XV. LIVESTOCK - HORSES
xThe breeding and rearing of domesticated animals has eve been a favourite pursuit in Great Britain, and has been carried to greater perfection than any other department of rural affairs. In no other country of similar extent can so many distinct breeds of each class of these animals be found _ most of them excellent of their kind, and admirably adapted to the particular use for which they are designed. Observing the usual order, we notice first Horses.
Here we shall confine our attention to those breeds which are cultivated expressly for the labours of the farm; for although the breeding of saddle-horses is chiefly carried on by farmers, and forms in some districts an important part of their business, it does not seem advisable to treat of it here. It is a department of husbandry requiring such a combination of fitness in the soil, climate, and enclosures of the farm, of access to first class stallions, and of taste and judgment on the part of the farmer, that few indeed of the many who try it are really successful. The morale too of the society into which the breeding of this class of horses almost necessarily brings a man is so unwholesome, that none can mingle in it freely without experiencing to their cost that "evil communications corrupt good manner." We have noted it as a fact of peculiar significance, in this connection, that of the few men who really make money by this business, scarcely one desires to see it prosecuted by his sons.
The immense size and portly presence of the English black horse entitle him to priority of notice. This breed is widely diffused throughout England, though found chiefly in the midland counties. It is in the fens and rich pastures of these counties that the celebrated dray horses of London are bred and reared. These horses are too slow and heavy for ordinary farm-work, and would not be bred but for the high prices obtained for them from the great London brewers, who pride themselves on the great size majestic bearing, and fine condition of their team horses. The breeders of these horses employ brood mares and young colts exclusively for their farm-work. The colts are highly fed, and worked very gently until four years old, when they are sold to the London brewers, often at very great prices. The same breed is largely used in England for ordinary farm labour, although not found of such gigantic proportions as in those districts where they are bred for the special destination just referred to. Although very docile, their short step, sluggish gait, large consumption of food, and liability to foot lameness, render them less profitable for ordinary farm-work than the breeds about to be mentioned.
The Suffolk Punch is a well-marked breed which has long been cultivated in the county from which it takes its name. These horses are, for he most part, of a sorrel, bay, or chestnut colour, and are probably of Scandinavian origin. They are compact, as their name impost, hardy, very active, and exceedingly honest pullers. These horses at one time were very coarse in their form and rather slow; but they have now been so much improved in form and action that we find them the chief prize-takers at recent exhibitions of the Royal Agricultural Society.
The Cleveland Bays are properly carriage-horses; but still in their native districts they are largely employed for field work. Mr Milburn says_ "The Cleveland, as a pure breed, is losing something of its distinctiveness. It is running into a proverb, that a Cleveland horse is too stiff for a hunter, and too light for a coacher; but there are still remnants of the breed, though less carefully kept distinctive than may be wished by advocates of purity. Still, the contour of the farm-horses of Cleveland has the lightness, and hardiness, and steadiness of the breed; and it is singular that while the lighter soils have horses more calculated for drays, the strong-land farmer has the compact and smaller, but comparatively more powerful animal."
In the north-eastern counties of England, and the adjacent Scottish borders, compact, clean-legged, active horses, of medium size, with a remote dash of blood in them, are generally preferred to those of a heavier and slower kind. One needs only to see how such horses get along at turnip sowing, or with a heavy load in a one-horse cart, to be convinced of their fitness for the general work of a farm.
The Clydesdale Horses are not excelled by any cart breed in the kingdom for general usefulness. They belong to the larger class of cart-horses, sixteen hands being an average height. Brown and bay are now the prevailing colours. In the district whose name they bear the breeding of them for sale is extensively prosecuted, and is conducted with much care and success. Liberal premiums are offered by the local agricultural societies for good stallions. Horses of this breed are peculiarly distinguished for the free step with which they move along when exerting their strength in cart or plough. Their merits are now so generally appreciated that they are getting rapidly diffused over the country. Many small farmers in Clydesdale make a business of raising entire colts, which they either sell for stallions or send into distant counties to serve for hire in that capacity.
In the Highlands of Scotland, al breed of hardy and very serviceable ponies, or "garrons," as the natives call them, are found in great numbers. In their native glens they are employed in tillage, and although unfit for stated farm-work in the low country, are even there often used in light carts for work requiring dispatch rather than great power. Similar ponies abound in Wales.
Read the rest of this article:
Agriculture - Table of Contents