To the Editor of Scientific American Supplement:
In your issue for August 13 is "A Proposition for a Government Breeding Farm for Cavalry Horses," by Lieutenant S.C. Robertson U.S.A., First Cavalry. The article is national in conception, deep in careful thought, which only gift, with practical experience with ability, could so ably put before the people. As a business proposition, it is creditable to an officer in the United States army.
The husbandman and agriculturist, also the navy and scientific explorations, each in turn present their wants before the government for help in some way, and receive assistance. The seaman wants new and improved or better ships, and the navy gets them; but the poor cavalryman must put up with any kind of a craft he can get; the horse is the cavalryman's ship - war vessel on land.
The appeal of Lieut. Robertson to our government for better horses is reasonable; and he tries to help the government with a carefully studied business proposition through which to enable our government to grant the supplication of the army. That Lieut. Robertson loves a horse, and knows what a good one is, no man can dispute who has read his article; but as to how it can best be produced, he does not know. While I for one applaud both his article and his earnestness, with your permission I will make some suggestions as to the breeding side of his proposition. The business portion will, of course, come under the ordnance department in any event.
As for a government breeding establishment for any kind of livestock in this great agricultural country, I feel that such would be at variance with the interests of husbandry in America.
The breeding of horses is particularly an important branch of agriculture, and the farmers should be assisted by the government in the improvement of their horses, until they are raised to a standard which in case of emergency could supply the army at a moment's notice with the best horses in the world at the least possible expense.
Our government Agricultural Bureau is constantly spending thousands of dollars to help the agriculturist in matter of better and greater varieties of improved seeds and the better way for cultivation. Now, the seed of animal life is as important as in vegetable life to the interest and welfare of the husbandman, which also means the government. For the government to become a monopolist of any important branch in agriculture is not in harmony with the principles of our republican-democratic form of government. While advocating a protective tariff against outside depreciation of home industries, our government should not in any way approach monarchical intrusion upon the industries of its husbandmen. Our government cannot afford to make its agriculturists competitors in so important a matter to them (the farmers) as in the raising of horses; but the government can see to it that the husbandman has a standard for excellence in the breeding of horses which shall be recognized as a national standard the civilized world over.
Then, by that standard, and through our superior advantages over any other civilized nation in the vast extent of cheap and good grass lands, with abundance of pure water, and with all temperatures of climate, we can grow, as a people, the best horses in the world, to be known as the National Horse of America. Our government must have a blood standard for the breeding of horses, by which our horses can be bred and raised true to a type, able to reproduce itself in any country to which we may export them; and the types can be several, as our territory is so great and demands so varied, but blood and breeding must be the standard for each type. Our fancy breeders have a standard now, called a "time standard," which is purely a gambling standard, demoralizing in all its tendencies to both man and beast. With this the government need have nothing to do, for it will die out of itself as the masses learn more of it, and especially would it cease to be, once the government established a blood standard for the breeding of all horses, and particularly a National Horse.
When the cereal crops of our country are light, or the prices fall below profitable production, the farmer has always a colt or two to sell, thus helping him through the year. In place of constantly importing horses from France, England, and Scotland, where they are raised mostly in paddocks, and paying out annually millions of dollars, it is our duty to be exporting.
As an American I am ashamed when I see paraded at our county or state fairs stallions and mares wearing the "blue ribbon" of superexcellence, with boastful exclamation by the owner of "a thoroughbred imported Percheron, or a thoroughbred imported French coacher, or a thoroughbred imported Scotch Clyde, or a thoroughbred imported English coacher, or a thoroughbred imported English Shire, or a thoroughbred imported English Cleveland Bay!"
The American farmer and his boys look on aghast at the majesty and beauty of these prize winners over our big-headed, crowbar-necked, limp-tailed, peeked-quartered horses called "standard bred!" What standard? "Time standard," as created by a man who is neither a horseman nor a breeder; but because of the lack of intelligent information and want of courage upon the part of a few, this man's ipse dixit has become law for the American breeders until such time as cultured intelligence shall cause them to rebel. It soon will.
It is indeed time for the government to step in and regulate our horse breeding. Of all the national industries there is none of more importance than that of horses. More so in America than in any other country, because our facilities are greater, and results can be greater under proper regulation. Lieut. Robertson has proved to be the right man in the right place, to open the door for glorious results to our nation. No one man or a small body of men can regulate this horse-breeding industry, but as in France, Russia, and England, the government must place its hand and voice.