improbable, that cropping it may injure
the horfe's hearing : there is certainly lefs
concave furface to receive the vibrations of

the air. 1 have heard it alfo afferted with

great confidence, that this mutilation injures
his health : for when a horfe has loft that
pent-houfe, which nature has given him over
his ear, it is reafonable to believe that wind,
and rain may get in, and give him cold. —


( 267 )

Hail, I have been told, is particularly inju-
rious to him.

But if thefe injuries are not ealily proved,
the injury he receives in point of beauty may
ftrenuoufly be infifted on. Few of the minu-
ter parts of animal-nature are more beautiful,
than the ear of a horfe, when it is neatly

formed, and well fet on. The contraft of

the lines is plealing ^ the concavity, and the
convexity, being generally feen together in

the natural turn of the ear. Nor is the

proportion of the ear lefs pleafmg. It is
contracted at the infertion, fwells in the
middle, and tapers to a point. The ear of no
animal is fo beautifully proportioned. That
of fome beafts, efpecially of the favage kinds,
as the lion, and pard, is naturally rounded,
and has little form. The ears of other
animals, as the fox, and cat, are pointed,
Ihort, and thick. Thofeof the cow are round,
and heavy. The hare's, and afs's ears are
long, and nearly of the fame thicknefs. The
dog, and fwine have flapping ears. The
(heep, alone has ears, that can compare with

the horfe. The ear of the horfe receives

great beauty alfo from it's colour, as well


( 268 )

as form. The ears of bay, and grey horfes
are generally tipped with black, which melts

into the colour of the head. But the ear

of the horfe receives it's greateft beauty from
motion. The ear of no animal has that
vibrating power. The ears of a fpirited horfe
are continually in motion; quivering, and
darting their (harp points towards every obje<5t,
that prefents : and the action is ftill more
beautiful, when the ears are fo well fet on,
that the points are drawn nearly together.
Virgil, who was among the moil accurate
obfervers of nature, takes notice of this qui-
vering motion in the ears of a horfe.

Si qua fonum procul arma dedere,

Stare loco nefcit; micat auribus

The fame word, which he ufes here to exprefs
the motion of a horfe's ears, he ufes elfewhere
to exprefs the gleaming of arms ; the glittering
of a gem -, and the vibrating motion of a

ferpent's tongue. But it is not only the

quivering motion of the horfe's ears, that we
admire j we admire them alfo as the inter-
preters of his paffions; particularly oi fear,
which fome denominate courage : and of anger,








met /w I //Yi^w^/c\


( 269 )

or malice. The former he exprefles by darting
them forward -y the latter, by laying them back.

This digreflion hath carried me much
farther, than I intended ^ but the mutilation
of the tail, and ears of this noble animal is
fo offenfive to reafon, and common fenfe, that
I have been imperceptibly led on by my in-
dignation. Tho nothing I can fay on the
fubjed, I am well perfuaded, can weigh
againft the authority of grooms, and jockies,
fo as to make a general reform : yet if, here
and there, a fmall party could be raifed in
oppofition to this ftrange cuftom, it might

in time perhaps obtain fafhion on it's fide.

We commonly fuppofe, that when mankind
in general agree in a point, there is truth. I
believe no nation upon earth, except the
Engliih, have the cuftom among them, of
docking, nicking, and cropping their horfes.

The wifdom too of all antiquity decides

fully againfl the practice. Inftances perhaps
might be found in the bas-reliefs of the Anto-
nine column, and other remains of Roman
antiquity, both of the cropt ear, and of the
hogged-mane, (which I take for granted were
never prad:ifed, except in cafes of defe6l,) but
I am perfuaded, no one inftance can be found,


( 27^ )

in all the remains of Grecian, or Roman anti-
quity, oi 2i p:)ort dockt or a nag-tail.

Befides the horfe, the foreft is much fre-
quented by another animal of his genus,
inferior indeed in dignity; but fuperior in
pidurefque beauty; I mean the afs. Among
all the tribes of animals, fcarce one is more
ornamental in landfcape. In what his pic-
turefque beauty confifts, whether in his pe-
culiar charadler — in his ftrong lines — in his
colourinor — in the roughnefs of his coat — or
in the mixture of all — would be difficult per-
haps to afcertain. The obfervation however
is undoubtedly true ; and every pidurefque
eye will acknowledge it. Berghem bears full
teflimony to it's truth. In his pictures the
afs makes often the moft diftinguifhed figure :
and a late excellent landfcape-painter^, I have
heard, generally kept this animal by him,
that he might have it always at hand to
introduce in various attitudes, into his pic-

* Mr. Gainfliorough.



I r4


:^ N.^^X'^'^




'■■■ —(-\~^


''^'^^SM^'^^^^J^^uT;;^:^^ ^

( 271 )

L One reafon indeed for replenifliing the forelt
fo much with afles is the propagation of
mules ', of which great numbers are bred in
many parts of it : at lead the breed was much
incouraged before the troubles of America,
whither feveral were every year exported j and
ftill more to the Weft-India illands.

The mule is by no means fo pidurefque
an animal as the afs ; and is rarely introduced
in landfcape ; chiefly, I fuppofe, becaufe he
has not fo determined a character. He is
neither a horfe, nor an afs, and yet has
a refemblance to both. To make an objed
truely pidurefque, it fhould be marked ftrongly

with fome peculiar charader. Befides, the

mule varies in form, as much from himfelf,
as he does either from the horfe, or the afs.
He follows his fire. A mule bred from an
Arabian, differs as much from the offspring
of a forefter, as the two fires themfeives.
This alfo injures it's pidiurefque charadier.

The mule, from which the annexed

drawing was taken, was a mule of blood.
The afs alfo varies from itfelf ; but not fo
much as the m.ule. He is here reprefented
under one of his moft elegant forms, that he
may the more juftly be compared with a mule


( 2/2 )

of the fame defcription. In the plate, in which
he is reprefented lingle, his common, domeftic
form is given.

With horned cattle of courfe, the foreft,
like all other large walles, abounds ; and this

is a fource of great pidlurefque beauty.

The inclofure prefents only a fmall number
at once, the property of fome fmgle perfon :
but in the for eft y the cattle of all the neigh-
bouring hamlets, and cottages, pafture to-
gether. We fee them often in large herds;
and in fummer, the feafon of landfcape, they
are drawn in numbers, to favorite fpots, par-
ticularly about pools, and rivulets ; where a
choice may be made among the various combi-
nations, and attitudes they form, of fuch as are

the moft beautiful, and pidturefque. Befides,

they appear in 2^ for eft to much more advantage,
than they can poflibly do within the formality
of hedges.

But of all animals with which the foreft
abounds, the ftag is in a peculiar manner
adapted to it's fcenes. The wildnefs of his


( 273 )

nature harmonizes with them ; and the beauty

of his form adorns them. We admire his

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Online LibraryWilliam GilpinRemarks on forest scenery, and other woodland views, (relative chiefly to picturesque beauty) illustrated by the scenes of New-Forest in Hampshire.. (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 18)