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Horses in Society

Horses in Society: A Story of Animal Breeding and Marketing Culture, 1800-1920

Margaret E. Derry
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 304
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    Horses in Society
    Book Description:

    Before crude oil and the combustion engine, the industrialized world relied on a different kind of power - the power of the horse.Horses in Societyis the story of horse production in the United States, Britain, and Canada at the height of the species' usefulness, the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century. Margaret E. Derry shows how horse breeding practices used during this period to heighten the value of the animals in the marketplace incorporated a intriguing cross section of influences, including Mendelism, eugenics, and Darwinism.

    Derry elucidates the increasingly complex horse world by looking at the international trade in army horses, the regulations put in place by different countries to enforce better horse breeding, and general aspects of the dynamics of the horse market. Because it is a story of how certain groups attempted to control the market for horses, by protecting their breeding activities or 'patenting' their work,Horses in Societyprovides valuable background information to the rapidly developing present-day problem of biological ownership. Derry's fascinating study is also a story of the evolution of animal medicine and humanitarian movements, and of international relations, particularly between Canada and the United States.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7587-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-2)

    Today, horses provide recreation for many people in Western countries, and the equine population, after experiencing a period of shrinking numbers, has risen in response to such demand. Before 1920, however, horses were not simply sport animals: they were vital to agriculture, industry, urban life, and the military. In this book I describe the vanished equine world of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Canada, the United States, and Britain, primarily, and, in the process, I hope not only to demystify its dynamics but to show that a study of horses can enrich our understanding of some larger...

  5. ONE Modern Purebred Breeding: A Scientific or Cultural Method?
    (pp. 3-26)

    Expanding industrialization and more sophisticated technology resulted in a growing demand for horses over the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and created an ever widening geographic trade in them. Given the demand, greater variation in types appeared in the equine population, and theories abounded on how best to create them.

    All breeding ideology in Europe and North America with respect to horses must, however, be looked at in relation to the way modern purebred breeding methodology developed and how it interacted with traditional horse-breeding theory. An understanding of purebred breeding, then, is critical to my story about the horse....

  6. Part One. The Breeding of Horses

    • TWO The Light Horse
      (pp. 29-47)

      Over the years, empirical thinking relating to science and to various cultural concerns became interwoven and formed the basis for a standardized animal-breeding method, one designed to produce breeds yielding better and more economic biological commodities. The purebred system became widespread in the Western world and ultimately shaped views (scientific or otherwise) on the breeding of all species, even people. The production of workhorses in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was influenced by these complicated animalbreeding approaches, which arose from the needs of agriculture and from attitudes to the racing Thoroughbred. But two other distinct patterns, which would...

    • THREE The Heavy Horse
      (pp. 48-78)

      Issues relating to city and industrial work initiated the drive to create a distinctly heavier horse in the second half of the nineteenth century and in the end, led to the zenith of the heavy draft horse’s fortunes.¹ Three horse breeds came to dominate the scene in North America: the Clydesdale and the Shire from Britain and the Percheron from France. The story of how these breeds fared both in their native countries and in the United States and Canada does much to explain the world of the heavy draft horse. It also reveals how the shift to breed theory...

    • FOUR The Farmer’s Horse
      (pp. 79-98)

      The idea of a general-purpose, agricultural horse, called a ‘chunk’ in both Canada and the United States, changed over the nineteenth century. The horses most commonly used to fulfil that role before 1830 had been small – the French Canadian from Quebec, the Morgan from Vermont, and various crosses of the two. (Some breeders believe that the Morgan stemmed purely from the French Canadian. The stallion that founded the breed, Justin Morgan, foaled in 1795 in Vermont, was, they claim, purely French Canadian.)¹ Both the Morgan and the French Canadian had developed by 1800 from complicated interbreeding patterns of the British...

  7. Part Two. An International Horse Market:: The Remount Story

    • FIVE Finding Horses for the British Army
      (pp. 101-120)

      While horses served many industrial, urban, commercial, and agricultural needs in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the animals were also critical for the performance of armies in combat. This chapter reviews the British and European equine situation within that framework between the 1850s and 1914. Through an examination of documents released by the British Parliament, it looks at horse breeding and trading patterns in Britain, the changing British and European equine market in relation to technology and army needs, and the approaches taken to control horse production in various European countries, including Britain. These contemporary attempts to understand...

    • SIX American Horses and War: A National and International Issue
      (pp. 121-140)

      The war situation in Europe after the mid-nineteenth century affected horse operations in North America. Transatlantic shipping became economically viable in the 1870s, and North American farmers participated in many overseas markets for horses. The remount trade, and more specifically sales to the British army, proved to be particularly significant. In this and the next chapter I look at the role American and Canadian horses played in the market for remounts during the Boer War and the First World War. The American situation shows how a nation with one of the largest horse populations in the world became involved in...

    • SEVEN Canada’s Equine War Effort: A Story of Conflicting Interests
      (pp. 141-156)

      Canadian farmers were affected by British army purchasing as early as 1887 and, even though this buying spree was short lived, horse breeders had been introduced to a new market. Before 1887, Canadians had had little experience with horses in relation to the armed forces. The Crimean War had stripped the country of men in regular British cavalry units and, therefore, of equine armed forces. After Confederation in 1867, Canadian attempts at a horsed militia had not been overly successful. Cavalry units in Canada tended to be small, and they were raised and disbanded on a volunteer basis. In 1883...

  8. Part Three. Governments and Horse Improvement

    • EIGHT Understanding Heredity: The 1890 Report of the British Royal Commission on Horse Breeding
      (pp. 159-171)

      All methods of horse breeding reflected underlying, often unconscious, attitudes to the problem of heredity. Purebred breeding theory, with its Thoroughbred cultural and Bakewellian roots, had by the late nineteenth century crystallized more forcefully what many horsemen thought about the issue. Breeders frequently linked concepts of purity with race constancy (a notion associated with the theory of immutability of species) at the same time that they believed purebred breeding led to improvement (an idea that implies the capacity to change). Science’s approach to heredity had shifted, meanwhile, from one generally espousing the immutability of species to one supporting the idea...

    • NINE Producing Better Horses in the United States: Attempts to Control Fraudulent Activity and Market Share
      (pp. 172-185)

      In the late 1890s various regions in the United States and Canada began to adopt strategies designed to enforce improved equine breeding practices. Government regulation of horse breeding took the form of a twopronged attack, where both facets focused on the control of stud stallions. In order to breed mares publicly, stallion owners were at first encouraged, and later forced, to ‘enrol’ the animals by paying a fee and, ultimately, by carrying a licence that certified the animal had been inspected for health and soundness purposes. Conflicting views over the effectiveness of either factor for the improvement of horses made...

    • TEN The Canadian Experience in Horse Regulation: Continental and National Concerns
      (pp. 186-202)

      The regulation of breeding stallions in Canada followed a path similar to that in the United States and resulted from many of the same concerns – the desire to stop the perpetuation of fraudulent pedigrees and the specific attempts of purebred breeders to control the stallion market. The meanings of ‘scrub,’ ‘quality,’ and their relationship to ‘soundness’ were just as unclear in Canada as in the United States and reflect the fact that, while purebred breeders claimed they understood the process of ‘improvement,’ in reality they knew little about the workings of heredity. This chapter deals with issues similar to those...

  9. Part Four. Society and Horses

    • ELEVEN Aspects of a Pervasive Horse Culture in Society
      (pp. 205-231)

      By the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was an overarching horse culture that was composed of many entangled facets. As we’ve seen already, it involved breeding practices and attitudes to heredity, market dynamics, military demand, and government legislation attempting to regulate horse production. In this chapter we will examine other characteristics of this interconnected equine world by reviewing changes in the systems of stallion ownership and a variety of horse-trading tricks, as well as the way both these factors acted as drivers in the move to stallion legislation. We will then investigate how the development of the veterinary...

  10. TWELVE Conclusion
    (pp. 232-248)

    In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the horse remained central to the functioning of society, in spite of the fact that advancing technology made some of its uses obsolete. As late as 1920, most people still did not believe the working horse would vanish in the near future within Western industrial and agricultural life. The animals were so ubiquitous, too, that in many ways they remained virtually unseen, a fact that partially explains why comprehensive data were not collected. This lack of good documentation on the equine industry worried horsemen at the time, and often made it difficult...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 249-282)
  12. Note on Sources
    (pp. 283-290)
  13. Index
    (pp. 291-302)