Horse, or Equus, L. a genus of quadrupeds consisting of five species : the principal of these is the caballus, or common horse, which has a flowing mane, and the whole of its tail is covered with long hair.
There are, strictly speaking, no wild horses to be met with at present ; and those which are suffered to roam at large in Tartary, Sibe-ria, and America, are of a small size, inelegant form, and extremely intractable. - In.a domestic state, the horse is bold, intrepid, docile, and attached to the company of man : indeed no quadruped is so eminently qualified for both purposes, the saddle, and the harness. In the breedingof horses, however, sound and well-shaped animals ought to de selected with particular care; as the strength and excellence of the race entirely de. pend on this circumstance. For elegance, the Spanish and Italian breeds are preferable; but, for the more useful purpose of draught, those of Britain, Normandy, and Holstein, are the most esteemed.
The females, or mares, bring forth one colt after a gestation of eleven months: none of the parent creatures should be under four years of age. Castration is commonly performed when the colt is twelve or eighteen months old , but the most general, and, we believe, the best practice is, to delay that operation till the animals attain the age of at least two years ; for they will then retain a greater degree of strength and spirit. If properly kept, they live to the age of forty years ; but mares do not breed after eighteen, and stallions are useless at the age of twenty, so that they are fit only for the harness.
The horse being an animal of extensive utility, the most proper and least extravagant manner of feeding and keeping him, becomes an object: of considerable importance. Hence, potatoes, carrots, furze, cabbages, etc. have been successfully tried as substitutes for oats, and the more expensive method of corn-feeding : where, however, grain is used, the most economical way will be to boil, and give it in a cool state. to the animals, together with the liquor ; by which simple means one half may be saved. Carrots are particularly serviceable, as broken-winded horses, when fed on these roots, speedily recover. A cons derable reduction may also be made, by cutting the hay into a kind of chaff, and mixing with it straw, or the broken cars of corn, which arise in dressing grain ; and also by soiling horses with lucerne, tares, or clover, instead of turning them Out to grass in the summer; for, if they be well littered, the dunghill will nearly repay the, expence of their maintenance. - See also the articles Furze, and Linseed.
The management of horses, after having performed the labour of the day, is a matter of equal moment with their feeding ; and, as considerable expence has injudiciously been incurred, by erecting elegant stables, we propose the following practice to the consideration of the rural economist. It consists, simply, in forming a small yard provided with a shed that is open in the front, and furnished with racks, as well as a pump and cistern placed in one of the corners. A superstructure of this kind, if well littered, is in every respect preferable to a stable, and will preserve horses in better health, without requiring any other currying or dressing, than is usually given by farmers' servants. The utility and convenience of such a yard have been fully evinced by a patriotic nobleman, the Earl of Darlington, who has followed this practice with great success for several years, and observed, that horses thus managed, not only are more healthy than in stables, but at the same time able to work well, even after the age of twenty years.
The diseases of horses are various; but as we treat of them in their alphabetical series, we shall here only offer a few hints to the proprietors of these useful animals, by which many disorders may be easily prevented.
In all fresh wounds, the principal objects of attention are, to keep them clean, and protect them from the air; but, if any swellings or local humours arise, or the skin be bruised without being broken, they will be effectually removed, by applying Goulard's mixture, which is prepared by adding two tea-spoonfuls of extract of lead, and one large spoonful of strong camphorated brandy, to a pint of water ; the whole is to be well shaken together, and set apart for use.
There are many diseases in which clysters are an excellent remedy;. but they are frequently administered with so little skill, by means of the common clyster-pipes, that they are of no service. Hence it will be useful to procure a pipe made of pewter, the body of which should be larger and longer than a quart pot: at one end let a handle be fixed, and at the. other a tube which lessens gradually, in the same manner as a common squirt. This will absorb a pint or quart of any preparation, and discharge it with proper force.
Numerous disorders, however, arise from excessive labour 5 and the injudicious application of ill -formed shoes. To remedy this serious evil, the attention of farriers has lately been directed towards the improvement of horse-shoes, and the invention of such as may prevent pain, and render this valuable animal sure-footed. We shall, therefore, take notice of the different patents that have been granted for this purpose, under the article Shoe.
We have already observed, that the English horses are eminently adapted to the different purposes of agriculture. The breeds of cart-horses, which deserve more particular attention, are the large black ones bred in the counties of York and Northampton, and the so/els, for which the sandy tract of land in the vicinity of Woodbridge, Suffolk, has long been celebrated. The former are chiefly used by those farmers who are in the habit of purchasing two-year-old colts, which they work lightly for two or three years, and then sell them for coach-horses. This practice merits severe reprehension ; for, independently of the great risk in keeping valuable horses during the most critical period of their age, such precaution is necessarily attended with additional expence. The York and Northampton breeds, however, are reputed to be much inferior to the Suffolk punch sorels, which are admitted to be the best cart-horses in England. These are of a bright sorel colour; have very low forehands, large bodies, somewhat similar to those of cows, short legs, and ill-shaped heads ; yet, though their appearance be thus aukward, they exceed every other breed in draught. These animals are of all sizes ; but the smaller ones, 141/2 hands high (the price of which is from 40l. to 50l. per pair), will be of great service.
The long-contested question, whether oxen or horses are preferable for agricultural purposes, we shall not venture to decide ; though it will be useful fairly to appreciate the advantages, as well as the disadvantages, which attend the maintenance of either.
Oxen will draw the plough on tough clay soils and hilly lands, while horses stand still; but, on even and light ground, the latter not only work taster than oxen, but are incomparably more active for carriage. It deserves, however, to be remarked, that oxen may be maintained at a very small expence. The price of two horses is computed to be equivalent to that of nine oxen : the food of the latter, during summer, consists merely of grass, and in winter of straw, on which provender they may perform moderate labour; and, when worked hard, they are. allowed a little hay. On the contrary, the food of a horse generally is hay, oats, beans, etc. The number of cart-horses constantly employed in Great Britain, is calculated at 500,000, - 300,000 of which are allowed, by the most competent judges, to be superfluous. These consume daily, upon an average, during nine months in the year, one peck of corn each ; which amounts to sixty-three bushels each per annum ; that is, (allowing one quartern loaf per week to every person, and computing only 12 loaves to the bushel) as much corn as will support seven persons; so that 300,000 superfluous cart-horses, moderately fed, require for their support a quantity of corn sufficient to maintain 2,100,000 persons! which number, if the inhabitants of Great Britain amount to ten millions, is nearly one fourth part of the whole population.
To invalidate this statement, it has been objected, that though oxen may be maintained at a less expence than horses, yet the latter are far preferable, as they perform their work with much greater alacrity ; and that the extra ploughing which a pair of horses will accomplish in one week, will fully pay the balance of keeping. Such is the difference of opinions, in the communication of which we have strictly adhered to facts; yet it ought in justice to be added, that an ox improves in value 2l. per annum, upon an average, from the time he is used and fed as an ox; and, when fattened, affords good and wholesome meat ; while a horse progressively declines, till he, literally, "is of no value."
Of the number of pleasure horses kept in England only, we have already spoken, p. 333, of our first volume ; but, in this place we are induced severely to censure the inhuman practice of docking and tucking their tails, for no other reason, than to improve the beauty of their appearance, and to prevent them from "flinging the dirt;" thus depriving them of a very useful part, which was certainly designed by Nature for defending them from flies and other insects, during the summer heats, if for no other ostensible reason. Besides, it is highly probable that the tail assists the animal even in his common exertions; balances his body when trotting, and thus prevents him from stumbling ; for it has been observed, by those who are conversant with the manners and customs of the East, that the horses of Turkey and Persia seldom stumble; a circumstance easily accounted for, as the absurd and brutal practice of docking is unknown in those countries.
Another operation, equally cruel and injudicious, is that of cropping the ears of horses, which may perhaps be justified, where an animal has large, wide lopping ears, destitute of all spring or motion, and which are in some degree a deformity. But to cut off a pair of fine ears from a horse's head, mere-ly to gratify the ridiculous taste of grooms and jockies, is, if possible, still more absurd than to dock or nick his tail. It is, indeed, utterly indefensible : for the ears neither retard the animal's motion, nor " fling dirt." - We trust the day
is not far distant, when this senseless prejudice will lose its influence over those men of sense and understanding who are now fascinated by it; and when the vitiated taste of horse-dealers will be treated with merited contempt.
Independently of the important services which the horse renders mankind by his labour, his dung affords an excellent manure; a short account of which we have inserted, p. 198 of the present volume. The urine, or stale, of these animals, likewise furnishes an excellent fertilizing liquor, if preserved with the brine, suds, etc. of the house : some caution, however, is necessary, in applying it to the soil. Horse-urine is equally beneficial to all lands ; but it should be previously diluted in a proper vessel, with half the quantity of pond-water, and in that state poured on the ground. Thus, the great heat of this manure, which, in particular seasons, is apt to burn some crops, may be easily corrected.
As the utility of horses exceeds that of all other domestic animals, we shall subjoin a few characteristic marks, by which their general qualities may be ascertained, and Some of the numerous frauds committed by grooms, jockies, etc. opportunely prevented.
In old horses, the eye-pits are generally deep : this mark, however, is very uncertain, as it is also found on young animals descended from aged stallions. But the most certain criterion is that derived from the teeth, the number of which amounts to 40 ; namely, 24 grinders, or double teeth, 4 tushes, and 12 fore-teeth: these last are the surest guides for discovering the age of a horse. They appear about 12 days after the colt is foal-ed; ed; are round, short, not very solid, and successively cast and replaced by others. When two years and a half old, the two middle fore-teeth in the upper jaw, and those in the lower jaw, are cast: in the course of another year, four others drop out, one on each side of the former. At the age of about 41/2 years, the horse loses four others, and always next to those which have already fallen out and been replaced. These four foal-teeth are succeeded by four others, but do not grow so quickly as the eight, first, and which are called corner-teeth. They replace the four last foal-teeth, and are the chief marks by which the age of a horse may be ascertained : they are the third, both above and below, counting from the middle of the jaw, being hollow, and having a black mark in their cavity. When the horse is four years and a half old, they are scarcely visible above the gum; and the cavity is very sensible : in the course of a year and a half, they begin to fill; and the mark continually diminishes and contracts, till the animal attains the age of seven or eight years, when the cavity is completely filled, and the black spots disappear. These teeth cease to afford any knowledge of a horse's age, after eight years, when it is ascertained by the tushes, which are the four teeth next to those last mentioned, and which, like the grinders, are not preceded by any other teeth. The two in the lower jaw usually begin to shoot at 31/2 years ; those in the upper jaw at 4; and both continue very sharp pointed till the animal is 6 years of age. At 10 years, the teeth in the upper jaw appear blunted, worn out, and long ; the gum contracting in proportion to the increasing years ; and the more exposed the teeth are, the greater is the age of the horse. - From 10 to 13, or 14, little can be perceived to determine the age ; but at that time of life, the upper teeth seem blunted, the gum contracts, and these useful bones are left bare. In proportion, therefore, to the greater or less degree of these marks, the age of a horse may be determined 5 and likewise, though not perhaps with equal accuracy, by the bars in the animal's mouth, which decrease as he advances in years. - On this occasion, it will not be useless to point out an odious practice, of which many ostlers and stable-keepers are guilty, especially towards the horses of strangers. When provisions are at an exorbitant price, those inhuman monsters have sometimes the cruelty to mix a few leaves of the bird-cherry (vol. i. p. 509) among the hay, or to rub the fatigued animal's teeth with tallow, or soap: in either case, it will obstinately refuse food, and not eat, till the hay is changed, or the teeth have been properly scoured with common salt.
In a horse that is free from blemish, the legs and thighs are well shaped; the knees straight; the skin and shanks thin ; the back sinews strong and firm. The pastern joints should be small and taper, and the hock lean, dry, and not puffed up with wind. With respect to the hoof itself, the coronet ought to be thick, without any tumor, or swelling; the horn bright, and of a greyish colour. The fibres of a strong foot appear very distinctly, running in a direct line from the coionet to the toe, like the grain of wood. Such a foot, how-ever, ought to be kept moist and
I i 3 pliable ; pliable; as it is subject to fissures and cracks, by which the hoof is sometimes cleft through the whole length of the coronet. A narrow heel is likewise a great defect; and, if it do not exceed two fingers in breadth, it forms an imperfect foot. A high heel often causes a horse to trip and stumble ; while a low one, with long, yielding pasterns, is apt to be worn away on a long journey. On the other hand, a foot disproportionately large, renders the animal weak, and clumsy in its gait.
The head of a horse ought to be small, and rather lean than fleshy ; his ears should be erect, thin, sprightly, and pointed; the neck arched towards the middle, tapering gradually towards the head; the shoulders rather long ; the withers thin, and enlarge by degrees as they extend downwards, yet so as to render his breast neither too gross nor too narrow. Such are the principal characters, by which the best form and proportion of that useful animal may be deter- mined. - Those of our readers who wish to obtain more extensive information relative to this interesting subject, may with advantage peruse Ten Minute's Advice to every Gentleman going to purchase a Horse, etc. (12mo. 1s.); a small work, but which is replete with practical information.