Science and the "Figure System", Daily Racing Form, 1922-08-04


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Science and the "Figure System" BY SALVATOR. Many curious parallelisms occur, in the turf world as well as out of it. One of the most curious that lately has occurred includes the passing from this life of Dr. , M. M. Leach, "Exile," whose contributions to thoroughbred journalism have long been so familiar to readers of Daily Racing Form and other publications; and, at almost the same time, the appearance of Mr. Gurney C. Guos article in the New York Herald in which such interesting light is thrown upon that breeding theory, the Bruce Lowe "Figure System," of which the doctor was the ; principal advocate in this country. Among those unable to accept the "Figure System" as an infallible guide in breeding operations were many Americans, both active breeders and others. These devotees of the blood horse will find the conclusions of the article mentioned extremely Interesting and it will strengthen them in the opinions which all along have entertained, i. e., tho fallacy of "tap-root" theories, especially In their application to American affairs. PROPAGANDISTS NEVER CHANGE. It seems doubtful, however, had Dr. Leach lived, if his position would have been at all affected by any of the researches of eugen-ists in the carrying power of "mongrel" chromosomes and their inability to survive more than a few generations when called upon to combat, in the task of hereditary transmission, the more powerful and dominant germs of purebred animals, continuously introduced into a pedigree by fresh top crosses. As a rule proponents of a thoory, especially a theory of heredity, once they have adopted it and become publicly Identified with its advocacy, remain entirely outside the "sphere of influence" of anything antagonistic. For them it simply does not exist or, if it exists at all, it is only as Bomething either negligible or derisory. Those who wish to approach horse breeding with open eyes, however, cannot ignore such fresh facts as reputable scientific research provides them. The experiments at the Eugenics Record Office, conduncted by Professor Davenport, Dr. Laughlin and their co-workers, have practically demonstrated the fact that after a certain number of purebred ancestors exert their influence, that of any cold-blooded or "mongrel" ones ceases further to possess carrying power. In other words, it has been "bred out," and no longer factors, in a living sense, in the heredity of a given animal. Mr. Gue brings out the fact that the exact number of crosses necessary to purify, actually as well as theoretically, the blood of a horse is still to be demonstrated, as the eugenists have not entered that field. But they have established that weak hereditary olements are "bred out" in man, as a rule, in five generations. Various breeds of domestic animals have also been subjected to tests, but the horse is yet to be a subject of analysis. The cost of such a series of experiments as is necessary is not, however, great; and Mr. Cues suggestion that the Jockey Club finance them in the near future is one which that body, the chief custodian of our thoroughbred breeding interests, should welcome the opportunity to carry out. SCIENCE AND EXACTNESS. The "wisdom of the ages" as applied to heredity has rough-hewed, so to speak, from the raw materials of biology many facts and truths which science in latter days has verified in more exact but not more convincing terms. Centuries ago men discovered that Impure water purified itself in flowing no great distance, provided it was a living stream. In the same way they have always felt regarding blood streams in families of vertebrates. Science is now verifying this old-fashioned idea, and doing it in a convincing way. That any discovery or revelation of science will have any effect upon the present status of the American thoroughbred as regards the English Stud Book is something, however, upon which no hopes should be built. The American thoroughbred was not excluded from the English Stud Book for scientific reasons, but for commercial ones. The reason given for the exclusion was, of course, a top-lofty one. Namely, that the American thoroughbred was polluted by "mongrel" blood, introduced into his pedigree from unknown sources from a hundred to two hundred years ago; and that the "pur sang" British breed must not be contami-nat by any admixture of such blood. But behind this camouflage the actual reason was purely commercial. Namely, the studied intention to disqualify anything and everything but British "pur sang" from actual "thoroughbred" status. For two centuries America had been one of Englands best customers in the thoroughbred market. The amount of "pur sang," good, bad and indiffcent, that had been either marketed or "dumped" here was enormous. The "increasing purpose" was to maintain tills trade upon its time-honored, jug-handled basis. The stream of blood was to flow always to America, the stream of gold always to England. The original status quo, so long undisturbed, first experienced a few tremors when, some years ago, adverse legislation in this country having sent both racing and breeding into the doldrums here, it occurred to a few American horsemen that "turn about was fair play" and that some of our surplus might be marketed in England. It was only necessary for this experiment to have a brief try-out to induce immediate and drastic action that completely squelched it. The great discovery was made that the British breed was in imminent danger of "mongrel" contamination. The doors of the Messrs. "Weatherby, previously open, shut with a bang. "Free trade," the historic policy of Britain, sustained a knock out. And from that day forth the American thoroughbred became, and has remained, the chief target . of British abuse and his so-called "mongrel" blood the text for an uninterrupted deluge of denunciation. BRUCE LOAVE NOT COJOIERCLYIi. In the "pur sang" crusade tne Bruce Lowe theory proved the chief weapon of offense. Poor Lowe himself, who died almost a pauper, elaborated the "Figure System" upon abstract ratiocination. Commercialism, to do him justice, never entered into his calculations. It remanied for the mercenary minds that batten on the export trade of Newmarket to perceive its commercial possibilities. Purely upon abstract merit, it is probable that the "Figure System" would have had a short life in England. "When introduced there it elicited much antagonism from those , ; who perceived its weaknesses. But once its commercial possibilities were apprehended, tho opposition died down practically to nothing. To quarrel with ones bread and butter, or the equivalent thereof, in behalf of an abstract theory, however beautiful, never appealed to tho British temperament, most especially that species most intimately connected with Newmarket. It is a. fact so well known as hardly to need mention that the British turf journalist who originally made a book, "Breeding Race Horses by the Figure System," out of the data which poor Lowe had collected and left unpublished at his death, is internationally still more famous as a salesman of "pur sang." "When he brought out the book mentioned he had not as yet grasped the immense commercial value of Lowes theory in practical application to his line of trade. As soon as he had, ho hastened to rectify his error, and the fruit thereof was the appearance of his "magnum opus," a large and portly volume, its thunder all stolen from or provided by the Lowe "Figures," pompously entitled, "The British Thoroughbred Horse," but really an advertisement of tho compilers sale agency, with much blowing of trumpets about his big deals in that fertile field. The reader was edified by extensive details of his importations and exporta-tions, with portraits of the steeds involved and even fac-simile letters giving orders that he had filled. Certainly unique documents for the edification of those with a disinter-1 ested desire to get at the bottom of the "breeding problem." PAEAN TO ENGLISH THOROUGHBRED. Just lately this same eminent authority has published his personal memoirs and he closes the volume, as might be expected, with a paean to the British thoroughbred. But not to his beauty, his speed, his courage, or his glory. Not at all. But because I quote his exact words he is Englands "great national asset and monopoly." Now, when science comes in conflict with a "great national asset and monopoly" it is not difficult to imagine what will happen to science. It is in for a rough ride indeed: at the end of which the presiding judge will serve notice of its disqualification, in prompt and decisive terms. Do not, therefore, suppose that anything science may divulge regarding the physical, the scientific, impossibility of any "mongrel" blood a century or two old in tho American thoroughbred being today an active factor in hereditary transmission, will in any way affect the present relative positions of the said variety of the genus equus and the English Stud Book. To expect that is to expect the world to start spinning backward upon its axis, or the law of gravitation suddenly to cease operation. But, as a consequence of such discoveries, the mind of the American breeder may be disabused of some of the fallacies with which "figure" and "pur sang" propaganda have imbued him, and his conscience, so uneasy in regard to "mongrels," may experience a permanent and welcome relief. Than which no other consummation need really be wished. For the best thing that can happen to the American breeder is to forget the English Stud Book for a while and attend strictly to his own.

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