By Theodora Kroeber

ISBN-10: 0520015983

ISBN-13: 9780520015982

Frontis. + xi + 292 pp. with various illus., eightvo.

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It didn’t appear to occur to the authorities that horses tied up in the freezing cold would never survive without food or clothing. There was no hay and no rugs, and the demented horses started eating each others’ manes and tails. A report from the Illustrated London News of 3 February 1855 says it all: Once upon a day he had been a handsome charger, but now he was the veriest caricature of a horse that Edwin Landseer – foisted on the most atrocious nightmare that ever weighed upon Cruikshank – could conceive or delineate.

Of all the animals, the horse is probably the shyest, most highly strung and least aggressive. Yet for four thousand years he had been our most faithful ally in war. He has thundered unquestioningly into the mouth of the cannon. He has carried the military leaders and their vast armies to the far corners of the earth, allowing them to carve out their great empires. Yet despite the millions of words written to glorify the soldier’s courage in war, little praise has been given to the horse that bore him.

An Exmoor or New Forest pony can survive outside in winter because he keeps moving and grows a thick shaggy coat for protection. The delicate army horses, used to living in stables, were not only tied up, but also, because the army believed long coats led to mange, clipped out as well. Imagine these hapless beasts, wind and driving rain needling their nonexistent coats, standing hock deep in mud. In vain a horse picked one foot out of the mud: the other would sink in just as far, to be pulled out in its turn, a moment later.

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Alfred Kroeber: A Personal Configuration by Theodora Kroeber


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