Horse Fighting Of Years Ago.: Account of a Sport that Flourished in Iceland in the Fourteenth Century., Daily Racing Form, 1917-05-03


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HORSE FIGHTING OF YEARS AGO. Account of a Sport that Flourished in Iceland in the Fourteenth Century. The recent death of the stallion Free lama slain in a battlo with another stallion. Ralph, at George J. Lings Bashford Manor Farm in Kentucky recalls a sport that flourished in Iceland ta the fourteenth century. Following is an account of the bane fighting of years ago that appeared in the Breeders Gazette; Life is an unceasing struggle of the Individual against the mass. It is a life and death strife which results ever in the survival of the fittest. In the whole natal of Baton fortune favors the bold and the intelligent. In a s.juare open contest for supremacy between adversaries comparatively equal, there is always some fascination. In the sport and play, world competition has always been the feature of greatest interest. Human nature is stub its to thrill at fight, to .-liter struggle and to hail victory. This is the fact, irrespective of the motive underlying the struggle, be it the brutal and barbarous beast element, or the enraptured spirit of innocent play. Whatever the phei tenon may be, it is an instructive expression of evolution. All this at first glance may seem a commonplace generality, but the remarks lead directly up to the thought of ancient pastimes, la which fights of one kind or another often played the most prominent part, and for that matter, they do to this day among many people. With this fact in view, let us consider, specially, the practice prevailing among certain Teutonic nations of mat.-hing horses in fights for the purpose of trying out the merits of the animals and to serve as popular entertainments. This sport reached, perhaps, its highest developments in the Icelandic Republic, where horse breeding and stallion fighting had a direct relationship. When Iceland was settled by the Norsemen and the Celts la the years from S74 to 930. the colonists imported to the islands the ilotn. stic animals of their respective countries. were, of course, indispensable to the colonisation, both as mounts and as beasts of burden. The settlers, accustomed to an adventurous life attti travel, and to diverse occupations, took a keen interest in horse husbandry and showed a warm appreciation of e iucstrian sports. Heace the horse industry entered upon a course of rational progTcai as the standard at breeding from the best was established and maintained. The horse fight, or hestaat. as it was called. .-. rtainly was a thrilling pastime of a people whleh appreciated valor and paid homage to the I —Bill tive game of life. Crowds Gather in Picturesque Dress. Imagine a fair autumn day in far-off Iceland. On a wide anil level river bank, adjacent to the valley-- slopes, lies an open air amphitheatre set in complete order for the event. The people gather in groups to attend the meet. Nearly the whole eoauaoaity turns aat for the occasion. Dressed in BktMtaaaw and gaily cdored robes, the people come along the trails and highways leading to the center of the days inter, st. The silver bells and diadems f the maidens gleam in the sunshine, and behind each chief an sohMtn wearing shiatag helmets ami tinned with gloaming swords. It is a ehivnlrous society, jealous .f honor, elevated of :. ml. it ions and appreciative of culture and action. Arriving at the fields the spectators are seated on the stage overlooking the arena by the river. Brery mind is tense and obviously the suspense is gnat; on the outcome of the contest personal interests are also concerned. Near the gatne is about to begin. Two small groups of horses an driven forth. Bach group is headed by : n impel ion; steed.!;.- the stai-lioii is . .11.1.1 red worth as much as all the rest of his f. Hows. In the l.-.-t tit i ful animal one ma. note a fine uniformity ot color an 1 conformation. I.itie breeding aad go... I management account for these faetB. We shall soon observe the merits of the a mini I his rhrorooa constitution aad sym metrical conformation. These, combined with an indomitable spirit, are the primary requisites of the performance. Men Direct Fiht with Wooden Sticks. The stallions are mat. -lied against each other and the combat begins. Two men stnv .-lose bv aad direct the right with v. tern sticks. But such stimulus lx ..lues quite unnecessary, as the battle increases in fury. Btlatag on their haunches the Batata attack each other, using hoofs aad teeth to the tidiest advantage. Beery muscle in their bodies is at high tension, 1 very nerve is 011 the alert, while the eyes glow like blazing coals. Like lightning l oth descend from their erect positions. The strategic trick is to tear open the others abdomen or to bite bba lame. There is agile and powerful exchange ef blows and biting and the battle rises to a climax as the enraged steeds teat their savagery and coinage. Finally when on,-or the other yields— "consummation est." The end of tin- duel may be fatal to one of the combatants, bat whatever the outcome the struggle for supremacy has furnished sufficient evidence of the merits of each bane. Their respective owners value them accordingly. In the first place, the reputation of possessing a horse of exception:, 1 merit earns with it a certain prestige. Si.oml. a stallion that has met successfully the test for vigor, endurance and prepotency baa a large financial value. Both factors are dnlv appreciated aad no effort is spared ta obtaining a high standard in horse husbandry, which is considered the most fascinating branch of animal industry. The favorite steed is given special car.-; the animals are kept by themselves on the range where they graze on the luxuriant herbage, but when winter is severe they are housed, exercised am! fed liberal rations of hay and grain. The management consists ef simple methods, for Natures way is, after all. the most rational one. Health and tv.-un.lity of tin breeding stock are admirably maintained*, while the real worth of the animal la tested by actual performance. Such was the status of Icelandic horse husbandry in the republi.aii days. The nation as a whole took deep interest in euaeatitaa sports, as was evidenced by the great ran taken in developing good strains of horses and the fact that horsemanship was | common attainment. The stallion fight was a peculiar feature of the horse industry. In the humane light of modern times it may appear ,us a brutal and barbarous practice; but let it be eBaerved that each age has its characteristics and it must be admitted that from a thn mmatologieal point of view the practice had an hapselBBt bearing niton horse breeding in general and stimulated till rural industries. Gradually the horse fight lost its popularity and became .111 abandoned pastime until filially, in the fourteenth century, it was totally omitted from public entertainments. But still the effects on the horse of the fighting test and rigid selection of propagation may be seen in the physio logi :il characteristics of the breed. Such morpho logical characteristics as could partly be attribute,! to the selection referred to are a large head, firm In. ties, i xoellont muscular system and great stamina. — Breeders Gazette.

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