Draft Horses the Science and Practice of Breeding
Draft Horses the Science and Practice of Breeding the limits of an essay embracing, as this is intended to do, several distinct subjects, will not permit an elaborate and lengthy dissertation upon the science of breeding, but some of the more prominent features established as axioms of the practice must be adverted to.
The Influence of Parents.
—Of all the means available for effecting an improvement in any race of domesticated animals breeding is the most powerful. The general influence of parents upon their progeny is that the latter invariably inherit a modification of the forms and qualities of the former. Nor is it necessary for transmission to offspring that any especial form or quality possessed by a parent should have been by him or her inherited; an improvement once established in an individual, whether by inheritance or as a result of special management, is susceptible of transmission to succeeding generations, and by careful and intelligent attention to the selection of future partners for the off- spring, the alteration may be fixed and become a typical character of an improved race.
It must never be forgotten that not only are superior forms and attributes transmitted from parent to progeny, but that defects, malformations, and unsoundness, or the predispositions thereto, seem to enjoy an especial privilege of re-appearing in succeeding generations.
Some persons regard the qualities and defects of breeding animals in a relative, as well as an absolute sense; for instance, they agree that a malformed chest, or misshapen limb, are defects absolute, but assert that flat feet are only positively defective when possessed by a stallion intended to be put to a mare having similar feet; and further, that such faults are to be considered rather as desirable qualifications in the partner of an upright-footed mare. Personally, I can admit to no such- qualification, and believe it folly to expect that the mating of two animals, each having opposite defects of any kind, can result in anything but disappointment.
Imperfections of conformation, constitution, or temper cannot be so corrected, but are to be very gradually improved by careful attention to the selection of partners possessing perfect organization, to oppose defects, and still more by the enjoyment of well-directed external means calculated to ameliorate the particular fault.
Physical and intellectual faculties to be permanent must have been fixed by transmission from parent to progeny, through a series of generations. Recently acquired qualities are ephemeral; they are transmitted with difficulty and destroyed by slight opposing causes.
Peculiarities of form, size, color, and constitution, with qualities, vices, and defects of all kinds, descend from remote generations, and it is not rare to observe in a foal distinctive characteristic identical with those possessed by grandsire or grandam, though absent in its proximate parents.
—Consanguineous unions, amongst humankind as offensive to morality and law as they are disastrous in results, do not appear to be so contrary to the natural decrees which govern the liaisons of the brute creation.
In-and-in breeding, instead of favoring progressive degeneration, has been practiced with eminently successful results, for the establishment and conservation of new and improved breeds of domesticated animals. Its utility is very marked in cases where certain special qualities are possessed by but few individuals and attained by them perhaps in an unknown manner.
The practice, however, should never be adopted carelessly, nor except in necessary and particular cases; for when prosecuted to any considerable extent in animals having a family defect, most unsatisfactory results are likely to follow ; predisposition to even very trivial imperfections of form or health becomes so intensified in the offspring of con- sanguineous unions, that many successive generations of the alliance may be afflicted with an inheritance of deformity or disease.
—Another method employed for the improvement of a breed is that of ‘ crossing,’ or the alliance of reproductions of different races, in order to give what may be considered a desirable alteration in succeeding generations. With a view to the production of animals adapted for a specific purpose, it is evident that the offspring of a cross alliance will inherit qualities superior to one parent and inferior to the other; it is therefore necessary for the breeder, before he adopts a practice so influential in its consequences, to duly consider what qualifications he desires to obtain, and fully estimate the probable effects of an infusion of extraneous blood.
The evils resulting from a careless system of ‘ crossing ‘ the Shire horse of thirty or forty years ago with lighter breeds are now practically apparent in the majority of cart horses, and reformation by long continued and above all intelligent selection of stud animals, can alone re-establish the grand bone and hair formerly possessed by the old English horse.
Special Influence of Sire and Dam.
—The especial influence of sire or dam upon the product of conception varies in accord with sex, age, constitution, and breed of the individuals. Many persons assert that the stallion transmits conformation of the fore-hand and extremities, strength, energy, and capacity for work ; and that the mare communicates height, volume of the trunk, and the posterior conformation ; but every person of experience knows that there are numberless exceptions to the above rule—if it can be so designated—and in my individual experience I have found that the more purely and highly-bred one parent is, as compared with the other, the product of conception will invariably favor the best-descended animal, whether it be sire or dam.
The offspring of equally well-bred parents will more closely resemble the ancestor nearest in age to the prime of life and possess the most vigorous constitution. In the absence of influencing conditions, the progeny, if a colt, will favor the stallion, if a filly, the mare.
Special Influence of the Stallion.
—That the influence of the sire in the reproductive act does not terminate with the birth of the first offspring is proved by frequent facts in dog-breeding, and in more than one instance in the mare; hence arises the immense importance of fillies being served by a good sound, well colored horse.
It is obviously of greater importance for the conservation of any particular type that the males should be more representative than the females, for whilst a mare produces one foal only in a year, a stallion may be the sire of seventy or eighty colts annually.
The alliance of a stallion and a mare should be subordinated to the rules fixed by experience, in reference to their respective conformation, size, age, and individual aptitudes. In order to produce increased height of the foal, many persons (G. Collin amongst the number) advocate the employment of a stallion whose size surpasses that of the mare; others adopt the opinion of Cline, that the stallion should be smaller than the mare.
Three of the best cart geldings I ever saw, all exceeding 16 J hands high, were bred from a little Welsh mare, barely 15\ hands high; and, as a rule, it will be found that a well-proportioned stallion, of commanding size, begets from low, wide mares a better class of foals than when the relative proportions are reversed.
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