It is difficult to explain why Americans have not produced a dozen breeds or varieties of horses, each as well fitted for its locality and use as the roadster is fitted for the place which he fills so well in our broad, diversified country. We had a rare foundation in the greatest of all the pioneer horses, the Morgan family, but were so slow in recognizing it that it has nearly slipped from our grasp. Perhaps this dearth of American breeds is due to the magic of that one word, "imported," which occupies the most prominent place on the breeder's hand-bills, when he calls attention to the animals bought and bred. It is asserted that many grades, or at least animals of doubtful breeding, have been imported at long prices; - that magic word, "imported," serving to take the place of an authenticated pedigree long enough to insure that the animal really belonged to some well-defined breed.
Pedigrees taken from the first volumes of stud-books are appended, to show on what slender evidence the claim of pure breeding in early days was sometimes based. In both cases the full recorded pedigree is transcribed:
NAILOR Bred by Thomas Barker, Fryton
Sire Volunteer, 557
A large number of similar pedigrees might be given, but they would serve no useful purpose. The object in transcribing these is to illustrate how little claim can be made to pure breeding of animals whose breeder's name, date of birth and name of sire and dam are all wanting. However, short pedigrees do not necessarily imply inferiority nor lack of prepotency of the animals to which they belong. While it is desirable to know as much as possible of every horse's ancestry, it is easy to lay too much stress on pedigree and too little on the intrinsic value of the horse for the use contemplated.
There has been no time during the last century when superb animals could not have been selected from varieties of horses in America with lineage well known for two or three generations. A little judgment in mating, rigid selection and improved food and environment would have resulted in the formation of breeds as valuable as those which have been imported at great expense and better adapted to climate, food and use than are the progeny, as a whole, of foreign-bred sires and dams. We have a marked illustration of the success of such an undertaking in the American trotter. It may be said that the foundation stock, in part at least, was imported. But if no effort had been made to produce a distinct American variety of horse, we should still be importing hot - blooded foundation stock of far less speed than is possessed by the home-bred animals. It is little wonder, then, that so distinguished a writer on the horse as Frank Forester should call attention, in most vigorous language, to the neglect of home-bred varieties and the craze for importing varieties (so-called breeds) so recent in their formation and of such doubtful lineage as to throw discredit on the purity of blood and the potency of some of the animals imported.
The saving factors which have been present in America for nearly one hundred years are - abundant, cheap, nutritious food and unusually kind and intelligent treatment. So, notwithstanding mistakes and lost opportunities, we have large numbers of good horses, and some superior ones which compensate in part for the poor ones. One only regrets that a fuller utilization has not been made of the unusually favorable conditions in America for the rearing and improving of horses and the formation of breeds and varieties.
The South has always possessed many good saddle-horses, but it is only recently that any well-defined effort has been made to produce a distinct breed of them. The southern saddle-horse and all good carriage-horses have a strong infusion of warm blood. This, united with the best of what might be called native blood (nondescript), often produced superior animals. The material for forming the ideal saddle-horse has long been present, but only recently has any intelligent and persistent effort been made to produce a distinct saddle breed or variety. (Fig. 4.) Such marked results have been reached by these few years of well-directed effort that the only wonder is the work had not been undertaken before. In a similar manner other American breeds, suited to their work and environment as well as the saddle-horse and the trotter are to theirs, should have been produced; for good material in abundance has been at hand during the last half of this century.1
Fig. 4. A saddler at rest.
Notwithstanding the neglect and want of appreciation of the material at hand for forming breeds, vast numbers of good nondescript horses are raised each year. The great city markets and the expert purchasers of cavalry-horses attest to the quality of one class of our horses at least when rapid movement and endurance are desired. The climate, food and environment of the American-bred horse must certainly be superior, since,, in a majority of cases, but little science has been observed or pains taken in mating the parents with a view to the production of definite results.
The breeders who are improving the horses of the country by breeding with one or more distinct purposes in view, and who are securing definite results of great value, are so few as compared with those who breed to the cheapest or the most convenient stallion, that the improvement of the great mass of horses is very slow. From 1890 to 1900, poor and common horses brought low and unremunerative prices; while the prices of good horses, though sales were a little slow, fell but slightly. The mistake should not again be made of breeding vast herds of third-rate animals. It has been discovered that Europe stands ready to purchase at fair prices large numbers of horses, provided they have some style, are sound, active, symmetrical, of good color and of about nine to twelve hundred pounds weight. This class of horses should now be produced cheaply, if pains are taken in bringing together the appropriate strains of blood. The foundation stock for the production of this class of animals is at hand and abundant. Such horses are well adapted to more than three-fourths of the work performed by horses in the United States. What is wanted is a slightly modified and enlarged old-fashioned Morgan horse, with feet like iron, legs like steel, hair like silk, courage that never falters and placidity that never degenerates into sluggishness. Such a horse will charm the multitude, though he be not a mountain of flesh, nor as fleet as a grey-hound, nor his name be writ high in the roll of aristocratic equines. He will only be a distinguished commoner, a citizen of the great horse republic. Such a horse will not be a so-called "general-purpose horse," neither will he be specialized toward draft or speed, - just a mighty handy fellow to have around, ready and willing at all times to "fetch and carry," so long as he is not asked to fetch with lightning speed or carry the elephant's burden. He will not be a true, high-priced coach-horse, nor the ideal saddle-horse.
1 See Chapters IV to VIII for details of breeds.
In imagination I see this commoner horse ready to serve the citizen: Bay in color, black points, short back with neck which has a little suggestion of the peacock's and an eye that meets your gaze bravely; a collar seat which lovingly embraces the shoulders, a breast which protrudes like the prow of a schooner, legs wide enough apart to prevent their interfering and to give room for the inside leg muscles strong enough firmly to attach the limbs to the body; so close-ribbed that one will not continually be reminded of a slatted corn-crib that can never be kept full, and yet not so close-ribbed as to prevent long action, for it is evident that a short-bodied, very close-ribbed horse must be short -gaited; that symmetrical development of hind legs, rump and levers which can neither be fully described nor illustrated, but the symmetry of which the trained eye takes in at a glance, and the judgment approves because the propeller end of this complex machine gives evidence that it will make things move in this work-a-dav world. Who will breed these horses, always salable at fair prices, wanted not only in America but in Europe as well, in countless numbers? There is a superabundance of foundation stock from which to select. Such an animal as has been described is not difficult or expensive to produce. He may be of mixed-blood ancestry and yet be very good in his class. He will stand intermediate between the two extremes and might be bred on the principle described by the owner of a very superior dog, who, when asked about the blood of the dog, replied that he was "half pointer, quarter setter and the remainder just plain dog."