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Horses for South Africa 1 year 4 months ago #65825

  • BereniceUK
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It occurred to me that I hadn't read anything about the acquisition and transport of horses for the use of the military in South Africa, so here are some newspaper reports I've compiled.

'Theirs Not To Reason Why; Horsing The British Army 1875-1925' by Graham Winton, and 'A History Of The British Cavalry: Volume 4: 1899-1913' by Lord Anglesey, are relevant to the ABW.

Horses for South Africa.
A number of horses of the Tickham Hunt (Kent) have been requisitioned by the Government for use of the troops in South Africa.

Sunderland Daily Echo, Tuesday 14th November 1899

A busy scene was witnessed for hours at Malton on Saturday. Lord Helmsley, the agent appointed for North Yorkshire to purchase horses for the volunteer Yeomanry, Mounted Infantry, etc., had announced that he would attend Malton for the purpose on that day, and no less than 55 were sent in for inspection. The conditions were that the animals must be sound, under 6 years of age, and not more than 15.2 high, and to show the good judgment of the "horsey" district around, we need only state that only five out of the number sent in were rejected. The inspecting veterinaries were Mr. Pickering, of Scarborough (an Army representative) and Mr. Tom Snarry, Veterinary Surgeon, of Malton. The animals accepted were a hard "cobby" lot, with fair breeding. Prices ruled from 20 to 40 gs.* each.

The Yorkshire Herald, Monday 8th January 1900 * Gs. = Guineas, i.e. £40 and 40 shillings (£42)

SELECTING HORSES FOR THE YEOMANRY . - Captain Callender, of the Lothians and Berwickshire Yeomanry, accompanied by Mr Campbell and Mr Henderson, V.S., Edinburgh, was in Kelso on Saturday selecting and buying horses for the Imperial Yeomanry being formed for service in South Africa. Over 50 animals were shown, and after careful scrutiny nine were bought. Three other horses, belonging to men who have volunteered, were also passed as suitable.

The Southern Reporter, Thursday 11th January 1900

It will be remembered that, in the advertising columns of our last issue, we announced that fifty small horses were required by the Imperial Yeomanry for service with mounted forces in South Africa, and that purchases would be made close by the Station Hotel on Monday. To this call there was a large response by tradesmen and farmers anxious to dispose of their horses, the purchasers - on behalf of the Yeomanry - being Captain Charles Garnett, of Bromley Cross, Mr. Heap, Master of the Rochdale Hunt, and a Veterinary Surgeon. Some one hundred horses were brought forward, and inspected in a field belonging to Mr. Thomas Beck, with the result that the number was reduced to about fifty. later on, these were again exhibited, this time in King Street, where they were put through the usual trotting tests on hard ground. The prospective buyers then made their offers, and the owners of the horses appeared to be well satisfied with the prices. At any rate there were no refusals to sell, some thirty-seven horses being disposed of at prices varying, mostly, from £25 to £35, though, of course, there were a few exceptions, some superior animals going for more than £35, and a number of inferior ones at less than £25. The horses were despatched yesterday morning.

The Clitheroe Times, Friday 12th January 1900

According to a Phoenix telegram, British agents have been purchasing cavalry horses in Arizona, and are contemplating further purchases in the Middle and Western States.

The Yorkshire Herald, Thursday 8th February 1900

A telegram from New York yesterday gives the report that the British Government has purchased 50,000 horses in New York State at an average price of a hundred dollars apiece.

The Western Times, Tuesday 10th April 1900

New Orleans, Saturday.
The steamer Tactician has left [for] Cape Town with 1,000 horses for the British army in South Africa.

The Shields Daily Gazette, Monday 11th March 1901

New Orleans, Tuesday.
The tremendous energy recently displayed by the Boers is responsible for the shipment of 20,000 horses and mules to South Africa last week, and the magnitude of this movement is best realised when it is stated it is equal to one-tenth of the total exports of 200,000 animals since October, 1899.

When Boer sympathisers made unsuccessful efforts to get the courts to stop shipments last April, Colonel de Burgh, representing the British army here, ordered the last animal to be shipped by May 1. The course of the war made it necessary to rescind this order, and small shipments aggregating 5,000 animals were sent in May and June.

By Saturday next the grand total of animals shipped will reach 250,000.

Aberdeen Journal, Wednesday 17th July 1901

Lieutenant-Colonel Dent and Major Gore, remount officers in the British army, who have been buying horses for South Africa throughout Canada, have had a narrow escape from being mobbed by angry horse-dealers at Quebec, where a local veterinary surgeon collected and provisionally accepted several hundred horses for final inspection. The rejection so incensed the dealers that the officers, by advice, resorted to a hasty departure to escape violence at the hands of the crowd.

Nottingham Evening Post, Friday 31st May 1901

"Some astounding disclosures were made in the House of Commons, on Monday, in connection with the War Office contracts. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman pointed out that the total expenditure, actual and estimated, under those contracts, up to the end of the next financial year, amounted to £120,000,000, and he said that the contractor had done, was doing, and meant to go on doing a colossal profit out of the war. When it is remembered that the war, in all conscience, has been and is such a heavy drain upon the taxpayers of this country, in blood and treasure, it is surely a scandal of the deepest dye that foreign financial vampires should be allowed to enrich themselves at our expense in such an unscrupulous manner. It has been well said that as the Empire expands its friends "contract." That is the way the Government seems to have chosen to lubricate its "wheels within wheels" in order to make its progress as smooth and easy as possible. They give contracts for shipping to people who have no ship; contracts for land transports to people who have no waggons; and contracts for cordite to people who have not even a shed wherein to make it. War is a paying game for some people, especially to those who form syndicates to supply the wants and to make up for the deficiencies of the War Office. A few samples of the manner in which the Government has been flinging away the taxpayers' money were given by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, on Monday, in a quiet, matter-of-fact manner that was more effective than any amount of rhetoric. In one case there were 3,800 Hungarian horses bought for £111,000, and of that sum no less than £45,000 was pocketed among the various buyers. That one instance was enough to make out a case for an inquiry, said Sir Henry, but it did not stand alone, being really only a sample. There was also the meat scandal, in which the Cold Storage company had in a little more than a year made £4,773,000 profit on meat - and was able to pay its shareholders 30s. in dividends and bonuses on each 20s. share, and put by one million to reserve, for a rainy day. As to freight and land transport there was a similar tale to tell - fabulous prices, enormous profits, and, in regard to remounts, meat, freight and transport, the name of Houlder cropped up eternally. It mattered not whether the transaction was in the Argentine, in Canada, Australia, or South Africa, the eternal Houlder was always in it. Mr Labouchere, in calling attention to the Argentine and the doings of Messrs Houlders, said that General Truman and Major Peters had gone out to that part of the world to buy horses, and had sent 26,672 horses to the Cape. The average freight charged by Houlders on those horse was £14 5s 3d each, though as much as £20 was paid in some cases. Yet the freight from Argentina to London (a longer distance than to the Cape) was £6 10s. Mr Labouchere added the interesting statement that General Truman had five shares in Houlders' firm, another member of General Truman's family had a larger number, while a nephew of General Truman was a clerk in Houlder's office holding a position of importance. He further announced that Major Peters held 200 shares in the same firm. Mr Labouchere then turned the attention of the House to something called "Bergl (Australia), Limited." Here, again, the enterprising Bergl was acting the part of a dummy, and here again the ubiquitous Houlder turned up. Horses were shipped from Australia to the Cape at £16 to £18 freight per horse in 1900, and at £18 in 1901. At that very time it happens that a merchant named Bertram, of Melbourne, sent 5,000 horses for Baden-Powell's police, the freight being £8 a horse for the same voyage! Thus, instead of giving £7 per horse (what they e worth), and paying £8 freight, with perhaps £2 for incidentals, we had paid £14 per horse with £18 freight - that is to say, we had in thousands of cases paid £32 where £17 would have been ample. In addition to all this the horses were miserable old crocks, and all the money paid for them and for their freight was thrown away. When the Government is guilty of such gross and colossal scandals as these little wonder that it dreads and shirks investigation. This is one way in which the taxpayers have to pay for the large and unwieldy majority they have given to the present Government. The Government know their full strength and they use it. A strong, united Liberal Party - whether in Office or in Opposition - is one of the best assets the nation can ever have; and had the Opposition been able to deal more effectively with the Government, the burden of the country would be much lighter and its prospects would be much brighter to-day."

The Welsh Gazette, Thursday 20th March 1902

Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was the leader of the Liberal Party, and was Prime Minister of the UK from 1905 to 1908. www.gov.uk/government/history/past-prime...y-campbell-bannerman
Henry Labouchere, a Liberal M.P., doesn't seem to have been a pleasant person, and had himself been accused of share-rigging in 1897.
The shipping company of Houlder's still exists. www.houlderltd.com/our-company/houlder-history/

Major-General Truman was Inspector General of Remounts, and was to face a Military Court of Inquiry; he died in 1905.


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Horses for South Africa 1 year 4 months ago #65826

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The following article starts off by being specifically related to the war, but becomes a history of horses and horse-sickness in South Africa. The writer, Henry Anderson Bryden, was an Englishman who lived and travelled in South Africa, having several books published. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Anderson_Bryden


There can be no doubt that for campaigning in South Africa the hardy, if somewhat undersized, Cape horse, now to be found in use everywhere south of the Zambesi, is by far a more useful beast than the English imported horse, new to the country, unacclimatized, and dependent for its condition mainly upon imported provender. The pity of it is that large numbers of these most useful animals were not quietly secured in various parts of South Africa months ago for the purpose of mounting not only our own regulars, but the various corps of Colonial and other irregulars which are now, late in the day, discovered to be absolutely necessary for the work in front of us. How it could ever have been supposed that infantry could account for mobile, mounted Boers in a country like South Africa, where no man thinks of walking, is one of those mysteries which to the civilian are unfathomable.

The Cape horse, small and rough-looking as it may appear to English eyes, has, after more than two hundred years of a severe struggle for existence developed into an animal exactly fitted for the rough life of the veldt. It can carry heavy burdens day after day over long journeys often forty or fifty miles in extent, on poor and scanty fare, a thin bundle or two of oat-hay forage, or an occasional feed of mealies, eked out by dry veldt grass or scrubby karroo vegetation; it can canter along steadily all day under a burning sun, with an occasional off-saddle, and but a scant supply of water to quench its thirst; it can climb rough hills or kopjes, or gallop headlong over treacherous flats, honeycombed with meerkat and jackal holes, with a surefootedness that is really marvellous; and it suffers far less from the various ills to which horseflesh is popularly supposed to be heir than does its European congener. A thick-winded or broken-winded horse is seldom heard of in South Africa, and the Cape horse suffers but little from navicular disease and other forms of lameness so common in Great Britain.

Most South African Dutch farmers are big, tall, fleshy men, weighing on an average from twelve to fourteen stone. Many of them are huge fellows of sixteen and even seventeen stone. Yet under these welter weights, burdened with rifle, cartridges, food, and other necessaries, the Cape horse is at this moment engaged in demonstrating its marvellous powers of endurance, carrying its owners over long stretches of difficult country, scurrying from position to position, and subsisting on poor and scanty fare. Under South African conditions the Cape horse can always beat the imported animal fresh from Europe, and especially over the long and fatiguing journeys made under a hot sun and heavy burden - to which the Cape horse is accustomed - the Afrikander nag can easily defy all competitors. Some of the distances traversed by these hardy little horses - the average Cape nag seldom exceeds fifteen hands - within a given time are almost incredible, were their performance not perfectly well attested. A Transvaal pony, for instance, has been known to carry its Boer owner, weighing 16 stone, over a journey of more than 100 miles in fifteen hours, and that without the previous preparation. Mr. Selous rode his old shooting pony Mars once from Tati to Palachwe (Khama's capital) in under twenty-seven hours. This was a journey of over a hundred miles in a rough country, where a mere sandy track did duty as a road. I have myself ridden a very ordinary Cape pony over sixty miles of terribly heavy sand in a long day's journey, through a country absolutely waterless, and found the animal fit and well next day.

The Cape horse is an animal of mixed race, showing, however, strong traces of Barb and Arab origin. It is, no doubt, to this desert ancestry that much of its stoutness and staying power is attributable. In the early days of the Dutch East India Company at the Cape, horses were imported from Java. These were principally of Barb or Gulf Arab blood. Persian Arabs were subsequently introduced, and soon after the beginning of the eighteenth century, large numbers of horses were already to be found in the Cape Settlements. Very few horses of English breed were to be found in South Africa before the year v1800, and until that time the Cape horse was almost entirely of Arab blood. A few stud horses were, however, imported from England towards the end of the eighteenth century. Early in 1807, after the second British occupation, two French vessels, captured near the Cape, were brought into Table Bay. These contained some excellent Spanish horses bound for Buenos Ayres. From these animals much of the excellent blue and red roan blood, so highly valued in South Africa, is said to have derived. A rooi Schimmel or blaauw Schimmel (red or blue roan) is at the Cape nearly invariably a hardy, enduring beast of good constitution, and the Dutch colonists set a high value upon horses of this strain for their excellent qualities.

English blood stock has been largely introduced into South Africa during the present century, Lord Charles Somerset, Governor of the Cape from 1814 to 1821, having done much towards the importation of high-class breeding animals. At later periods a good deal of worthless bloodstock was, unfortunately, introduced, and in some districts a certain amount of deterioration took place in consequence. Upon the whole, while benefiting the Cape breed in certain points, it may be doubted whether the five or six hundred English thoroughbred sires imported at the Cape during the present century have been an unmixed advantage for South Africa. In appearance the Cape horse is not up to the standard of English connoisseurs. He is rough-looking, somewhat undersized, and is often lacking in bone below the knee. Yet his performances always belie his appearance. Cape horses exported to India, in spite of the prejudice that at first existed against them, have earned first-rate characters. Out of forty-four Cape horses purchased for the Indian army in 1837 "no fewer than thirty-seven were actually present in the ranks after having done eleven years' service, although exposed to all weathers throughout the year." Another officer, speaking of these animals, says: - "For a good all-round horse, capable of standing hot and cold weather in the open, and keeping his condition through it, commend me to the stamp of horse that was imported from the Cape during the Mutiny."

Certain districts in South Africa are notoriously favourable for the breeding of horseflesh. The Hantam in Cape Colony, the country round Philippolis in the Orange Free State, the Mooi River district in Natal, and the beautiful Marico country in the Western Transvaal are all excellent localities for horses. But the native territory of Basutoland is, without doubt, the finest natural nursery of horseflesh in South Africa. The Basutos have only taken to the use of horses during the last three-quarters of the present century. Yet they have displayed a natural aptitude for the rearing and riding of these animals which, all things considered, is really astonishing. Every Basuto is a horseman, and the way these natives gallop their hardy little beasts up and down the break-neck mountains of their country - well called the Switzerland of South Africa - is astounding. When Sir Henry Loch visited Basutoland a few years since, some 20,000 armed and mounted Basutos paraded before him and greeted him with acclamation as the representative of their Sovereign, Queen Victoria. A Basuto pony is scarcely ever a bad one, and these tough, wiry, courageous little beasts, bred among the mountains, and as active and sure-footed as cats, have a great reputation all over South Africa.

Towards the end of February - possibly before - horse-sickness, that most fatal and mysterious of stock diseases in South Africa, will begin to take its inevitable toll from the horses of the various British and Dutch forces now confronting one another. Cape horses will of course suffer, but it is certain that English-bred horseflesh will be visited even more severely.

Horse-sickness seems to have been first known in South Africa in the year 1719, when a large proportion of the Dutch colonists' horses were carried off. In 1763, 2,500 fell victims, a large number, if the smallness of the Dutch population of that period be taken into account. In some seasons the disease is far worse than in others. In 1854-55, for instance, not less than 70,000 horses and mules perished in Cape Colony alone, a very heavy visitation. The years 1890-91 and 1891-92 were also disastrous seasons even in Cape Colny. North of the Orange, the disease is, as a rule, far more deadly than in Cape Colony, and in some districts from fifty to seventy-five per cent. of the horses are carried off. The annual pecuniary loss is, of course, enormous.

The farther north one goes, the more virulent seems to become this scourge of the veldt. From February till about the middle of May the sickness rages. It ceases, usually, soon after the first frosts of South African winter make their appearance. There are two forms of disease - diu-siekte (thin sickness) and dikkop-siekte (thick-head sickness), the latter being the more deadly. The disease comes on very suddenly. I have set out upon a long ride on a pony, apparently in the bloom of health, and an hour after have had to dismount and lead an apparently dying animal. The symptoms are unmistakable: running and dilated nostrils, from which issues a thick, yellowish mucus and foam, the hollows above the eyes swollen, fiercely beating flanks, an occasional cough, and a general air of dejection; these tell their inevitable tale. The breathing becomes more and more laboured, and death presently ensues. Sometimes the poor beast dies within a few hours of seizure; sometimes it will linger for days. If the animal recovers it is "salted," and is far less likely to have the disease again in acute form. It is, therefore, doubly and even trebly valuable, and for the hunting veldt is worth even £60 or £80. An average unsalted pony can be purchased up-country usually for from £15 to £20. At the present time I understand that, in consequence of the war, such a pony will command readily £50, so that our military authorities are likely to pay very dear for their delay in securing cavalry mounts and remounts in South Africa. A "salted" horse is never so bright or so lively as a horse that has not been through the disease. The recovery is slow, and the animal is never quite the same beast as before the sickness.

All sorts of remedies have been tried for horse-sickness; not one has ever been effectual. Nor have the followers of Pasteur and Koch been able to discover any means of inoculation against this dire pest. The disease is usually more virulent in low-lying situations; marshes, pans, and vleys are very deadly. Horses sent to the hill country for the season often escape altogether. Stabling is some slight protection, especially if the horse is carefully kept from veldt grass; and there seems little doubt that there is less danger if the beasts are not allowed to graze until ten or eleven o'clock in the morning, when the sun has licked up all dew and moisture from the herbage. Various remedies are exhibited, but none is really reliable. Nosebags sprinkled with carbolic powder, or painted with tar, are often kept upon the horses all night. When the disease is noticed, bleeding, strong mustard and vinegar blisters, drenches of carbolic and oil (forty drops of carbolic in a pint of warm oil), hot fomentations, plenty of clothing, are remedies often recommended and tried - too often, unfortunately, with but feeble effect. To this hour horse-sickness remains an almost completely incurable disease in South Africa. The actual cause of death appears to be acute inflammation of the lungs and other internal parts, and the animal usually dies of suffocation.

One of the most painful incidents of this plague is that horses, when stricken, almost invariably seek the companionship of mankind, as if asking in their dumb fashion, poor beasts, for relief. They seem to prefer to breathe their last by a house or waggon, and I have seen them lying dead even in the streets of Vryburg and Mafeking, whither they had wandered from the veldt to gasp out their last painful hours. Mules suffer from the sickness almost as much as horses, but donkeys are little affected by it. The disease is unknown among those wild equines the zebras.

The Pall Mall Gazette, Thursday 4th January 1900

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