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- A Dissertation on Horses - 1/5 -


state of horse-breeding in England where a superstitious belief in bloodline with no attention to conformation rules. This is difficult for the modern reader to even visualize, after the late 19th century development of conformation norms for all breeds of animal. Notable for a description of horse raising and use among the nomad Arabs, evidence of the survival of the ancient Nisaean breed in Turkey, and stories of the Godolphin Arabian.

Transcriber's Note: I have retained most of the original spellings, as it may be valuable to see how such things have changed over the centuries. These odd spellings are marked with a double asterisk (**) not referencing any sort of note. The use of capitalization or all-caps is as in the original.

A DISSERTATION on HORSES: wherein it is demonstrated, by Matters of Fact, as well as from the Principles of Philosophy, that INNATE QUALITIES do not exist, and that the excellence of this Animal is altogether mechanical and not in the Blood.

By WILLIAM OSMER

London: Printed for T. Waller, 1756

-------------------------- A Dissertation on Horses

Whoever supposes that Mess. Heber and Pond, or even Mr. John Cheney, were the first who published accounts of Horse-racing, will find himself much mistaken, for there lived others above a hundred years before them, who not only published accounts of Horse-racing, but acquainted us with the history of the wrestling, backsword-playing, boxing, and even foot-racing, that happened in their days; and from them we learn also who were the victors, and how the racers came in.

Amongst these, lived a man whose name was Homer, a blind or obscure man (for they are synonimous** terms) who occasionally published his book of sports, and to him we are obliged also for the pedigree of many Horses that were esteemed the best in his time. This man was said to be poor, in little esteem, and to travel about the country to sell his books; but though his circumstances were very low, his understanding, it seems, was not, for he always took care to pay his court to the great personages wherever he came, and to flatter them in the blood of their Horses. But though he was little esteemed in his life-time, yet his book of pedigrees and genealogy of Horses was thought so useful, that he was greatly honoured for it after his death. And what is more strange, though the place of his nativity was unknown, and no country would receive him as a member of their community when living, yet when dead, many nations contended for the honour of it; but whatever arguments each country may produce for the support of its claim, nothing is more evident than that he was an Englishman; and there is great reason to believe he was born somewhere in the North, though I do not take upon me to say it absolutely was so. His partiality however, to that part of the kingdom, is manifest enough, for he pretended to say, that a good racer could be bred in no place but the North; whereas, late experience has proved that to be a very idle notion. But as the northern gentlemen were the first breeders of racing Horses, so it is very probably they were also the first subscribers to his book, and then we shall find his partiality might arise, either from his gratitude to these gentlemen, or from its being the place of his nativity, or perhaps from both.

There was in the North in his time, a very famous Stallion called Boreas: Whether the present breeders have any of that blood left, I do not certainly know; but Homer, to flatter the owner, who was a subscriber to his book, and always gave him two half guineas instead of one, fabled that this same Boreas begot his colts as fleet as the wind. This to be sure will be looked upon as nothing more than a matter of polite partiality to his benefactor: But it is much to be feared, this partiality has not been confined to persons alone; for there is reason to believe, that in many cases, he has varied the true pedigree of his Horses, and (not unlike our modern breeders) has left out one cross that has been thought not good, and substituted another in its room held more fashionable.

We have an account in one of his books, (I forget the year when it was published) of a very famous chariot-race, that was run over Newmarket between five noblemen; and though it was the custom at that time to run with a two-wheeled chaise and pair only, instead of four, we find all other customs nearly the same. The names of the Horses are given us, their pedigrees, and the names of the drivers; the course is marked out, judges appointed, betts** offered, but no crossing or jostling allowed; a plain proof they depended on winning from the excellence of their Horses alone. But though a curricle and pair was then the fashion, there lived at that time a strange mad kind of fellow, haughty and overbearing, determined that no body should do anything like himself, who always drove three; and though the recital of this circumstance may be considered as trivial, or little to the purpose, we shall find something in the story worth our attention, and with respect to Horses, a case very singular, such a one as no history, no tradition, nor our own experience has ever furnished us with a similar instance of.

It seems these three Horses were so good that no Horses in the kingdom would match them. Homer, after having been very lavish in their praise, has given us their names, and the pedigree of two of them, which it seems were full brothers. He tells us, they were as swift as the wind, and in his bombast** way of writing, says they were immortal; which expression is exactly of the same style and meaning with our modern phrase high-bred, and could mean nothing else, because in the recital of the pedigree, he tells us, they were got by this same North-country Horse before mentioned, called Boreas, and out of a flying Mare called Podarge. But the singularity of this case is, that the third Horse, whom he calls Pedasus**, was absolutely a common Horse, and of no blood. Here I beg leave to make use of Mr. Pope's words, who, in his translation, speaking of those Horse, says thus:

"Who like in strength, in swiftness, and in grace, "A mortal courser match'd th'immortal race."

Now as nothing is more certain, than that no Horses but those of blood can race in our days, I have long been endeavouring to find the true reason of this singular instance, and cannot any way account for it, but by supposing this equality of strength and elegance might produce an equality of swiftness. This consideration naturally produced another, which is, that the blood of all Horses may be merely ideal; and if so, a word of no meaning. But before I advance any thing more on this hypothesis, and that I may not be guilty of treason against the received laws of jockey-ship, I do here lay it down as a certain truth, that no Horses but such as come from foreign countries, or which are of extraction totally foreign, can race. In this opinion every man will readily join me, and this opinion will be confirmed by every man's experience and observation.

But in discussing this point, I shall beg leave, when speaking of these Horses, to change the word HIGH-BRED, and in its room substitute the word foreigner, or of foreign extraction. For perhaps it may appear, that the excellence we find in these Horses depends totally on the mechanism of their parts, and not in their blood; and that all the particular distinctions and fashions thereof, depend also on the whim and caprice of mankind.

If we take a Horse bred for the cart, and such a one as we call a hunter, and a horse of foreign extraction, and set them together, the meanest judge will easily point out the best racer, from the texture, elegance, and symmetry of their parts, without making any appeal to blood. Allow but a difference in the texture, elegance, and symmetry of parts in different Horses, whose extraction is foreign, this principle will be clearly proved, and the word HIGH- BRED is of no use, but to puzzle and lead us astray: and every man's daily observation would teach him, if he was not lost in this imaginary error, particular blood, that, generally speaking, such Horses who have the finest texture, elegance of shape, and the most proportion, are the best racers, let their blood be of what kind it will, always supposing it to be totally foreign. If I was asked what beauty was, I should say proportion: if I was asked what strength was, I should say proportion also: but I would not be understood to mean, that this strength and beauty alone will constitute a racer, for we shall find a proper length also will be wanted for the sake of velocity; and that moreover the very constituent parts of foreign Horses differ as much from all others, as their performances. But this, however, will be found a truth; that in all Horses of every kind, whether designed to draw or ride, this principle of proportion will determine the principle of goodness; at least to that part of it which we call bottom. On the other hand, our daily observation will shew us, that no weak, loose, disproportioned Horse, let his blood be what it will, ever yet was a prime racer. If it be objected, that many a plain ugly Horse has been a good racer; I answer that all goodness is comparative; and that such Horses who have been winners of plates about the country, may be improperly called good racers, when compared to some others: but I can even allow a very plain Horse to be a prime racer, without giving up the least part of this system: for instance if we suppose a Horse (with a large head and long ears, like the Godolphin Arabian) a low mean forehand, slat sided, and goose rumped, this, I guess, will be allowed a plain ugly Horse; but yet if such a Horse be strong, and justly made in those parts which are immediately conducive to action; if his shoulders incline well backwards, his legs and joints in proportion, his carcase strong and deep, his thighs well let down, we shall find he may be a very good racer, even when tried by the principles of mechanics, without appealing to his blood for any part of his goodness. We are taught by this doctrine of mechanics, that the power applied to any body, must be adequate to the weight of that body, otherwise, such power will be deficient for the action we require; and there is no man but knows a cable or chord of three inches diameter is not equal in strength to a chord of four inches diameter. So that if it should be asked why a handsome coach Horse, with as much beauty, length, and proportion as a foreign Horse, will not act with the same velocity and perseverance, nothing will be more easily answered, without appealing to blood; because we shall find the powers of acting in a foreign Horse much more prevalent, and more equal to the weight of his body, than the powers of acting in a coach Horse: for whoever has been curious enough to examine the mechanism of different Horses by dissection, will find the tendon of the leg in a foreign Hose is much larger than in any other Horse, whose leg is of the same dimensions; and as the external texture of a


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