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´╗┐Title: 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
Author: Osmer, William
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "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" ***


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


Printed for T. Waller, 1756

Summary: Osmer shows us, by what he argues against, the primitive
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.


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
foreign Horse is much finer than of any other, so the foreign
Horse must necessarily have the greatest strength and perseverance
in acting, because the muscular power of two Horses (whose
dimensions are the same) will be the greatest in that Horse, whose
texture is the finest.

Let us next inquire what information we can gather from the
science of Anatomy, concerning the laws of motion: it teaches us,
that the force and power of a muscle consists in the number of
fibres of which it is composed; and that the velocity and motion
of a muscle consists in the length and extent of its fibres. Let
us compare this doctrine with the language of the jockey: he tells
us, if a Horse has not length, he will be slow; and if made to
slender, he will not be able to bring his weight through.  Does
not the observation of the jockey exactly correspond with this
doctrine? If we now inquire into the motion of Horses, we shall
find the bones are the levers of the body, and the tendons and
muscles (which are one and the same thing) are the powers of
acting applied to these levers. Now when we consider a half-bred
Horse running one mile or more, with the same velocity as a Horse
of foreign extraction, we do not impute that equality of velocity
to any innate quality in the half-bred Horse, because we can
account for it by external causes: that is by an equality of the
length, and extent of his levers and tendons. And when we consider
a half-bred Horse running one mile, or more, with the same
velocity as the other, and then giving it up, what shall we do?
shall we say the foreigner beats him by his blood, or by the force
and power of his tendons? or can we, without reproaching our own
reason and understanding, impute that to be the effect of occult
and hidden causes in the one of these instances and not in the
other? both of which are demonstrated with certainty, and reduced
to facts by the knowledge of anatomy and the principles of

How many instances have we of different Horses beating each other
alternately over different sorts of ground! how often do we see
short, close, compact Horses beating others of a more lengthened
shape, over high and hilly coursed, as well as deep and slippery
ground; in the latter of which, the blood is esteemed much better,
and whose performances in general are much better!

And how comes it to pass that Horses of a more lengthened shape,
have a superiority over Horses of a shorter make, upon level and
flat courses? Is this effected by the difference of their
mechanical powers, or is it affected by the blood? if, by the
latter, then this blood is not general, but partial only, which no
reasoning man will be absurd enough to allow. But I much fear our
distinctions of good and bad blood are determined with much
partiality; for every jockey has his particular favourite blood,
of which he judges from events, success, or prejudice: else, how
comes it to pass, that we see the different opinions and fashions
of blood varying daily! nay, we see the very same blood undergoing
the very same fate; this year rejected, the next in the highest
esteem; or this year in high repute, the next held at nothing. How
many changes has the blood of Childers undergone! once the best,
then the worst, now good again! Where are the descendants of Bay
Bolton, that once were the terror of their antagonists! Did these
prevail by the superiority of their blood, or because their power
and their fabric was superior to the Horses of their time? If any
one ask why Danby Cade was not as good a racer as any in the
kingdom, the jockey could not impute this defect to his blood; but
if it should be imputed to his want of proportion, surely it might
be held for a true and satisfactory reason. How many revolutions
of fame and credit, have all sportsmen observed in these HIGH-BRED

Numberless are the examples of this kind which might be quoted,
but to account for this, one says, The blood is wore out for want
of a proper cross; another tells us, That after having been long
in this climate, the blood degenerates; but these reasons cannot
be true, because we see the off-spring of all crosses, and of the
most antient** families, occasionally triumphant over the sons of
the very latest comers, the error then will not be found in the
blood, or in the proper crossing; but the defect will be produced
by the erroneous judgment of mankind, in putting together the male
and female with improper shapes; and while we are lost and blinded
by an imaginary good, the laws of nature stand revealed; and we by
paying a proper attention thereto, and employing our judgment
therein, might wipe this ignis fatuus from the mind, and fix the
truth on a sure foundation. Our observation shews us, that on the
one hand, we may breed Horses of foreign extraction too delicate,
and too slight for any labour; and on the other hand, so coarse
and clumsy, as to be fitter for the cart than the race. Shall we
then wonder these cannot race, or shall we doubt that degrees of
imperfection in the mechanism, will produce degrees of
imperfection in racing! and when we find such deficient, shall we
ridiculously impute it to a degeneracy of that blood, which once
was in the highest esteem, or to the want of judgment in him who
did not properly adapt the shapes of their progenitors!

Shall we confess this, or is the fault in nature? For though most
philosophers agree, that innate principles do not exist, yet we
know for certain, that in the brute creation, whose food is plain
and simple, (unlike luxurious man) the laws of nature are,
generally speaking, invariable and determined. If it should be
asked why the sons of the Godolphin Arabian were superior to most
Horses of their time; I answer, because he had a great power and
symmetry of parts, (head excepted) and a propriety of length
greatly superior to all other Horses of the same diameter, that
have been lately seen in this kingdom; which I do not assert on my
own judgment, but on the opinion of those who, I believe,
understand Horses much better than I pretend to do: and 'tis very
probable, this Horse, if he had not been confined to particular
Mares, might have begot better racers than any he did. On the
contrary, I have heard it urged in behalf of his blood, that he
was a very mean Horse in figure, and that he was kept as a
teizer** some years before he covered. What does this prove? I
think nothing more, than that his first owner did not rightly
understand this kind of Horse, and that different men differed in
their opinions of this Horse's fabric.

If any man who doubts this excellence to be in the blood, should
ask how it came to pass that we often see two full brothers, one
of which is a good racer, the other indifferent, or perhaps bad, I
know of but two answers that can be given; we must either allow
this excellence of the blood to be partial, or else we must say,
that by putting together a Horse and a Mare, different in their
shapes, a foetus may be produced of a happy form at one time, and
at another the foetus partaking more or less of the shape of
either, may not be so happily formed. Which shall we do? shall we
impute this difference of goodness in the two brothers, to the
difference of their mechanism? or shall we say this perfection of
the blood is partial? If the latter, then we must own that blood
is not to be relied on, but that the system of it, and whatever is
built on that foundation, is precarious and uncertain, and
therefore falls to the ground of its own accord. Whilst this
continues to be the rule of breeding, I mean of putting male and
female together, with no consideration but that of blood and a
proper cross, it is no wonder so few good racers are produced, no
wonder mankind are disappointed in their pleasures and
expectations; for this prejudice does not only extend to blood,
but even to the very names of the breeders, and the country where
the Horses are bred, though it is beyond all doubt, that the North
claims the preference of all other places in this kingdom; but
that preference is allowed only from the multiplicity of Mares and
Stallions in those parts, and from the number of racers there

I would not be thought in this to prefer my own opinion of shape
and make to the known goodness of any Stallion, but would prefer
the latter before the opinion of all mankind. What then? It is not
every Horse that has been a good racer will get good colts; some
have suffered too much in their constitution by hard and continual
labour, whilst others have some natural infirmity that may
probably be entailed on their generation.

But the most material thing in breeding all animals, and to which
we pay the least regard, either in the race of men or Horses, is
the choice of the female, who not only joins in the production of
the foetus, but in the formation of it also. And that the female
has even the greatest share in the production of the foetus, will
be proved by this instance: if you take a dunghill cock and put to
a game hen, and also put a brother of that game hen to a sister of
the dunghill cock, those chickens bred from the game hen will be
found much superior to those chickens bred from the dunghill hen.

And here I beg leave to be allowed (without the imputation of
pedantry) one quotation from Virgil, who is supposed to have well
understood the laws of nature. In his description of the choice of
animals for procreation, in the third chapter of his Georgic's,
and the 49th verse, you will find it thus written:

     "Seu quis Olympiacea mieratus praemia palme,
     "Pascit Equos, feu quis fortes ad aratra Juvencos,
     "Corpora praecipue matrum legat."

But I should not escape the censure of the critics on this
occasion, I expect the thanks of all the handsome well-made women
in the kingdom, for this hint, who understand Latin; and where
they do not, I hope their paramours will instill the meaning of
it, as deeply as they can into them. But to return to the breeding
of Horses.

We pay little regard to the mechanism of the female, or of the
Horse to which we put her, but generally choose some particular
Horse for the sake of the cross, or because he is called an
Arabian; whereas, in fact, every Stallion will not be suited to
every Mare, but he who has a fine female, and judgment enough to
adapt her shapes with propriety to a fine male, will always breed
the best racer, let the sort of blood be what it will, always
supposing it to be totally foreign. The truth of this will be
confirmed by our observation, which shews us, that Horses do race,
and do not race, of all families and all crosses.

We find also, that affinity of blood in the brute creation, if not
continued too long in the same channel, is no impediment to the
perfection of the animal, for experience teaches us, it will hold
good many years in the breed of game cocks. Besides, we know that
Childers, which was perhaps the best racer ever bred in this
kingdom, had in his veins a consanguinity of blood; his pedigree
informing us, that his great grandam was got by Spanker, the dam
of which Mare was also the dam of the said Spanker.

If we inquire a little farther into the different species of the
creation, we shall find this principle concerning perfection of
shape still more verified. Amongst game cocks we shall find, that
wheresoever power and propriety of shape prevails most, that side
(condition alike) will generally prevail. We shall find also, that
one cock perfectly made, will beat two or three of his own
brothers imperfectly made. If any man should boast of the blood of
his cocks, and say that the uncommon virtue of this animal, which
we call game, is innate, I answer no, for that all principles, and
all ideas arise from sensation and reflection, and are therefore

We perceive this spirit of fighting in game chicken, which they
exert occasionally from their infancy; even so it is amongst
dunghill chickens, though not carried to that degree of

When arrived at maturity, we see these different birds will still
continue to fight if they meet; if I should be asked why the
perseverance of fighting in one does not continue to death, as in
the other, I answer, that from a different texture of the organs
of the body, different sensations will arise, and consequently
different effects be produced; and this will be proved by
instances from the best of those very cocks which are called game,
who (it is well know) when they suffer a variation in their
texture, or as cockers term it, become rotten, run away
themselves, and their descendants also; which sensation of fear
could not be produced by any alteration in the body, if this
principle of game was innate.

Amongst men, do we not perceive agility and strength stand forth
confessed in the fabric of their bodies? do not even the passions
and pleasures of mankind greatly depend on the organs of their
bodies? Amongst dogs, we shall find the foxhound prevailing over
all others in speed and in bottom; but if not in speed, in bottom
at least I hope it will be allowed. To what shall we impute this
perfection in him? Shall we impute it to his blood, or to that
elegance of form in which is found no unnecessary weight to
oppress the muscles, or detract from his ability of perseverance?
if to blood, from whence shall we deduce it? or from what origin
is it derived? Surely no man means more, when he talks of the
blood of foxhounds, than to intimate that they are descended from
such, whose ancestors have been eminent for their good
qualifications, and have shone conspicuous in the front of the
pack for many generations.

But allowing this system of blood to exist in hounds and Horses,
let us consider how inconsistently and differently we act with
respect to each; with respect to hounds, if when arrived at
maturity, we think them ill shaped and loosely made, we at once
dispose of them without any trial, well knowing they will not
answer our expectations: whereas, in Horses, let the shape be what
it will, we are persuaded to train, because the jockey says thay
are very HIGH-BRED. If we now compare the blood of Horses with
that of dogs, shall not we find the case to be similar? will not
the origin be as uncertain in Horses as in dogs? it is true, in
some foreign countries they have long pedigrees of their Horses as
well as we, but what proofs have they themselves of this
excellence of the blood in one Horse more than another of the same
country? I never heard they made any trial of their Horses in the
racing way, but if they did, their decision would be as uncertain
as ours with respect to the blood, because their decision must be
determined by events alone, and therefore, by no means a proper
foundation whereon to build a system, or establish a fact, which
can be accounted for by causes.

The jockeys have an expression which, if this system be true, is
the most senseless imaginable: I have heard it often said, Such a
Horse has speed enough if his heart do but lie in the right place.
In answer to this, let us consider a Horse as a piece of animated
machinery (for it is in reality no other); let us set this piece
of machinery going, and strain the works of it; if the works are
are** not analogous to each other, will not the weakest give way?
and when that happens, will not the whole be out of tune? But if
we suppose a piece of machinery, whose works bear a true
proportion and analogy to each other, these will bear a greater
stress, will act with greater force, more regularity and
continuance of time. If it be objected, that foreign Horses seldom
race themselves, and therefore it must be in the blood, I think
nothing more easily answered; for we seldom see any of these
Horses sent us from abroad, especially from Arabia, but what are
more or less disproportioned, crooked, and deformed in some part
or other; and when we see this deformity of shape, can we any
longer wonder at their inability of racing: add to this, many of
them are perhaps full-aged before they arrive in this kingdom;
whereas, it is generally understood, that a proper training from
his youth is necessary to form a good racer.

But be this as it will, let us consider how it happens, that these
awkward, cross-shaped, disproportioned Horses, seemingly contrary
to the laws of nature, beget Horses of much finer shapes than
themselves, as we daily see produced in this Kingdom. And here I
acknowledge myself to have been long at a loss how to account for
this seeming difficulty.

I have been often conversant with travelers, concerning the nature
and breed of these Horses; few of whom could give any account of
the matter, from having had no taste therein, or any delight in
that animal: but, at length, I became acquainted with a gentleman
of undoubted veracity; whose word may be relied on, whose taste
and judgment in Horses inferior to no man's.

He says, that having spent a considerable part of his life at
Scanderoon and Alleppo**, he frequently made excursions amongst
the Arabs; excited by curiosity, as well as to gratify his
pleasures. (The Arabs, here meant, are subjects of the grand
seignior**, and receive a stipend from that court, to keep the
wild Arabs in awe, who are a fierce banditti**, and live by
plunder.) He says also, that these stipendiary Arabs are a very
worthy set of people, exactly resembling another worthy set of
people we have in England called Lawyers; for that they receive
fees from both parties; and when they can do it with impunity,
occasionally rob themselves.  These Arabs encamp on the deserts
together in large numbers, and with them moves all their
houshold**; that these people keep numbers of greyhound, for the
sake of coursing the game and procuring their subsistance: and
that he has often been with parties for the sake of coursing
amongst those people, and continued with them occasionally for a
considerable space of time.  That by them you are furnished with
dogs and horses; for the use of which you give them a reward. He
says they live all together; men, horses, dogs, colts, women, and
children. That these colts, having no green herbage to feed upon
when taken from the mare, are brought up by hand, and live as the
children do; and that the older Horses have no other food, than
straw and choped** barley, which these Arabs procure from the
villages most adjacent to their encampments. The colts, he says,
run about with their dams on all expeditions, till weaned; for
that it is the custom of the Arabs to ride their mares, as
thinking them the fleetest, and not their horses; from whence we
may infer, that the mare colts are best fed and taken care of.
That if you ask one of these banditti to sell his mare, his answer
is, that on her speed depends his own head. He says also, the
stone colts are so little regarded, that it is difficult to find a
Horse of any tolerable size and shape amongst them.

If this then is the case, shall we be any longer at a loss to
account for the deformity of an animal, who, from his infancy, is
neglected, starved, and dried up, for want of juices? or shall we
wonder that his offspring, produced in a land of plenty, of whom
the greatest care is taken, who is defended from the extremity of
heat and cold, whose food is never limited, and whose vessels are
filled with the juices of the sweetest herbage, shall we wonder, I
say, that his offspring, so brought up, should acquire a more
perfect shape and size than his progenitor? or if the Sire is not
able to race, shall we wonder that the Son, whose shape is more
perfect, should excel his Sire in all performances?

But there is another reason why many of the very finest of these
foreign Horses cannot race: our observations of them will shew us,
that though their shoulders in general exceedingly incline
backwards, yet their fore-legs stand very much under them; but in
different Horses this position is more or less observable. This,
(when I considered the laws of nature) appeared to me the greatest
imperfection a Stallion could possibly have: but when this
gentleman informed me it was the custom of the Turks always to
keep each fore-leg of the Horse chained to the hinder one, of each
side, when not in action, I no longer considered it as a natural,
but an acquired imperfection. Shall we now wonder that such an
one, though ever so well made in other respects, cannot race in
spite of all his blood? But the custom of the Arabs in this
respect, he says, his memory does not extend to. I well remember
this to be the case of the Godolphin Arabian when I saw him, who
stood bent at knees, and with his fore-legs trembling under him:
such is the case of Mosco's grey Horse in some degree. In our
country we frequently see Horses stand pawing their litter under
them with their fore-feet; our custom to prevent it is to put
hobbles on their fore-legs, and this will produce the same
position in a greater or less degree, though not so conspicuous as
in some of those foreign Horses, who have been habituated from
their youth to this confined method of standing. His royal
highness the duke of Cumberland has a very remarkable instance of
this, in a Horse called Muley Ishmael, which is otherwise, the
most elegant Horse I ever yet beheld. Whether this position is
natural or acquired, will be best determined by his produce.
Suppose now this Horse should be tried, and found no racer, shall
he be condemned as a Stallion, and the fault imputed to his
blood; or on the other hand, if his colts are strait** upon their
legs, and found to be good racers, shall the perfection of such
colt be imputed to the blood of the father, when we can account
for speed in the one, and the want of it in the other, from the
different attitude of each Horse? We are further acquainted, that
the Horses we call Turks, are in reality Arabs; that the true
Turkish Horse, is a large, heavy, majestic animal, of no speed,
designed to ride on for state and grandeur; that it is the custom
of the bashaws in Arabia occasionally to choose, from their
provinces, such colts as they like, and send them to the grand
seignior's stables which they do at their own price, and which the
Arabs, who breed them, look upon as a very great hardship. These
colts are again picked and culled, after having been some time in
the grand seignior's stables, and the refuse disposed of at his
pleasure, so that the fine Horses found in the possession of the
Turks, are either some of these which are cast from the grand
seignior's stables, or which the Turks buy from the Arabs whilst
they are young.   And he farther acquaints us with the reason why
the Turks choose these Arabian Horses when young, because, if
continued long in the hands of the Arabs, they are small, stunted,
and deformed in shape; whereas, when brought into Turkey, a land
of greater plenty than the deserts of Arabia, they acquire a
greater perfection both of size and shape. Now, whether these
Turks and Arabs are of the same or different extraction, may
perhaps be very little to our purpose; but it is absurd to
suppose that providence has bestowed a virtue on a part only of
this species produced in any one country, (which species was
undoubtedly designed for the use of man) and that mankind should
not be able, in any age, to determine with precision this virtue,
or fix any criterion, whereby to judge with any certainty.

Seeing then, this is the case, how shall we account for the
various perfection and imperfection in the breed of these foreign
Horses; for we perceive it not determined to those of Turkey,
Barbary, or Arabia, but from each of these countries some good,
some bad Stallions are sent us? What shall we do? Shall we
continue to impute it to the good old phrase of blood, the
particular virtue of which, no man ever yet could ascertain, in
any one particular instance, since Horses were first created? or
shall we say that nature has given these foreign Horses a finer
texture, a finer attitude, and more power than any other Horses we
know of; and that these very Horses, and their descendants always
did, and always will surpass each other in speed and bottom,
according to their different degrees of power, shape, elegance,
and proportion? But there is also a certain length determined to
some particular parts of this animal, absolutely necessary to
velocity, of the particularity and propriety of which length, all
jockeys appear to be intirely** ignorant, from the latitude of
their expression, which is that a racer must have length

If I might now be allowed to give my opinion of this propriety of
length, I should say it consisted in the depth and declivity of
the shoulders, and in the length of the quarters and thighs, and
the insertion of the muscles thereof. The effect of the different
position or attitude of the shoulders in all Horses, is very
demonstrable: if we consider the motion of a shoulder, we shall
find it limited to a certain degree by the ligamentous and the
tendinous parts, which confine it to its proper sphere of acting;
so that if the shoulder stand upright, the Horse will not be able
to put his toes far before him, but will acquire only such a
particular degree of space at each step or movement; but if the
shoulders have a declivity in them, he cannot only put his toes
farther before him, but a greater purchase of ground will be
obtained at every stroke.

The certainty of this effect in the declivity of the shoulders
will be known by every man's observation; and it is also easily
demonstrated by the principles of mechanics, by which we learn,
that if a weight is applied to a pulley, in order to shut a door,
and that weight be allowed to fall immediately and perpendicularly
from the door, it will not pull it too with that velocity as it
will do if an angle be acquired, and the weight pass over a wheel
removed to a very little distance from the door.

Nevertheless, there is no general rule without exception, for we
now and then find a Horse to be a good racer, who has not this
declivity in his shoulders, but from a length in his thighs and
quarters has a sufficient share of speed. Add to this, there is
another advantage obtained to the Horse besides velocity by this
declivity of the shoulders, for his weight is removed farther
back, and placed more in the center of his body, by which an
equilibrium is acquired, and every muscle bears a more equal share
of weight and action; so that the nearer the articulation of the
quarters approach to the superior part of the shoulders, so much
the shorter will the back be, and as much more expanded as the
chest is, so much stronger will the animal be, and will also have
a larger space for the organs of respiration to exert themselves.

But I would not be understood to mean, that the shortness of the
back, or capacity of the chest, will constitute a racer; far from
it: but that in any given and proportioned length, from the bosom
of the Horse to the setting on of the dock, the nearer the
superior points of the shoulders approach to the quarters, so much
better able will the carcase be to sustain and bring through the
weight; and as much as the shoulders themselves prevail in depth,
and the quarters and thighs in length, so much greater will be the
velocity of the Horse, because a greater purchase of ground is
hereby obtained at every stroke.

It is by this property of length, strength of carcase, and the
power of the muscles, that foreign Horse excel all others, and it
is by the same advantages they excel each other also, and not by
any innate virtue, or principle of the mind, which must be
understood by the word blood, if any thing at all is intended to
be understood by it; and this is a truth every man would be
convinced of, if he would divest himself of partiality to
particular blood, and confide in his own observation of Horses and
their performances.

Sedbury was an instance of this great power, in whom we find all
the muscles rising very luxuriant, and with a remarkable
prominence. The famous Childers was a like instance of it. These
two Horses were remarkably good, but we have been absurd enough to
condemn the blood of both at various times; in one, because he had
bad feet, and entailed that defect on the generality of his
offspring; in the other, because most people who bred from that
lineage, were running mad after a proper cross, when they should
have been employed in thinking only of propriety of shape.

I am very far from desiring to be thought a superior judge of
this animal, but I will be bold to say, that according to these
principles of length and power, there never was a Horse (at least
that I have seen) so well entitled to get racers as the Godolphin
Arabian; for whoever has seen this Horse, must remember that his
shoulders were deeper, and lay farther into his back, than any
Horse's ever yet seen; behind the shoulders, there was but a very
small space; before, the muscles of his loins rose excessively
high, broad, and expanded, which were inserted into his quarters
with greater strength and power than in any Horse I believe ever
yet seen of his dimensions. If we now consider the plainness of
his head and ears, the position of his fore-legs, and his stinted
growth, occasioned by the want of food in the country where he was
bred, it is not to be wondered at, that the excellence of this
Horse's shape, which we see only in miniature, and therefore
imperfectly, was not so manifest and apparent to the perception of
some men as of others.

It has been said, that the sons of the Godolphin Arabian had
better wind than other Horses, and that this perfection of the
wind was in the blood. But when we consider any Horse thus
mechanically made, whose leavers acquire more purchase, and whose
powers are stronger than his adversaries, such a Horse will be
enabled by this superiority of mechanism, to act with greater
facility, and therefore it is no wonder that the organs of
respiration (if not confined or straitened more than his
adversaries) should be less fatigued. Suppose now, we take ten
mares of the same, or different blood, all which is held equally
good, when the Mares are covered, and have been esteemed so long
before, and put to this Godolphin Arabian, let us suppose some of
the colts to be good racers, and others very inferior to them;
shall we condemn the blood of these mares which produced the
inferior Horses? If so, we shall never know what good blood is, or
where it is to be found, or ever act with any certainty in the
propagation of this species, and it is this ridiculous opinion
alone of blood, that deceives mankind so much in the breed of
racers. If we ask the jockey the cause of this difference in the
performance of these brothers, he (willing to account some how for
it) readily answers, that the blood did not nick; but will a wise
and reasoning man, who seriously endeavours to account for this
difference, be content with such a vague, unmeaning answer, when,
by applying his attention to matters of fact, and his observation
to the different mechanism of these brothers, the difference of
their performance is not only rationally, but demonstratively
accounted for?

But if this excellence of the racer should really be in the blood,
or what is called the proper nicking of it, I must say, it is a
matter of great wonder to me, that the blood of the Godolphin
Arabian, who was a confined Stallion, and had but few Mares,
should nick so well as to produce so many excellent racers; and
that the blood of his son Cade, who has had such a number of
Mares, and those, perhaps, the very best in the kingdom, should
not nick any better than it seems to have done; for I do not
conceive the performances of the sons of Cade to have been equal
in any respect to the sons of the Godolphin Arabian; though I do
not pretend to determine this myself, but shall leave it to the
opinion of mankind.

The question then is, whether this excellence of Horses is in the
blood or the mechanism; whoever is for blood, let him take two
brothers of any sort or kind, and breed one up in plenty, the
other upon a barren heath; I fancy he will find, that a different
mechanism of the body will be acquired to the two brothers by the
difference of their living, and that the blood of him brought up
on the barren heath, will not be able to contend with the
mechanism of the other, brought up in a land of plenty. Now if
this difference of shape will make a difference in the performance
of the animal, it will be just the same thing in its consequences,
whether this imperfection of shape be produced by scarcity of
foot, or entailed by the laws of nature; if so, does it signify
whether the colt be got by Turk, Barb, or what kind of blood his
dam be of? or where shall we find one certain proof of the
efficacy of blood in any Horse produced in any age or any country,
independent of the laws of mechanics.

If it should be urged, that these foreign Horses get better colts
than their descendants, that therefore the blood of foreign ones
is best, I answer, no; for that according to the number of foreign
Stallions we have had in this kingdom, there have been more
reputed and really bad than good ones, which would not happen in
the case of Horses, who come from the same country, and are of the
same extraction, if this goodness was in the blood only. But the
true reason why foreign Horses get better colts than their
descendants, if they do get better, is that (mechanism alike)
their descendants from which we breed, are generally such Horses
as have been thoroughly tried, consequently much strained, and
gone through strong labour and fatigue; whereas the foreign Horse
has perhaps seldom or never known what labour was; for we find the
Turk a sober grave person, always riding a foot pace, except on
emergencies, and the Arab preferring his Mare to his Horse for use
and service. As a proof of this truth, let us take two sister
hound bitches, and ward them both with the same dog; let us
suppose one bitch to have run in the pack, and the other by some
accident not to have worked at all, it will be found that the
offspring of her who has never worked, will be much superior to
the offspring of her who has run in the pack.

All I have now to ask of my brother jockeys is, that for the
future, when speaking of these Horses, they will, instead of the
phrase HIGH-BRED, say only well-bred, and that they will not even
then be understood to mean any thing more by it, than that they
are descended from a race of Horses, whose actions have
established their goodness: and that I may have leave to prefer my
opinion of the mechanical powers of a Horse, to all their opinions
concerning blood, which is in reality no more than a vain chimera.
If these things are so, have not we and our fore-fathers been
hoodwinked all our days by the prevalence of a ridiculous custom,
and the mistaken system, when by consulting our own reason and
understanding, this mist of error had fled before it? If this
mechanical power was considered as it ought to be, it would excite
a proper emulation amongst all breeders: and when the excellence
in the breed of Horses was found to be the effect of judgment, and
not of chance, there would be more merit as well as more pleasure
in having bred a superior Horse. Add to this, mankind by applying
their attention to this mechanism of animals, would improve their
judgment in the laws of nature, and it would not only produce a
much better breed of racers than any we have yet seen, but the
good of it would extend to all sorts of Horses throughout the
kingdom of what kind soever. It is a cruel thing to say, but yet a
very true one, that amongst the present breed of Horses in this
nation, a man of any tolerable judgment can hardly find one in
fifty fit for his purpose, whether designed to draw or ride;
whereas if the purchasers would endeavour to make themselves
masters of this mechanism, the breeders of every kind of Horses
must consult it also, or keep their useless ones in their own
hands, which I conceive would be a proper punishment for their

And now the author appeals not to the illiterate and unlearned
(whose obstinacy is too great to receive instruction, and whose
prejudices are too strong to be obliterated by any reasons) but to
the candid and impartial inquiry of reasoning and unprejudiced men
into these principles, and hopes this may be a means of exciting
some more able pen, to vindicate a truth so many ages buried in
darkness. If aught conducive to the pleasure or use of mankind
shall accrue from these hints, he will think himself happy; on the
other hand, if the principles here advanced should prove
erroneous, and any man be kind enough to point out the fallacy of
them, he will kiss the rod with chearfulness** and submission.


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "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" ***

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