[Three Hundred Animals Contents]
THE noblest conquest that man ever made on the brute creation was the taming of the Horse, and the engaging him to his service. He lessens the labours of man, adds to his pleasures, advances or flees, with ardor and swiftness, for attack or defence; shares, with equal docility and cheerfulness, the fatigues of hunting, the dangers of war, and draws with appropriate strength, rapidity or grace, the heavy ploughs and carts of the husbandman, the light vehicles of the rich, and the stately carriage of the great. The specimen above is that of a young Cart Horse; the following represents the War-Horse or Charger.
The Horse is bred now in most parts of the world: those of Arabia, Turkey and Persia are accounted as better proportioned than many others; but the English race may justly claim the precedence over all the European breed, and are not inferior to all the rest in point of strength and beauty.
The intelligence of the Horse is next to that of the Elephant, and he obeys his rider with so much punctuality and understanding that the Americans, who had never seen a man on horseback, thought, at first, that the Spaniards were a kind of centaurs, a monstrous race, half-men and half-horses. The Horse is allowed by nature but a short life, as he seldom lives longer than twenty years. We may suppose that in the savage state, he might attain the age of forty, and it is melancholy to think that our bad treatment has shortened the days of so useful a creature. The Mare, his female, is as elegant in her shape. She goes eleven months, and seldom foals double. From the teeth of the Horse his age is known, and his colour, which varies considerably from black to white, from the darkest brown to a light white, from the darkest brown to a light hazel tint, has been reckoned a good sign to judge of his strength and other qualities. The following figure represents the Hunter and Race-Horse.
The Horse feeds upon grass, either fresh or dry, and corn; is liable to many diseases, and often comes suddenly to his end. In the state of nature, he is a gregarious animal, and even in domesticity, his debased situation of slavery has not entirely erased his love of society and friendship, for horses have been known to pine at the loss of their masters, their stable fellows, and even at the death of a dog which had been bred near the manger. Virgil in his beautiful description of this noble animal, seems to have imitated Job:
“The fiery courser, when he hears from far
The sprightly trumpets, and the shouts of war
Pricks up his ears, and trembling with delight
Shifts place, and paws, and hopes the promis’d fight
On his right shoulder his thick mane reclin’d,
Ruffles at speed. and dances in the wind.
His horny hoofs are jetty black and round,
His chine is double; starting with a bound,
He turns the turf and shakes the solid ground.
Fire from his eyes, clouds from his nostrils flow;
He bears his rider headlong on the foe.
—————————————————————–DRYDEN. GEO. III.