The Breeding and Management of Draft Horses
SECTION I.—ON BREEDING. General Remarks.
The Breeding and Management of Draft Horses Notwithstanding the English farmer’s instinctive love for horses and horse-craft, it cannot be denied that he has devoted infinitely less intelligence and attention to the breeding and rearing of draught horses than to the perfecting of any other kind of domestic animal.
Compared with the growth of grain, and the production of animal food, it is true that the profits resulting from breeding and rearing cart horses have not always been sufficiently certain nor sufficiently great to encourage a practice for the successful accomplishment of which neither money nor ability must be wanting.
But now that steamships have bridged, as it were, the Atlantic Ocean, bringing the surplus food-products of the American continent into direct competition with our home productions, the time has arrived for the British yeoman to direct attention to those branches of his calling which may have been hitherto neglected.
I cannot but look upon the breeding of draft horses as a neglected source of profit. Really good animals of this class are comparatively few, and at all times have commanded remunerative prices; they were never less common in this country than they now are, and for many years to come they will assuredly maintain a high value.
The demand for an article is the natural stimulus for its production. If there are any exceptions to this law of political economy, they are not to be found in reference to a required multiplication of any breed of domesticated animals.
Yet the supply of high-class draught horses must of necessity remain deficient for a long period, for since the demand created for horses of all descriptions a few years ago, when trade was abnormally inflated, many persons have been persuaded to sell their good mares; those who yielded to the temptation of realizing a high figure have before now bitterly repented ‘ Killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.’
That bad horses, the results of ill-assorted mating, or the progeny of unsound and defective parents, are generally a drug in the market, is not a fair argument to be employed against the practice of sound breeding, but a knowledge of that fact should rather be an incentive for the employment of intelligence, care, and a reasonable amount of capital, by means of which draught-horse breeders may achieve more excellent results, and thus secure a fair profit for the risks they incur and the money they embark.
Many disheartening failures in attempts at horse-rearing are attributable to mistakes engendered through ignorance of the science of breeding and of the principles of hygiene which influence the growth and development of young horses, without a knowledge of which it is impossible for any person to achieve permanent success.
Before attempting to breed draft horses on an extensive scale, the farmer must consider whether his surroundings will permit him to entertain a hope of success in the undertaking. He must duly estimate the fertility of his land, the influences of climate, the risks, and other elements of the problem, the solution of which will vary in each individual case ; and he must then judge what particular stamp of horse he can raise with the greatest advantage, paying due regard to convenience in the conduct of his ordinary farming operations, as well as the ultimate and direct pecuniary benefit to be derived by the sale of his foals and young horses.
The best thanks of cart-horse breeders are due to the Editor of the Mark Lane Express, who published, in his issue of October 31st, 1881, an unbelievably valuable summary of the respective qualifications of the different breeds of heavy horses for work on paved roads.
The table is compiled from returns furnished by some of the largest cart-horse proprietors in the kingdom, and is, in many ways, most instructive, especially so in affording to breeders’ reliable information as to what the requirements of team-owners are.
It shows what an enormous demand for draft horses is created by the wear and tear of town work, and that there is little fear of foreign competition by the importation of continental horses, at least so long as the supply of home-bred animals is equal to the demand. If the statements relating to van-work, which is usually performed at a trot (by a class of horses raised to maturity on light-soil farms), are eliminated from the table, the evidence is uniformly favorable to the employment of heavy boned horses.
Amongst the contributors of the return’s opinions differ somewhat as to the superiority of clean-legged as opposed to hairy-legged horses. From personal observation I am led to think that the remarks of some contributors who condemn hairy-legged horses are intended to express disapproval of an excess. snively coarse growth, springing from an equally coarse skin, rather than to the possession of that amount of silky hair which almost always garnishes the legs of an animal having bone enough to merit the title of a dray horse.
If it is desired to breed van horses, hair may be advantageously dispensed with; but I hold an extraordinarily strong opinion that it is impossible to breed for several generations’ horses possessing sufficient bone to fit them for the purposes of heavy draft, from animals which have not a considerable amount of long hair upon their legs.
See Next: Inducements for Breeding Draught Horses of High Class.
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