A Torrid Tale of a Crazy Horse in Albany, Illinois

Screengrab via British Newspaper Archive.

Screengrab via British Newspaper Archive.

(Subject of illustration)

A horse which suddenly became crazy and dashed into a house in Albany, Illinois, a few nights ago, seems, says an American paper, to have made a decided sensation in that quiet village. A correspondent says as he was being led through the streets by his owner, Mr Backwith, he began to whirl round, and then, freeing himself, he rushed through a strong gate into the garden of Mr. Pease. Passing rapidly along he succeeded in going through three more fences, dually [sic] emerging into the opposite street. Crossing this avenue, in a direct line he went through Dr. Robinson’s dooryard fence and into the house by the front door. Mrs. Robinson was seated in the parlour, and upon perceiving her strange guest immediately fled through the rear of the building. In her momentary fright she forgot her young babe. Dr. Robinson, hearing the crash, rushed into the house just in time to save his child. Indeed not a moment too soon, for the beast had already demolished part of the crib, besides leaving a flesh wound upon the child’s face. Sewing machine, sofa, chairs, and stove soon followed, and the carpet was literally cut in pieces. Having completed his course here he turned into a bedroom, and, getting his fore feet upon the bed, soon brought it to the floor. Men rapidly collected, and ropes were thrown around his body, but they could not force him to subjection until he was severely bled. Then thirty or more men forced him home, and having tied him down they managed to keep him in the stable. He did not return to consciousness, and died about midnight the same night. The animal was valued at 3,000 dols.; and was sent from New York not long since.

Illustrated Police News, Saturday 4 July 1874 (via the British Newspaper Archive)

Strange Scene – Funeral of a Horse

Screengrab via British Newspaper Archives.

Screengrab via British Newspaper Archives.

(Subject of illustration)
One of the most singular funerals took place a few days ago at Maryland. A wealthy merchant at his death, in addition to many munificent bequests and legacies, left a certain sum for the maintenance of his favourite horse – a fine old hunter – and at the death of his favourite the horse was to be buried with all the formality and pomp bestowed upon a Christian. A coffin was made of a peculiar construction, and in this the body of the dead horse was placed. The coffin was placed in a hearse, in which it was conveyed to its last resting-place, accompanied by bearers, mourners, porters, and a heterogeneous throng of followers.

Illustrated Police News, Saturday 24 March 1877, via British Newspapers Archive.

Extraordinary and Startling Appearance of a Runaway Horse at a Tea-Party

Screengrab via British Newspapers Archive.

Screengrab via British Newspapers Archive.


(Subject of Illustration)

A scene occurred on Saturday last at Wragby, which we shall find it difficult to describe by mere words; we must, therefore, refer our readers to the front page of this week’s POLICE NEWS. The large engraving gives a faithful representation of the consternation caused by an unlooked-for visitor to a family tea-party. The particulars of this remarkable and singular feak of an animal of the genus equine as follows. It appears that the driver of the mail cart between Horncastle and Langworth, Lincolnshire, was performing his usual journey on Saturday last; the horse he was driving had always been accounted a steady going, docile animal, being, as horsedealers say, “warranted free from vice.” After proceeding along for some considerable distance without any mishap, one of the traxxes broke and the mail cart-horse all of a sudden dashed off at a furious rate. He, luckily for the driver, disengaged himseld fromt he cart after which, like Mazeppa’s wild steed, he “urged on his mad career.” He did not meet with any vehicle ont he road, and consequently no fatal or serious accident occurred. At length upon reaching Wragby the animal bolted through the window of a house occupied by Mr. Weightman, and landed on a tea-table were [sic] ten persons were just taking tea. The panic-struck family and guests started back, but strange to say no one was hurt, but the crockey and furniture sustained serious damage from the hoofs of the eccentric quadruped, who was not secured until he had broken no end of crockery, and smashed up the furniture. At length the uninvited guest suffered himself to be conducted out of the house.

Illustrated Police News, Saturday 23 March 1867, via The British Newspaper Archive.

Pit Ponies at Rest and at Play

The last British pit pony retired astonishingly recently in 1999. Between the mid-eighteenth century and the very start of the twenty-first century, stout “pitters” (short-legged Shire crosses), Welsh cobs and British native ponies of all stripes hauled coal underground and above ground and worked pumps to keep mines from flooding. They were often stabled in the mines themselves. Conditions were grim in some (but not all mines) until the 1920s, when the Pit Ponies Protection Society was founded and began to make some legislative headway to improve welfare standards. Have a look at this section of Hansard, where pit pony health is discussed in detail in the House of Lords, including the problem of “roofing”, where horses and ponies suffered injuries to their withers and backs because the ceilings in some tunnels were simply too low.

Here are three Pathé shorts on pit ponies. This one shows pit pony races in Yorkshire, with twenty local pits racing their lads and ponies against one another. Doesn’t look like all that much fun for the ponies given some of the riding, but their lads seem proud of them. I love the bells on some of the ponies’ bridles, too.

And here is “Horses’ Bank Holiday” from 1952. It’s a reel of unedited, silent footage showing Tondu Veterinary stables in Wales, where some working “pitters” or cobs are being treated and turned out to gambol with rather stiff legs about the hills. I hope to have more info soon, but alas the British Pathé site is down.

This one is just a fragment: Welsh miners and their pitters come to the international horse show at Olympia in London. Some of the horses have been in work for twenty years, and they look pretty splendid scrubbed up.

Working with Giants

The British railways system still had 9,000 working horses in 1948. This unedited footage is from 1949, and seems to be a story about a flu outbreak at a railway stable: Camden Town Goods Depot. It brings home all the skilled work involved in horse power – the rug mending, the farriery, the vet, the grooms – and the gentleness of both men and beasts.

Colonel Gaddafi, a Very Young Michael Whitaker and Fantasia in Libya

Thank you Matt for this spectacular oddity from Adam Curtis at the BBC. In 1982, Libya held an international showjumping contest that featured top British riders and a thousand-strong Bedouin “fantasia”. Head-tossing barb horses in embroidered bridles, a dictator at the height of his powers and one very dour Yorkshireman, who really does not want to talk to the plucky BBC film maker, all packed into 15 minutes of footage.