Thursday, May 30, 2013

Aristotélēs on Horses - part 2

today is Corpus Christi - one of the most important liturgical feast for all Roman Catholics - may they have quiet and peacefull processions!
 In Poland  Corpus Christi has bee celebrated since the 1320s; during the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth period the most important feast was held at the royal city of Poznan, in Greater Poland (Wielkopolska) . When I was a kid my grandmother Natalia, God bless her soul, used to take me to the festivities (eg 2012 video -part 1)  (part 2)centered around the Assumption of Virgin Mary and Saint Nicolas Cathedral in ancient city of Łowicz in the south-western Masovia (Mazowsze). Besides the holy Jasna Góra Monastery  this is my favorite religious place in Poland.

Continuing from yesterday, let us go back to the great truth seeker Aristotle and his opus:

History of Animals, Book VI,
                              Horses, mules and asses etc:

''In the case of horses, the stallion and the mare are first fitted for breeding purposes when two years old. Instances, however, of such early maturity are rare, and their young are exceptionally small and weak; the ordinary age for sexual maturity is three years, and from that age to twenty the two sexes go on improving in the quality of their offspring. The mare carries her foal for eleven months, and casts it in the twelfth. It is not a fixed number of days that the stallion takes to impregnate the mare; it may be one, two, three, or more. An ass in covering will impregnate more expeditiously than a stallion. The act of intercourse with horses is not laborious as it is with oxen. In both sexes the horse is the most salacious of animals next after the human species. The breeding faculties of the younger horses may be stimulated beyond their years if they be supplied with good feeding in abundance. The mare as a rule bears only one foal; occasionally she has two, but never more. A mare has been known to cast two mules; but such a circumstance was regarded as unnatural and portentous.
The horse then is first fitted for breeding purposes at the age of two and a half years, but achieves full sexual maturity when it has ceased to shed teeth, except it be naturally infertile; it must be added, however, that some horses have been known to impregnate the mare while the teeth were in process of shedding.
The horse has forty teeth. It sheds its first set of four, two from the upper jaw and two from the lower, when two and a half years old. After a year’s interval, it sheds another set of four in like manner, and another set of four after yet another year’s interval; after arriving at the age of four years and six months it sheds no more. An instance has occurred where a horse shed all his teeth at once, and another instance of a horse shedding all his teeth with his last set of four; but such instances are very rare. It consequently happens that a horse when four and a half years old is in excellent condition for breeding purposes.

The older horses, whether of the male or female, are the more generatively productive. Horses will cover mares from which they have been foaled and mares which they have begotten; and, indeed, a troop of horses is only considered perfect when such promiscuity of intercourse occurs. Scythians use pregnant mares for riding when the embryo has turned rather soon in the womb, and they assert that thereby the mothers have all the easier delivery. Quadrupeds as a rule lie down for parturition, and in consequence the young of them all come out of the womb sideways. The mare, however, when the time for parturition arrives, stands erect and in that posture casts its foal.
The horse in general lives for eighteen or twenty years; some horses live for twenty-five or even thirty, and if a horse be treated with extreme care, it may last on to the age of fifty years; a horse, however, when it reaches thirty years is regarded as exceptionally old. The mare lives usually for twenty-five years, though instances have occurred of their attaining the age of forty. The male is less long-lived than the female by reason of the sexual service he is called on to render; and horses that are reared in a private stable live longer than such as are reared in troops. The mare attains her full length and height at five years old, the stallion at six; in another six years the animal reaches its full bulk, and goes on improving until it is twenty years old. The female, then, reaches maturity more rapidly than the male, but in the womb the case is reversed, just as is observed in regard to the sexes of the human species; and the same phenomenon is observed in the case of all animals that bear several young.

The mare is said to suckle a mule-foal for six months, but not to allow its approach for any longer on account of the pain it is put to by the hard tugging of the young; an ordinary foal it allows to suck for a longer period.
Horse and mule are at their best after the shedding of the teeth. After they have shed them all, it is not easy to distinguish their age; hence they are said to carry their mark before the shedding, but not after. However, even after the shedding their age is pretty well recognized by the aid of the canines; for in the case of horses much ridden these teeth are worn away by attrition caused by the insertion of the bit; in the case of horses not ridden the teeth are large and detached, and in young horses they are sharp and small.
The male of the horse will breed at all seasons and during its whole life; the mare can take the horse all its life long, but is not thus ready to pair at all seasons unless it be held in check by a halter or some other compulsion be brought to bear. There is no fixed time at which intercourse of the two sexes cannot take place; and accordingly intercourse may chance to take place at a time that may render difficult the rearing of the future progeny. In a stable in Opus there was a stallion that used to serve mares when forty years old: his fore legs had to be lifted up for the operation.

Mares first take the horse in the spring-time. After a mare has foaled she does not get impregnated at once again, but only after a considerable interval; in fact, the foals will be all the better if the interval extend over four or five years. It is, at all events, absolutely necessary to allow an interval of one year, and for that period to let her lie fallow. A mare, then, breeds at intervals; a she-ass breeds on and on without intermission. Of mares some are absolutely sterile, others are capable of conception but incapable of bringing the foal to full term; it is said to be an indication of this condition in a mare, that her foal if dissected is found to have other kidney-shaped substances round about its kidneys, presenting the appearance of having four kidneys.

After parturition the mare at once swallows the after-birth, and bites off the growth, called the ‘hippomanes’, that is found on the forehead of the foal. This growth is somewhat smaller than a dried fig; and in shape is broad and round, and in colour black. If any bystander gets possession of it before the mare, and the mare gets a smell of it, she goes wild and frantic at the smell. And it is for this reason that venders of drugs and simples hold the substance in high request and include it among their stores.
If an ass cover a mare after the mare has been covered by a horse, the ass will destroy the previously formed embryo.

(Horse-trainers do not appoint a horse as leader to a troop, as herdsmen appoint a bull as leader to a herd, and for this reason that the horse is not steady but quick-tempered and skittish.)
            Asses The ass of both sexes is capable of breeding, and sheds its first teeth at the age of two and a half years; it sheds its second teeth within six months, its third within another six months, and the fourth after the like interval. These fourth teeth are termed the gnomons or age-indicators.

A she-ass has been known to conceive when a year old, and the foal to be reared. After intercourse with the male it will discharge the genital sperm unless it be hindered, and for this reason it is usually beaten after such intercourse and chased about. It casts its young in the twelfth month. It usually bears but one foal, and that is its natural number, occasionally however it bears twins. The ass if it cover a mare destroys, as has been said, the embryo previously begotten by the horse; but, after the mare has been covered by the ass, the horse supervening will not spoil the embryo. The she-ass has milk in the tenth month of pregnancy. Seven days after casting a foal the she-ass submits to the male, and is almost sure to conceive if put to the male on this particular day; the same result, however, is quite possible later on. The she-ass will refuse to cast her foal with any one looking on or in the daylight and just before foaling she has to be led away into a dark place. If the she-ass has had young before the shedding of the index-teeth, she will bear all her life through; but if not, then she will neither conceive nor bear for the rest of her days. The ass lives for more than thirty years, and the she-ass lives longer than the male.

           Mules When there is a cross between a horse and a she-ass or a jackass and a mare, there is much greater chance of a miscarriage than where the commerce is normal. The period for gestation in the case of a cross depends on the male, and is just what it would have been if the male had had commerce with a female of his own kind. In regard to size, looks, and vigour, the foal is more apt to resemble the mother than the sire. If such hybrid connexions be continued without intermittence, the female will soon go sterile; and for this reason trainers always allow of intervals between breeding times. A mare will not take the ass, nor a she ass the horse, unless the ass or she-ass shall have been suckled by a mare; and for this reason trainers put foals of the she-ass under mares, which foals are technically spoken of as ‘mare-suckled’. These asses, thus reared, mount the mares in the open pastures, mastering them by force as the stallions do.

A mule is fitted for commerce with the female after the first shedding of its teeth, and at the age of seven will impregnate effectually; and where connexion has taken place with a mare, a ‘hinny’ has been known to be produced. After the seventh year it has no further intercourse with the female. A female mule has been known to be impregnated, but without the impregnation being followed up by parturition. In Syrophoenicia she-mules submit to the mule and bear young; but the breed, though it resembles the ordinary one, is different and specific. The hinny or stunted mule is foaled by a mare when she has gone sick during gestation, and corresponds to the dwarf in the human species and to the after-pig or scut in swine; and as is the case with dwarfs, the sexual organ of the hinny is abnormally large.

The mule lives for a number of years. There are on record cases of mules living to the age of eighty, as did one in Athens at the time of the building of the temple; this mule on account of its age was let go free, but continued to assist in dragging burdens, and would go side by side with the other draught-beasts and stimulate them to their work; and in consequence a public decree was passed forbidding any baker driving the creature away from his bread-tray. The she-mule grows old more slowly than the mule. Some assert that the she-mule menstruates by the act of voiding her urine, and that the mule owes the prematurity of his decay to his habit of smelling at the urine. So much for the modes of generation in connexion* with these animals.
Breeders and trainers can distinguish between young and old quadrupeds. If, when drawn back from the jaw, the skin at once goes back to its place, the animal is young; if it remains long wrinkled up, the animal is old.

There is found in Syria a so-called mule * . It is not the same as the cross between the horse and ass, but resembles it just as a wild ass resembles the domesticated congener, and derives its name from the resemblance. Like the wild ass, this wild mule is remarkable for its speed. The animals of this species interbreed with one another; and a proof of this statement may be gathered from the fact that a certain number of them were brought into Phrygia in the time of Pharnaces, the father of Pharnabazus, and the animal is there still. The number originally introduced was nine, and there are three there at the present day.

* original spelling
*I think this is an onager
illustrations/pictures are from wikipedia, except for the last one.

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