By the kindness of J. G. Rutherford, Chief Veterinary Inspector
While the supply of horses suitable for military use has always, even in times of peace, been a serious question, the experience of our South African troubles has given it an importance altogether new and somewhat startling. It has now been clearly shown that troops under modern conditions of warfare must be able to move rapidly from place to place, and that the mounted soldier has thus an immense advantage over the less mobile infantry man.
This development has led to the purchase by the British Government, during the present campaign, of a very much larger number of horses than would otherwise have been required. Nor has the lesson been learned by Britain alone; all military nations have been closely watching the operations in South Africa, and there is no room for doubt that the general demand for horses suitable for army purposes will be much greater in the future than in the past. Of the horses purchased for use in Africa the Dominion has by no means furnished her fair share, although, in addition to those taken by our own contingents, a considerable number have been picked up in Eastern Canada by Lt.-Col. Dent, of the Remount Department of the British Army. It is not, however, an easy matter at present to obtain in this country any large number of horses altogether suitable for army use. No encouragement to produce them has, until very recently, been shown to breeders, and, there being no very active home demand for any but the very best of the sorts now asked for, they have not been bred to anything like the extent of which the country is capable.
After the visit of Colonel Ravenhill in 1887, the western ranchers, in expectation of a market, went to much trouble and expense in securing and importing suitable foundation stock, and as a result were successful in producing many first-class cavalry-horses. As, however, beyond a limited number taken by the Northwest Mounted Police and a few by foreign buyers, there was no sale for them as such, the breeders have largely turned their attention to other and, under the circumstances, more profitable lines of stock.
The natural conditions in Canada are, it need hardly be said, most favorable for the production of the animals wanted, while in the event of serious international disturbance Canadian horses would always be available for Imperial use, while it might be impossible to procure them in foreign countries. Again, through the medium of our great trans-continental railway they could be shipped from either Atlantic or Pacific ports to any part of the world where they might be required.
In view of the strong probability that the demand hitherto lacking will in the future be such as to warrant the breeding in fair numbers of the horses needed for military use, a brief description of those now being sought for and purchased by the agents of the British war office, and a few hints as to how they may be produced, will not be out of place.
They are of three fairly distinct types as required for artillery, cavalry and mounted infantry.
At the Canadian horse-show held in Toronto in April, 1900, the Dominion Government gave special prizes for each of these classes, and as Lt.-Col. Dent, the Imperial remount officer detailed to purchase in Canada, was one of the judges, thus making the selections authoritative, a description of each first prize animal, together with its measurements, will be appended to the general list of requirements in all three divisions.