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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/485

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469
HORSES AND THEIR FEET.

question. Every one, we may be told, is well aware that the management of horses is very faulty, that their lives are shortened by the ignorance of those who have charge of them rather than by any wanton cruelty, and that they are rendered practically useless long before their existence is brought to an end. To the plea that the same, or much the same, things may be said of men as of horses, we may answer that the blame must be apportioned to the degree of carelessness with which evils affecting either men or horses are allowed to go on unchecked, or are foolishly dealt with; nor can failures to improve the condition of mankind furnish a reason for refusing to do what may improve the condition of horses. Our duty ought to be discharged at all costs and under all circumstances; but a man must have risen far above the average of his fellows if he feels no relief when his duty coincides with his interest. Something is gained by the mere pointing out of this agreement, wherever it exists; and we must remember that, if a vast amount of human wretchedness is the direct result of willful and wanton perversity, we can meet with no such resistance on the part of brute beasts. With regard to these we have only to see what the evils are; and the blame is ours, and ours alone, if we fail to apply the remedy, when the remedy, if applied, must be successful. In the case of the horse, unhappily, we do not realize the extent of the mischief, and seldom, perhaps never, fix our minds on its cause or causes. Yet the facts, even when reduced within limits which none will venture to dispute, are sufficiently startling.

The number of horses in the United Kingdom has been estimated at rather more than two millions and a quarter, and their average value can scarcely be set down at less than thirty pounds. Their collective value, therefore, falls little short of £68,000,000. That the nation incurs a loss if this sum is spent quicker than it needs to be is a self-evident proposition; that it is so spent is certain, if horses on an average become useless at a time when they ought still to be in full vigor. On this point few will be disposed to challenge the verdict of Mr. W. Douglas, late veterinary surgeon in the Tenth Hussars, who tells us that a horse should live from thirty-five to forty years, and live actively and usefully during three fourths of this period. "All authorities," he says, "now admit that animals should live five times as long as it takes them to reach maturity. A dog, which is at its full growth when between two and three years old, is very aged at twelve years. Horses do not, unless their growth is forced, reach their full prime until they are seven or eight years old, which by the same law leaves them to live some thirty years longer. When these facts are kept in mind, together with these other facts that three fourths of our horses die or are destroyed under twelve years old, that horses are termed aged at six [he should have said eight], old at ten, very old when double that number of years, and that few of them but are laid up from work a dozen times a year, . . . the viciousness of a system