The Variation of Animals and Plants HTML version
Chapter II: Horses And Asses
HORSE. DIFFERENCES IN THE BREEDS — INDIVIDUAL VARIABILITY OF — DIRECT
EFFECTS OF THE CONDITIONS OF LIFE — CAN WITHSTAND MUCH COLD — BREEDS MUCH
MODIFIED BY SELECTION — COLOURS OF THE HORSE — DAPPLING — DARK STRIPES ON
THE SPINE, LEGS, SHOULDERS, AND FOREHEAD — DUN-COLOURED HORSES MOST
FREQUENTLY STRIPED — STRIPES PROBABLY DUE TO REVERSION TO THE PRIMITIVE
STATE OF THE HORSE.
ASSES. BREEDS OF — COLOUR OF — LEG- AND SHOULDER-STRIPES — SHOULDER-
STRIPES SOMETIMES ABSENT, SOMETIMES FORKED.
The history of the Horse is lost in antiquity. Remains of this animal in a domesticated
condition have been found in the Swiss lake-dwellings, belonging to the Neolithic period
At the present time the number of breeds is great, as may be seen by consulting any
treatise on the Horse. Looking only to the native ponies of Great Britain, those of the
Shetland Isles, Wales, the New Forest, and Devonshire are distinguishable; and so it is,
amongst other instances, with each separate island in the great Malay archipelago. Some
of the breeds present great differences in size, shape of ears, length of mane, proportions
of the body, form of the withers and hind quarters, and especially in the head. Compare
the race-horse, dray-horse, and a Shetland pony in size, configuration, and disposition;
and see how much greater the difference is than between the seven or eight other living
species of the genus Equus.
Of individual variations not known to characterise particular breeds, and not great or
injurious enough to be called monstrosities, I have not collected many cases. Mr. G.
Brown, of the Cirencester Agricultural College, who has particularly attended to the
dentition of our domestic animals, writes to me that he has "several times noticed eight
permanent incisors instead of six in the jaw." Male horses only should have canines, but
they are occasionally found in the mare, though a small size. The number of ribs on each
side is properly eighteen, but Youattasserts that not unfrequently there are nineteen, the
additional one being always the posterior rib. It is a remarkable fact that the ancient
Indian horse is said in the Rig-Vêda to have only seventeen ribs; and M. Piétrement, who
has called attention to this subject, gives various reasons for placing full trust in this
statement, more especially as during former times the Hindoos carefully counted the
bones of animals. I have seen several notices of variations in the bones of the leg; thus
Mr. Pricespeaks of an additional bone in the hock, and of certain abnormal appearances
between the tibia and astragalus, as quite common in Irish horses, and not due to disease.
Horses have often been observed, according to M. Gaudry, to possess a trapezium and a
rudiment of a fifth metacarpal bone, so that "one sees appearing by monstrosity, in the
foot of the horse, structures which normally exist in the foot of the Hipparion,"—an allied
and extinct animal. In various countries horn-like projections have been observed on the
frontal bones of the horse: in one case described by Mr. Percival they arose about two
inches above the orbital processes, and were "very like those in a calf from five to six