History of the American Thoroughbred, Daily Racing Form, 1922-08-01


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HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN THOROUGHBRED In spite of general interest in racing at the present time knowledge of tlic history of the horse in this country, the time and manner of his transplantation from other climes, is far from general. Few books of an authentic nature on this subject have been written and the circulation of those that have appeared has been restricted. More than half a century after publication. Prank Foresters Tie Horse of America still stands as the authority on the early history of the horse in this country. The story is as fascinating as a romantic -novel and the fact that it lays the foundations of the present-day American thoroughbred makes it of more than passing interest. DAIIAT RACING FORM herewith begins publication of this story in the form of selected portions of the Frank Forester work. The first installment covers the earliest period of the history of the horse in this country. Successive installments will b devoted entirely to the development of the thoroughbred. FIRST INSTALLMENT. At a remote period in the history of America the horse began to be imported from Europe by the earliest settlers. It is conceded that although the horse had at some former time existed on this continent as is proved by his fossil remains, he had become extinct previous to its colonization by the white nations. It is generally believed that the horses which are found in a feral state over the pampas of South and the prairies of North America, so far east as the Mississippi, are the progeny of the parents released by the Spaniards at the abandonment of Buenos Aires. It seems to me, however, that tnis date is too recent to be compatible with the vast numerical increase and the great hordes of these animals now existing in a state ol nature. I should be inclined to ascribe their origin to animals escaped, or voluntarily liberated, in the earlier expeditions and wars of the Spanish invaders, the cavahy of that nation consisting entirely of perfect horses or mares. WAR HORSES ACQUIRE FREEDOM. It must have been the case in the bloody wars of Mexico and Peru, where the battles more than once went disastrously for the Spaniards, that war horses, their riders being slain, would recover their freedom. To propagate their species rapidly in the wide, luxuriant and well-watered plains, where the abundance of food, the genial climate and the absence of beasts of prey capable of coping with so powerful an animal as the horse, would be an easy matter. We know that De Soto had a heavy force of cavalry in that expedition in which he discovered the Mississippi and found a grave in its waters. When the warriors of his party returned home by water in barques, which they built on the banks of the great river, it is nearly certain that they must have abandoned their chargers. The frail vessels, built by inexperienced hands merely for the purpose of escaping with life, would not have been capable of containing the horses of the fugitives. FIRST STOCK HORSES ARRIVE. The first horses imported to America for the purpose of creating a stock were brought by Columbus in 1493 in his second voyage to the islands. The first landed in the United States were introduced into Florida in 1527 by Cabeca de Vaca, forty-two in number, but those all perished or were lulled. The next importation was that of De Soto, alluded to above, of which many doubtless survived. To the latter I attribute the origin of the wild horses of Texas and the prairies which are so strongly marked to this day by the characteristics of Spanish blood. In 1G04 M. LEscarbot, a French lawyer, brought horses with other domestic animals into Acadia. In 1G0S the French, extending their colonization into Canada, introduced horses into that country where the present race, though it has somewhat degenerated in size owing to the inclemency of the climate, still shows the blood of the Norman and Breton breeds. In 1609 English ships landing at Jamestown brought besides swine, sheep and cattle, six mares and a horse. In 1G57 the importance of increasing the stock of this valuable animal was so largely recognized that an act was passed prohibiting its exportation from the province. nORSES TO MASSACHUSETTS. In 1629 horses and mares were brought into the plantations of Massachusetts Bay by Francis Higginson, formerly of Leicestershire, from which country many of the animals were imported. New York received its first horses in 1625, imported from Holland by the Dutch West Indies Company These were probably of the Flanders breed, of which, however, few traces seem to exist unless it be the Conestoga horse of Pennsylvania. That horse shows some affinity to , the Flanders breed cither directly or through the English dray-horse, which is understood to be originally of Flemish origin. In 1750 the French of Illinois possessed considerable numbers of French horses. Since that time, as the science of agriculture improved and advanced, pure animals of many distinct breeds were constantly imported into i this country. These have created, in different sections and districts, distinct families, easily recognized. Among these families are . the horses of Massachusetts and Vermont, admirable for their qualities as draft horses, both powerful and active and capable of quick as well as heavy work ; the Cones-togas, . excellent for ponderous, slow efforts i in teaming and the like, and the active, wiry horses of the West, well adapted for riding ; and affording mounts in the early days to i most of the American cavalry. Although these horses are readily known apart and recognized by the eye of a judge, it is not always easy or possible to assign the origin of each breed or to trace out the foreign family from which it is derived. This is due to the fact that, until the nineteenth century was half spent, a lamentable carelessness existed as to preserving the pedigrees of animals. This has produced irretrievable confusion. When the value of blood and heredity qualities was admitted, a , i . . i ; i much worse evil began to show itself in the manufacture of spurious pedigrees. Owing to the absence of properly kept and authenticated stud books, many of these early impositions were impossible of detection. The growing necessity for the enactment of some highly penal statutes for the repression of that offense became acutely apparent in the early fifties. The unlucky absence of properly kept stud books has. also, rendered it impossible to prove the blood directly of many of our most celebrated early race horses and stallions, the dams of which had not been duly recorded. It cannot be said, however, that their lineage is doubtful, though it may bo unknown, as their own qualities of speed, stoutness and their ability to stay a distance go far to show their claims, to pure blood. Their power in transmitting these qualities to their progeny proves it beyond a peradventure. . TEST OF EARLY STRAINS. Although some early race horses, not perfectly thoroughbred, have run well botn for speed and endurance, none such have been sires or grandsires .of distinguished winners. The power, therefore, of transmitting high qualities by hereditary descent may be held to prove the possession of pure blood in the sire. The pedigree of American Eclipse cannot be absolutely proved that is to say, there is a doubt in his pedigree, but no proof of a stain in his blood yet no one familiar with his performances and the performances of his progeny would doubt his being as thoroughbred as his English namesake, to which he is supposed to havo been connected on the dams side. It is evident then, in the first place, that the original stock of the unimproved American horse is the result of a mixture of breeds, the French, the Spanish, the Flemish, and the English horses having all sent the:r representatives to some portion or other of the United States and British pi-ovinces. These probably still prevail in some locations, though nowhere wholly unmixed. In other locations they have been so thoroughly mixed and amalgamated that their identity is no longer discoverable. In New York it appears that the early importations of thorough blood, and th.j constant support of horse racing, have so changed the original Dutch or Flemish stocK that the characteristic of her horse is that of the English race, with a strong cross of good blood. During the early fifties in Massachusetts, Vermont and other eastern states generally, the Cleveland bay, and a cros.-j between that and the English dray horse blood, with some small admixture of a thorough strain, predominated. In Pennsylvania, the most distinct breed appeared to be of Flemish and English dray horse origin. ENGLISH THOROUGHBRED PIONEERS. In Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina English thoroughbred blood prevailed to a great extent; so much so as to render the inferior classes of working horses weedy and undersized. In Louisiana and many of. the western states French and Spanish blood prevailed in part though with a mixture of an English strain. Generally it may be assumed that, with the exception of the thoroughbreds, there was scarcely any breed in any part of America entirely pure and unmixed and that there were few animals anywhere which have not some mixture, greater or less, of the hot blood of the desert, transmitted through the English race horse. In fact with the exception of the Cones-toga horse, there is in the United States at the time this is written no purely bred draft horse, nor any breed which is kept entirely for field or road labor, without a view to being used at times for quicker work and for purposes of pleasure or travel. The same horse which plows or harrows today is harnessed tomorrow to the sulky or the Jersey wagon, or the old-lashioned New England chaise, or is used under saddle and expected to make tolerable time by the owner. AIMS OF EARLY BREEDERS. Although Cleveland bays and Suffolk punches of the improved breed have been imported into Massachusetts and left their mark on the horses of the eastern states, all horses were bred with the ambition to produce something beyond a mere cart horse, aspiring to draw a heavy load at a footi pace. In the early days the use of oxen supplied the place in the United States of mere weight-haulers, so that every horse, for the most part bred in America, was, or was intended to be, in some sense a roadster. It is but fair to say that for docility, temper, soundness of constitution, endurance of fatigue, hardiness, surefootedness and speed, the early American roadster was not to be excelled, if equaled, by any horse in the world not purely thoroughbred. Of roadsters, two or three families obtained decided and probably merited reputations for different peculiar qualities; such as the Narragansett pacers, the familie3 known as the Morgan and Black Hawk, the the Canadians, and generally what may be called trotters. No one of these, with the single exception of the Narragansetts, appears to have had any real claim to be held a distinctive family, or to be regarded as capable of trans-, mitting its qualities in line of hereditary descent, by breeding within itself, without further crosses with higher and hotter blood. Of the Narragansetts it is extremely difficult to speak. There is reason to believe that, as a distinct variety with natural powers of pacing, they are extinct and their origin is, in some sort, mythical and uncer-; tain. The other families clearly owed their merits to a remote strain of thoroughbred, perhaps amounting to one-fourth or one-third part some three or four generations prior to the middle of the last century, To Re Continued.

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Library of Congress Record: https://lccn.loc.gov/unk82075800