Deanne Stillman’s Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West came out in 2008 and remains definitive. It takes you from the arrival of the first Conquistadors’ horses – like Pedro de Alvarado’s “bright bay mare” “good both for tilting and to race” and the grey “Bobtail” who was “fast, and had a splendid mouth” – to the politicking of the Bush years when America’s wild horses once more came under threat. It will give you some pointers about their fate in the next four years, too. Her next book, Blood Brothers, flows out of it and tells the story of Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill. Simon and Schuster will publish in the autumn.
Those of you who like books but have to fit them into a life that includes school runs, commutes, housework, an exercise schedule and/or poo-picking might be interested in the audio version of Mustang. It features the voices of Anjelica Huston, Frances Fisher, Wendie Malick, Richard Portnow and John Densmore.
A little nugget on the wild horses featured in The Age of the Horse:
Screengrab via Archive.org
St Petersburg, 1900 (I believe): two young Przewalski horses or Takhi captured in Tibet are paraded for curious locals. They are gifts from the Grand Lama to Prince Hespère Ouchtomsky, “confidential friend of the reigning Tsar” and an aficionado of all things Asian. At the time, the Russian Empire was expanding east into Central Asia and beyond, troubling the British in their own imperial stronghold of India.
These photos come from volume eight of the “Travelogues” of American author Elias Burton Holmes, who was unimpressed by the horses:
Dazzled and for the moment docile, the animals, as we see them in the courtyard, do not uphold their reputation as the most savage of their kind; but the old man who came with them from Asia tells of many fearful things that these untameable brutes have done. Strangely enough, the very day these shaggy colts arrived – the first ever successfully exported – two representatives of Hagenbeck’s Menagerie reached Petersburg en route to Mongolia, their mission being to secure if possible a pair of these wild horses. I fear, had I been in the Prince’s place, I should have cut short the journey of the circus-men by turning over to them these embarrassing gifts of the Grand Lama.
I haven’t been able to find any mention of takhi captured in Tibet (if that is where they were caught) and am guessing that these horses did not survive long despite having made the long journey to St Petersburg.
While wild horses in the right environment can blend beautifully into their background, the better to fool predators, it’s another story with domestic horses – especially those pressed into service in battle. The Camoupedia is a blog dedicated to the art of becoming invisible. Fascinatingly, it includes three posts about the camouflaging of horses in World War One – one about the French painting their horses khaki, and another about US soldiers in Mexico in 1915 grubbing up their favourite grey, while British troops in East Africa liked to transform their mules and ponies into zebras. And to flip the concept around, here are US snipers using a papier mâché “dead horse” to take a pop at the Hun.
A domestic horse with a decidedly Przewalski look. Near Hustai, Mongolia. Photo by author.
Two pieces that turned up in internet searches within minutes of one another. Firstly, a rather gruelling article about the complications involved in trying to breed Przewalskis and return them to a degree of wildness in China. And secondly, as light relief, an entire site full of chocolate moulds, which includes one for a… Przewalski. The photo is of a Przewalski-esque domestic horse belonging to a herder just outside Hustai National Park, Mongolia.
Caledonian Mercury, Saturday 5th July 1834
sculptured from the rocks of Caledonia,
By Mr FORREST.
THIS EXHIBITION is now opened for the season, with an additional EQUESTRIAN GROUPE, from Lord Byron’s Poem of Mazeppa, and describing the fall of
MAZEPPA AND THE WILD HORSE.
Open from ten o’clock till dusk, int he area of the National Monument, Calton Hill.
Admission One Shilling.
Carriages drive up to the Monument.