Friday, 17 April 2009

All horses great and small

The Civil Veterinary Department of India had 3 main duties: horse-breeding; animal disease research and control; instruction in veterinary medicine and animal husbandry.
While adding metadata for several India-wide CVD volumes (this is one example from 1893-94) I came across interesting correspondence between Veterinary Officers about procurement of good quality horses in the early 1890's. Troop horses from Arabia and Hungary were particularly sought after as they could work for longer in the hot climate on less food than UK horses. "[Hungarian horses] are strong, with great stamina and stand fatique...better than any other horse," wrote J.B. Hallen.
Transit from Buda Pesth to Bombay by rail and steamer cost £10-15 per horse, including the groom's wages and expenses, so it wasn't cheap to import the animals.
Australian Thoroughbreds were also recommended as excellent breeding stock for cavalry mounts.
There are many tables in these volumes recording Government stallions and mules. Some of the names are fascinating - there are occupational names like The Doctor, The Butler and The Lawyer, royal names such as Silver King, Black Prince and His Grace, Imperial names like Colony Boy and East Indian, men's monikers such as Stanley, Stuart and David, and funny ones like Martini Henry, Sinbad the Sailor and Not Beaton. The Arabs were more exotically christened; there are Pasha, Silvermane, Khushnuma and Ali Abdoolah. My favourites are Wigwam, Safety Valve and Leotard!

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