Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hungarian horses

the horses of the Hungarian Plain through some of its history will be the last subject of this year's end blogging...

Let me start with Roman writer Vegetius who wrote about horses in his ''Artis veterinariæ sive mulomedicinæ..''
Vegetius on Hun horses ( translation from William Ridgeway, The origin and influence of the thoroughbred horse, 1905).

"The Hun hath a great and hooked head, and his eyes stand almost without his head, his nostrils are narrow, and his jaws broad, his neck is long and rough, with a mane hanging down nearly to his knees, he hath a large bulk, a right back, a long bush tail, his legs be strong, his pasterns small, and his hoofs full and broad, his guts are hollow, and all his body is full of empty corners, his buttocks are not filled with fat, neither do the brawns of his muscles appear, of stature he is more in length than height, and therewith somewhat side-bellied, his bones are also great, he is rather lean than fat, which leanness is so answerable to the other parts of his body, as the due proportion observed in his deformity, maketh the same to be a beauty. And as touching his inward disposition, he is, as Vegetius saith, both temperate and wise, and able to abide great labour, cold and hunger, and very meet for the war." "Camerarius also saith that ''they be very swift, and if they be provoked by some injury, they will both bite and strike, otherwise not. Their pace is a trot."
''The Hungarian horses have been continually improved by the introduction of Libyan blood, derived largely in later centuries through Turkish channels. Accordingly it is not surprising that the Hungarian horse, drawn by Stradanus [below], in the " Stable of Don John of Austria," shows little resemblance to the animals described by Vegetius except as regards the copiousness of the mane and tail, which were probably inherited from the ancient horses of the Danubian region. The old Hungarian horse was usually of a bay colour and without any white on the legs, but grey, dun, and chestnut were likewise often found. Since the early part of the last century this type has been entirely changed owing to the constant importation of English thoroughbreds, when the Government began to breed for military purposes and encouraged the farmers to do likewise. "In almost all cases the Government stallions were half-bred English, and these were placed at breeding depots all over the country." As is well known, Hungary at the present time supplies some of the best cavalry horses in the world.'' (Ridgeway).

In the period of XVI-XVIII centuries Hungarian horses were considered to have been 'fiery' although they were small but then 'light and fleet,' and it was reported in 1780s that: ''Hungary is remarkable for a fine breed of horses, generally mouse-coloured, and highly esteemed by military officers, so that great numbers of them are exported;''

one author from XVIII century stated about peculiar custom amongst their owners:
''..the Hustars and Hungarians slit their [horses] nostrils, with a view, it is said, to mend their wind, and, at the same time, to prevent their neighing in the field; it being affirmed that horses, whose nostrils have been flit, cannot neigh. It has not indeed been in my power to examine this particular, but it seems natural to think, that the operation can only weaken their neighing. The Hungarian, Croatian, and Polish horses are noted for having what is called the mark in all their fore teeth, which continues to old age.''

From 1767 Thomas Wallis' work:
''The Hungarian Horses. These horses are generally hook-nosed, and have thick heads, large eyes, broad jaws, but narrow nostrils; their manes are rough and thick, commonly reaching near the ground, their tails, in like manner, are bushy and long; for the most part, of lean and thin bodies, but weak pasterns: but although some parts of them are not to be liked, yet the deformities are generally so well put together, that, taken all together, the horses are agreeable enough. They are of a tolerable good courage, and will endure labour and fatigue, and for that reason are serviceable in war.

From - ''Travels in Hungary: with a short account of Vienna in the year 1793 '' by Robert Townson: ''...This is a pusz-ta[pushta -Hungarian Plain] which belongs to the misanthropic bishop I have said so much of. Here is his stud, and the groom was, our host, as his house was the only one here. He has seven stallions, and a proportionable number of brood mares under his care: the stallions were of the largest breed, and very fine; one was from England, and the rest out of the best horse countries of Germany, but not a single Hungarian. I think, when writers have spoken in high terms of (he Hungarian horses, it has arisen by confounding them with the Hungarian horse or cavalry. The Hungarian breed of horses is very small; and in all the studs I have seen, the stallions, and often the brood mares, are brought from other countries; and the horses used by the more opulent Hungarians are either from foreign countries or of foreign extraction. All the walls or fences of the folds and inclosures were made by piling up the useless dung. The groom was a German, and the stud was conducted after the German manner; the stallions were kept in their stalls, and the foals at fix months were separated from their mothers.''

From ''The Scots magazine; or, General repository of literature, history ..., Volume 59'' reports the writer's observations on the horse markets in Hungary:

''The Pest fair […] but the chief articles were the natural productions of Hungary, and the principal of these are horses. These are driven to market in flocks like horned cattle, from the great Puszetes or commons: they are quite wild, and have never had a halter about their heads. When they come to market, they are driven into folds. In this manner they are shown and sold. When a purchaser has bought one, it is not an easy matter to catch it, and take it away; for they do not suffer the near approach of their keepers, who are therefore obliged to catch them in this manner: a noose at the end of a long rope is put in a slit at the end of a long pole; this noose, by means of the pole, is endeavoured to be thrown over the horse's head; but this is often impracticable: if so, then the noose is thrown on the ground, and they endeavour to catch it by the fame means by the leg. From the great number of horses that are together, a good deal of time is often consumed in this first step. As soon as one is caught the greatest confusion takes place; and the spectators who are unaccustomed to this business cannot divest themselves of fear, in behalf of the keepers, from the great danger which they appear to be in, who now endeavour to haul it a little aside to put a halter about its head, which it resists; then three or four stout fellows fly upon it and seize it by the ears, head, and neck: they can often then put on the halter; but the stronger and more spirited are obliged to be thrown down first. The leading it away gives often no less trouble: for this purpose the buyer has at hand a strong steady horse, and these two are fastened together by the head, with a very short rope: he is even then very troublesome. The whole business is dangerous both to the keeper and to the horses. The smaller kind of horses, such as are in use among the peasants, fold for about four or five pounds; those for the army, from seven to twelve pounds.''

*original spelling preserved

!Happy New Year - Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku, Feliz Año Nuevo!

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