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100 Years Ago: November 1923


This is the 106th entry in my series of abridgements/reviews of National Geographic Magazines reaching the one hundredth anniversary of their publication.



The first article in this month’s issue is entitled “The Story of the Horse” and was written by William Harding Carter, Major General, U. S. A., and author of “Horses, Saddles, and Bridles,” “Life of Lieutenant General Chaffee,” “The History of the Sixth Cavalry,” “The American Army,” etc. in the National Geographic Magazine.  The article has a subheading, both internal and external: “The Development of Man’s Companion in War Camp, on Farm, in Marts of Trade, and in Field of Sports.”  The article contains sixty-one black-and-white photographs even though the cover states that there were only “60 Illustrations.”  Seventeen of these photos are full-page in size.  It also contains a sketch drawing of the anatomy of a horse on page 476.

Casual observation of American cities, with streets overcrowded with motor vehicles, tended to create the impression that that was a horseless age, and that under prevailing conditions that useful animal was doomed to disappear.  Statistics, based on the census, showed, however, that while the normal rate of increase had not been maintained, there were nearly 300,000 more horses in the country than there were 20 years prior, and the number of mules had increased by 2,370,000 during the same period, notwithstanding the fact that during the World War, between 1915 and 1918, there were shipped abroad more than 950,000 horses and 345,000 mules.  Those facts seemed to have indicated that the doom of the horse had not yet been sealed, and that he would continue to abide with us, not only because he was useful, but because from time immemorial he had earned and held the affection of mankind.  If the literature on the subject was an indication of public interest, then the horse truly ranked high, for were more than 2,000 books related to that animal had been published in England and an equal number elsewhere.  No special effort was made by the Library of Congress to collect books on the horse, yet there were deposited in the Library nearly 1,000 volumes devoted exclusively to the horse, and countless books containing references to it.  History would lose much of its charm if the deeds of horsemen of all ages were eliminated.  The deeds of great warriors had even been perpetuated in marble or bronze.  It was inconceivable that a great military leader should be sculpted otherwise than upon his favorite charger.  To do would break the spell of a thousand years.  Many horses of military leaders were well known to history – Bucephalus, the charger of Alexander the Great; Marengo, the famous horse of Napoleon; and Copenhagen, the favorite mount of the Duke of Wellington.

America was not lacking in historical horses – General Israel Putnam, on his favorite horse, galloped madly down a long flight of steps to escape the British dragoons; Washington on his handsome charger, Nelson, receiving the surrender of Cornwallis; and Zachary Taylor on his well-known horse, Old Whitey.  The Civil War was replete with interest in the favorite horses of the great commanders.  General Ulysses Grant was generally recognized as a fine horseman.  When after four years of grueling war, the curtain fell on the Lost Cause, General Robert E. Lee slowly guided his splendid war horse Traveler from the fateful field of Appomattox.  Virginians were ever horsemen, and when the war began, two brothers rode forth to fight for the right that each saw.  General William R. Terrell was killed while leading his Federal brigade at the battle of Perryville, Kentucky.  General James B. Terrell was killed while leading his Confederate brigade in the battle of Bethesda Church, Virginia.  The poet, T. Buchaman Read immortalized in verse the splendid war horse of General Philip Sheridan, which carried him into the battle of Cedar Creek from Winchester, twenty miles away.  When that famous horse died his skin was mounted and preserved.  The history of the horse and the gradual development of the types now known had long been subjects of painstaking study by trained investigators, and some of their researches was worth reviewing.  With centuries of confusion among those that had passed since the dawn of history, it was not strange that some threads of information were missing, but rather that so many had been preserved concerning the horse.  The horse had been the companion and servant of man in nearly all his migrations and conquests, and had always played an important part in the development of agrarian civilization.

Scientists all agreed that in prehistoric ages certain types of horses ranged over parts of Asia and of North and South America, and that while the wild horses of Asia appeared to have descended from that original stock, all such animals had disappeared from North and South America before any modern European landed here.  Research efforts had been highly successful in establishing in the minds of scientists the multiple-toed skeleton remains of an ancient animal as the progenitor of the horse, which during all recorded history had been distinguished by a single toe encased in a wall of horn or hoof, the form best adapted to carrying heavy weight at speed over rough ground.  There were certain apparently useless structures connected with the legs of the horse which had given rise to many of the theories concerning his probable evolution from an animal of different type.  There was on the inner surface of each foreleg of the horse, above the knee, and on the inner surface of each hindleg, below the hock joint, a callous, elongated piece of skin known as a “chestnut,” which had long been a subject of investigation, based upon the idea that it represented the former existence of an appendage which had disappeared in the process of evolution.  There was also a bony, wartlike structure, at the back of the fetlock or pattern joint, quite pronounced in some animas, which served no useful purpose to the horse in his present form.  Practically all writers on the history of the horse were inclined to belief that the horse of the steppes of Asia had the most legitimate claim as the source from which the domesticated horse was derived.  Not all, however, accepted that contention.  Especially did the admirers of the Arabian declined to accept that theory.  There may have been a basis for the contention, and the Arabian may have had his origin in Africa, the home of the Barb horse and numerous branches of the solid-hoof animal of the ass, zebra, and quagga groups.

The Barb horse differed less from the Arabian than the latter did from all other horses.  That the conformation, size, and character of any type of horse may be modified in the course of time, by subjecting him to changes of climate, temperature, forage, and soil, was too well known to admit of question; but the Arabian had only five lumbar vertebrae, while there were six in other horses.  That was a difference which would not be accounted for by reason of change of environment, climate, or forage; and that lent encouragement to those who contended for the Arabian horse as an original stock.  From the earliest times the horse had been known to exist on the high tablelands of Asia.  The use of horse chariots prevailed in Egypt as far back as the history of that country was known.  Among the bas-reliefs and pictures of Assyrian, Persian, Nubian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and other horses of the ancients, the types were limited and bore slight resemblance to the modern breeds of horses as developed within the prior two centuries.  The horse, as depicted in the fifth century B. C., in the frieze of the Parthenon and numerous bas-reliefs of that period, bore much resemblance to the wild horses of Asia in size, the shape of the head and neck, and the peculiar short, upstanding mane.  The size was readily estimated in comparison with that of the riders, whose legs hung down far below the bodies of the horses.  From that early period the horse, as pictured in the geographical areas now occupied by modern nations, began to show an increase in size and weight, and gradually assumed some of the conformations by which we classified the several breeds of modern horses.  It was a remarkable fact that all history, ancient and modern, was more a recital of wars and conquests than of industrial and commercial progress, and therefore it was not surprising that the war horse was depicted, almost to the exclusion of any other, in the writings, pictures, and sculptures of the ancients.

Needing better horses that their enemy, efforts to improve the native breeds of horses began when nations first made war upon each other, and had continued through the intervening centuries to the present time.  During periods of peace, and with increasing populations, the needs of the agriculturists for farm animals began to take form, and the improvement of draft animals proceeded with that of the war horses, and gradually had become by far the more important.  In all recorded history trials of strength and speed had tempted men to train both themselves and their horses to enter the competitions which in ancient times played a great part in the affairs of state and nation.  From chariot races to Man-of-War, horse racing had spanned history.  The model of the horse of old, for the sculptor, the artist, or the tapestry-weaver was not some undernourished, rawboned, neglected animal, but a sleek, well-developed, and carefully selected horse to represent the class.  The development of the horse had followed many lines, each indicating a purposeful end in view.  Horses on the open range adapted to their condition; the weak perished the hardy survived.  Foraging with little food tended to limit growth.  Transferred from such environment to the land of plenty, the first observable change was an increase in size.  With abundant food and protection from weather, the horse of any breed would quickly respond, and in a few generations, by careful selection, would bear little resemblance to its early progenitors.  When the draft horse was developed had not been determined.  It was thought that the horse was first used in low, two-wheeled chariots, mainly for war, and that the use of the animal for riding followed, as nations began to carry out distant forays and wars.  Ancient armies could not carry out war without supplies, so the draft horse was needed.  The countries in which Caesar campaigned in Europe, including England, had the greatest development of all the heavy types of horses.

Good roads were the greatest justification to breeders in their efforts to produce a heavy horse, capable of pulling a heavy load over a dependable roadbed.  Nowhere else in the world had draft animals been developed comparable to the French Percherons, the British Shires and Clydesdales, and the Belgians.   The nation’s pride was concentrated, even though it was an undersized horse, or pony.  Nearly every country had some particular breed of horse on which the nation’s pride was concentrated, even though it was an undersized horse, or pony.  That sort of pride found no counterpart in the products of industrialism.  From the Mongolian ranges, coming westward, the Turkoman, Persian, the Karadagh of the Cossack, the Kurdish, the Arabian, and many other breeds had won the hearts of the people whom they had served in war and peace for untold generations.  When Caesar invaded the British Isles, in mid-first century B. C., he found the natives possessed hardy horses of small size.  They grew no food for the horses, which ranged freely, and were rounded up from time to time, to select those for use or breeding.  Those animals constituted the foundation stock of the British Isles, on which was grafted, from time to time, superior animals.  Those left to seek forage on the range remained small and undeveloped, and comprised in their descendants the ponies known under various local names.  The existence in Great Britain at the time of the Roman invasion was credited to the Phoenicians during their period of maritime supremacy several centuries prior.  Among the principal elements of their commerce were horses.  Their colonies in Algeria and Morocco were known for their horses.  The debt for infusions of high-grade blood which the horse world owed to northern Africa had never been fully acknowledged.  Libyan tribes possessed horses long before the Arabs were known to have had them.  It was possible that the north African horse was, by way of trade through Egypt, the progenitor of the Arabia.

In 1684, John Evelyn recorded in his diary the early arrival in England of some rare horses, possibly of Arabia ancestry.  No other reference had come the author’s concerning those animals, but doubtlessly they were stallions and were used to improve the breed of British horses, along with the three stallions which came to England and to which all Thoroughbreds were traced.  It was not known just what blood was used to build up the heavy British horses, but Flemish and Belgian horses of heavy type were in existence when Rome invaded western Europe, and it was likely that they supplied the infusion necessary to increase the size of the island stock.  During the Crusades and for several centuries after, the armor of the knights was so heavy that ordinary horses could not carry it.  Much attention was devoted to the development of horses of great size, leading to the type later known as the Shires.  Fossil remains of horses had been found in Nebraska, Texas, and along the Pacific coast as far north as Alaska.  Considerable numbers of all ages were found in the asphalt beds at Rancho La Brea, in California.  [See: “The Larger North American Mammals,” November 1916, National Geographic Magazine.]  The first modern horses to land on this continent were brought by Cortez, and participated in the conquest of Mexico.  Fernando de Soto brought horses to Florida and used them on his long march to the Mississippi.  The horses then taken to Texas and abandoned there, together with those coming in from Mexico, were the progenitors of the bands of wild horses that gradually spread over the prairies and became known as the Mustang.  The presence of those wild horses on the prairies led to the organization of many parties bent on their capture.  Washington Irving journeyed to the West and joined one of those parties.  Similarly, in South America, Spanish horses escaped to the uninhabited pampas, and in the course of time were the bases of innumerable small herds.

The presence of those wild horses on the prairies was responsible for an entire change of habits of the American Indians who occupied the plains, as well as of those who were gradually forced back by the ever-advancing frontier of the whites.  Prior to the coming of the Europeans, the Indians traveled on foot and located their villages according to the supply of game.  The coming of the horse changed all that, and at an early date the Comanches and other tribes which hunted along the fringes of the buffalo herds began to hunt on horseback and to follow the herds until their supply of skins and meat for the winter had been secured.  Those hunting parties led to infringement on other tribes’ territory, which led to almost perpetual war among many tribes.  Nor were tribal depredations confined to warring upon one another, for the Indians became expert horse thieves.  They would stampede herds of domesticated animals and render them easy prey to Indian marauders.  The horses introduced along the eastern seaboard by the settlers in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and New England were not all derived from the same source, nor did their breeding proceed along the same lines.  The settlers of Virginia brought over horses, the first of which were eaten during the starvation period at Jamestown.  But importations continued, and in 1611, seventeen horses and mares were reported to have arrived.  The need for saddle horses, in a country without roads other than bridle paths through the forests, became great, and it was not long before Virginians were accounted the best horsemen in the colonies.  George Washington maintained an extensive breeding establishment to provide horses for his own use and for the improvement of his neighbors’ stock.  The entire family at Mount Vernon usually attended the races at Annapolis in the adjacent colony of Maryland.  When Washington was President, his horses were a source of surprise and admiration.  Washington and his friends set the pace for tidewater Virginia and their habits and customs influence the widely dispersed Virginians as they passed over the mountains to create new commonwealths.

It was not until 1750 that the importation of English race horses began.  Long prior, however, racing had been popular in Virginia.  Races of one, two, and even four miles were common.  The horses of the early period were small, being 15 hands [5 feet] tall or less.  Some of those horses had come from Ireland.  Prior to the coming of the Thoroughbred, the winners were mated to perpetuate the speed of both sire and dam.  From those early days until around the Civil War, short-distance racing was also popular, using a straight course of a quarter mile.  Those quarter races were not confined to the regular race tracks.  At a very early period, the Virginians began the use of pacing and racking horses, and the best animals were bred to perpetuate those gaits as natural gaits of the horse.  The gaited saddle horses had retained their popularity in America wherever riders knew how to ride them.  The horse industry of Maryland followed closely upon that of Virginia and other southern colonies, but in Pennsylvania there was a complete change of system upon the coming of William Penn.  Beginning in 1676, all horses running at large were required to be branded, and within a few years it was enacted that no stallions under 13 hands be allowed on the ranges.  That law was revised in 1724 to increase the size limit to 14 hands.  The Pennsylvanians took life more seriously than their Southern neighbors, and at an early date horse racing of all kinds was prohibited under severe penalties.  The whole scheme of the Pennsylvanian horse industry was to encourage and develop a large type of horse, capable of farm work and hauling heavy loads.  Among the early settlers of Pennsylvania were Swedes, Finns, and Dutch, who brought with them many small riding horses, mainly pacers.  In the course of time, the results of the encouragement long given to horse-breeding became evident.  The large horses of Pennsylvania, the Conestoga, were harnessed to enormous wagons and laid the foundation for the over-mountain traffic which connected to the barges of the Ohio, and other rivers.

In New York and New England there were English horses, used mainly for saddle purposes, but the early Dutch settlers along the Hudson obtained their work horses from the Netherlands.  One of the first things the British governor of New York did upon the surrender of New Amsterdam was to establish a race track on Long Island.  While New York and New England had never been regarded as horse-raising districts, some wonderful families, notably the Morgans, the American Trotter, and the Narragansett pacer, had their origin and main development there.  Certain small districts were the homes of some very important breeding ventures.  Except for the horses introduced by the Spaniards, mainly in the far West, it was fair to assume that nearly all the horses brought into the colonies prior to the Revolution came from the British Isles.  They were small, most less than 13½ hands.  Many were pacers.  That was due to the Roman occupation of Britain and the many roads they built.  The saddle gait most prized at that period, and for mor than a thousand years afterwards, was the pace, or the amble.  Soon after the American colonies were established, the pace was decreed unfashionable in England, but that did not stop their importation.  The distinct breed of Saddle Horse, the many-gaited animal, resulted from crosses of pacing stock, and before the advent of cheap automobiles they were found on nearly all Southern farms.  The American pioneers and their descendants had always loved their horses.  Laws were enacted in the older States to deter horse thieves.  Anti-horse thief associations and vigilance committees existed in all parts of the country.  Many years later organized bands of horse thieves maintained a flourishing business along the Mexican border in Arizona by stealing alternately from each side.  It took four years to raise a horse, while four days were enough to take one across the border beyond recovery.

Breeding was as important in farm horses as it was in Thoroughbred racing.  It was essential to select with care the big horses that were reliable in transmitting the qualities sought, which included equable temperament, so essential in the draft horse.  At the opposite extreme was found the pony, suitable for children, where diminutive size was the main consideration.  The immensity of our country and the diversity of its climate and agricultural resources had made possible the introduction of many breeds of horses to replace those discarded or to meet new demands.  The use of farm machinery had given the impression that the horse was no longer necessary, and the breeding industry had gone into permanent decline.  There were altogether too many inferior horses occupying stalls on American farms, but the increase in the number of improved breeds showed hope.  Farming had not been as profitable since the World War as it should have been.  The cost of labor had been extraordinarily high.  However, there were indications that the low-water mark had been reached, and the breeding of horses would increase again in the coming years.  For many years American breeders had ventured into the field of heavy draft horses.  Experience showed that the Percheron was the best suited of the heavy horses in America.  The numbers of several breeds of imported draft horses reported in the U. S. on January 1, 1920, were 70,613 Percherons, 10,838 Belgians, 5,617 Shires, 4,248 Clydesdales, and 2,964 French Drafts.  It was not uncommon to see American-bred Percherons weighing upward of a ton each at two and three years of age.  Their carriage was attractive, and their legs were clean, with generally fine feet.  Altogether, they made a most satisfactory, handsome, and useful draft animal.  They were not consistent breeders, but their numbers were steadily increasing.  When crossed with native mares they produced a middle-weight draft horse of which there was always a steady demand.

The automobile had lessened the demand for light horses, for saddle and light buggy use.  The preservation and increase of that type of horse play prominent parts in all plans for national defense, but after every war, that need was largely ignored.  In the face of many obstacles and discouragements, the military authorities had gone steadily forward during the past 20 years in standardized and continuous efforts to keep alive and expand the breeding industry.  The road of progress had been long and rough, and without the assistance of men of vision success might have been turned into failure many times.  Through contributions and by purchases from limited appropriations, the Army Remount Bureau was enabled to distribute throughout the country stallions to breed remounts for the Army.  While at peace, the Army did not have to purchase heavily, but the system had to be maintained for the day of need.  The types of horses bred under the Remount Bureau were not restricted to any particular breed, but preference was shown for the Thoroughbred cross on selected mares. More Thoroughbred stallions were distributed to breeding areas than all other types combined.  Arabians, Saddle Bred, Morgan, and Standard Bred stallions were made available for those who desired those crosses.  In order to judge the relative merits of the different breeds, endurance rides had been established, where the choicest horses of each type met and established their claims to superiority.  Horses of unknown breeding were not eligible for entry.  The tests had established the Arabian horse, both pure and part bloods, in high esteem; yet their numbers were too low for the Army’s need in wartime.  Similarly, the Morgan had reestablished his old reputation for gameness and stamina; yet their numbers were also too small.  The Thoroughbred was the only breed that existed in numbers sufficient to make a creditable showing within a reasonable number of years.  The Saddle Bred and American trotting horses also were too few in numbers.

More than a quarter century before he penned this article, the author was called upon to prepare a textbook on the horse for the use of the army.  He stated that there were sufficient horses available for purchase from private breeders.  It was not necessary for the Government to breed horses for cavalry purposes.  It was better to train officers to inspect and select the best animals produced on American farms.  The horse, if selected with care, and properly used, was capable of rendering long and valuable service.  There was an infinite amount of hardship and drudgery connected with the mounted services, and the loss of animals in all wars was very great.  During the Civil War, in 1864, the Federal Army required more than 500 horses each day to replace loses.  In the first eight months of 1864, the Army of the Potomac used up 40,000 horses.  Similar conditions had prevailed in other armies.  During the Russia campaign, 1812, Napoleon crossed the Niemen with 187,121 horses, of which 60,000 belonged to the cavalry.  In the end, the cavalry recrossed the Niemen with 1,600 horses.  During the British retreat to the seacoast during the Peninsular War, the horse loss was nearly complete.  Those that survived were shot on the beach to keep them from falling into French hands.  When the French marched out of Portugal during the same war, they started with 8,000 horses and lost 195 of them each day during the retreat.  Similarly, the losses in Crimea in 1855, were largely due to starvation.  The British horses were reduced from 5,048 to 2,258.  As the history of nations went, it was probable that the glory accruing from the “Charge of the Six Hundred” compensated the British for all their horses.  The losses in Crimea were nothing compared to those occurring in the Boer War, 1899-1902.

The probability of a horse’s reaching an advanced age did not depend as much upon race and breeding as upon his environment and care.  Neglect and lack of enough food alike tended to shorten the horse’s lifespan.  In that way a horse might be old and worn out at 12 or 14, while another might continue to render good service until 20 to 25 years of age.  Numerous horses had lived to reach the age of 35 or 40 years.  It was generally accepted that horses which matured slowly live longer than those which matured rapidly.  It was claimed that mares lived longer than horses, and small horses longer than large one, but it was difficult to prove because they were not subjected to the same treatment.  The difference in appearance between young and old horses was very marked.  After maturity, more reliance was placed upon the indications afforded by teeth than upon outward signs.  Structural alterations took place in the teeth every year up to the sixth.  After the horse had obtained his full set of teeth, the age could be determined by the effect of wear in altering their shape, by the receding gums, and by other signs.  The front teeth of a young horse were broad in the direction of the jaw, but as the teeth were worn off, they gradually assumed a circular shape on the top surface.  The mule had long been appreciated in America and several other countries.  Mules had been used in Europe from ancient times, especially in the mountain districts of southern France, Spain, and Italy.  Very early in the history of New England a considerable trade was built up in the sale of horses in the West Indies.  There followed a demand for mules and many were shipped from New England.  It was not until after the Revolution that the breeding of mules assumed large proportions.  In 1786, the King of Spain presented Washington a jack and jennet of the Andalusian breed, and later he received a Maltese jack from Lafayette.  He crossed the Maltese jack with the Spanish jennet and got a sire, which he named Compound.

With the invention of the cotton gin, the planting of cotton increased by leaps and bounds, and similarly, the development of sugar plantations reached proportions demanding large numbers of mules.  The land of cotton and sugar was not as well adapted to stock-raising as the bluegrass country to the north.  In preparing to supply the demand for mules, it was necessary first to secure jacks.  The Spaniards had raised donkeys in Mexico for many years but, those animals sired mules that were not strong enough to do heavy agricultural work.  During the time went the States on the western flank of the Alleghenies, the best possible land for stock-raising, were being opened, Europe was gripped in war, so the supply of mules was cut off.  Toward the end of Napoleon’s career, America became involved in the War of 1812-15, so for a long period Virginia remained in control of the mule market.  Before the introduction of steamships, the transportation of horses across the Atlantic was attended with many losses.  Once the business became reasonably safe, men were willing to invest in the highest grades of stock in Europe, and son Americans combed Italy, Spain, Malta, and France for the choicest of their jacks and jennets.  It was not long before the buyers discovered in La Vendee the famous jacks of Poitou, which had left such a deep impression upon American stock.  The number of mules in the country had steadily increased, and the last census [1920] showed a total of 5,810,641 – a gain of over two million in 20 years.  These were bred almost wholly from native jacks; importation had practically ceased.  Nearly three-fifths of the mules in the country were in the nine so-called cotton-belt States.  The Civil War taught Americans the great value of the mule.  The animals employed by the Union armies numbered one for every two men.  They hauled the heavy wagons over well-nigh bottomless roads during the whole four years’ struggle.  In the Boar War, the British turned to America for both horses and mules.

The American Army had long recognized the ability of the mule to do hard work for less forage than the horse, and the official ration of grain had always been one-fourth less for mules than for horses.  The author saw first hand the Army mule in action on the trail of Apache marauders in the mountains of Arizona.  The pack mules never seemed to have any difficulty.  Mules gave up easily in water, if it got in their ears.  With our growing population and the foreign markets open to America, the annual production of mules should reach the half million mark in a few years. There are some congeners of the jack and the mule which the author mentions, although they had never played any useful part in the service of mankind.  Among those may be mentioned the wild asses of Asia and Africa, the zebras, and the quaggas.  All those species were included by zoologists as one genus in the horse family.  The horse had some very distinctive characteristics, in the long mane, the tail covered in hair, short ears, and a forelock of hair between them, while the proportion to its size its legs were longer, its hoofs broader, and its head smaller that the species known as asses and zebras.  The easily recognizable difference between the las two was that asses were of plain color while zebras were striped.  Leg stripes and line stripes along the spine were common in certain breeds of horses.  The asses were not all marked alike, those of Asia being quite distinct from those of Africa, just as the stripes of the Mountain zebra differed from those of Grevy’s and Chapman’s zebras.  While there were instances of zebras having been trained to harness, they had successfully resisted all efforts to participate in modern civilization by bearing part of man’s burden. Experimentation in crossing the male zebra on the mare of horses or donkeys had resulted in animals of no practical value.

From the earliest period when artists and sculptors began to depict the horse, the idea of motion, especially of the gallop, was represented by an extension of both fore legs, and similarly to the rear of both hind legs.  Through photography it was learned the feet of the galloping horse never occupied the positions indicated by those artists.  We now know that, at the moment of the stride, when all the feet are off the ground, the soles of the front were turned up and not down, as in the old pictures.  Photographs showed and instant in time, they could not convey motion.  It was only by remembering the position of the horse’s feet at the walk and trot that the trained eye comprehended the fact that the horse shown on one hind or fore foot was running.  The artists undertook to represent motion as a continuous action, and no one ever misunderstood what was represented.  By 1923 we knew the relative positions of the hose’s feet at each instant of motion through scientific analysis of instantaneous pictures, but none of the latter truly represented anything but a moment of arrested movement.  While the artist’s method of painting the horse at a gallop probably originated in Egypt, it found its way to the Orient and was unhesitatingly accepted by the then known world as an easily understood representation of continuous motion at speed.  As a matter of fact, the old illustrations of the running horse more nearly pictured the movements of the dog at speed than anything else.  In jumping and obstacle at speed, the instantaneous photograph showed the front feet extended as if the horse would land on both of them at once, but he never did; for, the instant he approached the ground, he prepared to land on one foot and placed the other forward for the next step in his stride.  The public was becoming quite familiar with the appearance of race horses at speed by reason of the publication of many photographic illustrations.

Ever since the construction of the famous wooden horse at the siege of Troy, it had always been the custom to criticize horse statuary.  That tendency to criticize was seldom applied in judging statues of other animals, such as cats and dogs, and yet there were hundreds of pet owners to one who owned a horse.  Washington, D. C., probably contained more equestrian bronzes than any other city in America, and not one of them was safe from the jibes of the public, because it had become the fashion to criticize them.  Each new generation of sculptors seemed to add fuel to the flame by pointing out the weird defects and shortcomings of this or that statue; and yet there was much to be proud of in the bronze horses of the Capital, besides the fact that they perpetuate the memory of men who have rendered the state some service.  Probably most criticized of the many statues was that of Andrew Jackson, which was cast from cannon captured at the battle of New Orleans.  No other sculptor had followed Mills’ example in reproducing a general’s charger in the act of rearing.  Mills had caught the horse in one of those familiar positions and had shown General Jackson retaining his seat in perfect balance.  Andrew Jackson was not only a lover of horses, but a rider of rare ability, and the rearing of a nervous horse was not apt to disturb him in the saddle.  Some modern sculptors had a custom of placing statues on high pedestals, as were those of General Sherman and General McClellan.  That restricted close observers to a view of the horse’s belly.  Taken as a whole, the equestrian statues of deceased generals in the public parks of Washington were truer to life, and as works of art were superior in quality to the incongruous group in Statuary Hall, under the dome of the Capitol contributed by the States.  The people of America had many reasons for pride in the Capital, not the least being the beautiful avenues, broken at intervals by circles containing equestrian statues.



The second item listed on the cover of this month’s issue is entitled “Horses of the World,” and the byline lists Edward Herbert Miner.  It is not an article, and more than the “24 Paintings in Oil Reproduced in Full Color” by Mr. Miner state on the cover.  Besides the twenty-four color plates, this entry is a field guide of horses containing twenty-eight entries comprised of a heading containing the horse’s common name; a plate number for the painting of that particular horse; and a text containing the horse’s history, its range, its size, its traits, its uses, if any, and occasionally a story involving the breed of horse or one of its famous members.  It is embedded in the middle of the first article.  The first article can be considered the introductory article, albeit long.  It makes several references throughout to the field guide entries and paintings, as well as to its own black-and-white photographs.  Also, I would like to note that only one page separates the sketch chart of the horse from the field guide text, making it a part of the guide.  I consider this a sister issue to the March 1919 “Dog” issue.  [See: “Intimate Studies of Dogs We Know,” March 1919, National Geographic Magazine.]  I have decided to list the twenty-four painting instead of the twenty-eight entries so I can document the page numbers of the plates.  The reason for this is that unlike any other field guide (or any set of color plates or duotones for that matter) these plates are not in a sequential block but scattered throughout the field guide.  Whenever two images are together, they are facing each other and both have text on their backs.

And here is a list of color plates, including the plate number in Roman numerals and its associated page number:

  • “The Wild Horses of Asia” – I (479)
  • “Grevy’s Zebra” – II (482)
  • “Grant’s and Chapman’s Zebras” – III (483)
  • “Mountain Zebra” – IV (486)
  • “Onager (left foreground) and Kiangs” – V (487)
  • “Nubian and Somaliland Wild Asses” – VI (490)
  • “Shetland Pony” – VII (491)
  • “Norwegian Dun and Iceland Pony” – VIII (494)
  • “Welsh Pony” – IX (495)
  • “Arabian” – X (498)
  • “Hackney – XI (499)
  • “German Coach Horse” – XII (502)
  • “American Saddle Horse” – XIII (503)
  • “Suffolk” – XIV (506)
  • “Clydesdale” – XV (507)
  • “Belgian” – XVI (510)
  • “Shire” – XVII (511)
  • “Percheron” – XVIII (514)
  • “Thoroughbred: Man-of-War” – XIX (515)
  • “Standard Bred Horse” – XX (518)
  • “Morgan” – XXI (519)
  • “Polo Pony” – XXII (522)
  • “Mustang” – XXIII (523)
  • “Mule” – XXIV (526)



Tom Wilson

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