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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/146

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Arabian, in 1730. Since then, by careful breeding and nutrition, they have increased on an average some eight or nine inches in height. There is, however, a widely spread impression that at present there is a marked deterioration in the staying power and in the general 'fitness 1 of the racer. The falling off is further shown by a fact commented on by Sir Walter Gilbey—viz., "the smallness of the percentage of even tolerably successful horses out of a prodigious number bred at an enormous outlay." In support of this he quotes a sentence from the Times (December 27, 1897), referring to a sale in which thirty-two yearlings had been sold for 51,250 guineas: "These thirty-two yearlings" (said the Times) "are represented by two winners of five races, Florio Rubattino and La Reine, who have contributed about 2.000l. to the cotal cost; and there is not, so far as can be known, a single one of the thirty others with any prospect of making a race-horse."

If, then, it is true that the English race-horse is on the down grade, what steps should be taken to arrest this descent? Sir Everett Millais restored a pack of basset hounds by crossing them with a bloodhound, the original forefather of bassets. The resulting pups were bassets in form, but not quite bassets in color; when, however, these cross-breeds were mated with bassets the majority of the pups turned out to be perfect bassets both in shape and coloration. This indicates that one way to rejuvenate the race-horse would be to have recourse to a new importation of the best Arab mares that the plains of Arabia can produce. Breeders hesitate to adopt this course, because their present breed is not only larger but, over very short distances, fleeter than its forefathers. The shortening of the course in recent years is probably a further sign of the degeneracy of our present racers. Were new blood introduced and more three-or four-mile races instituted, we should doubtless soon have a return to the champion form of bygone days. Another method would be to import some of the racers of Australia or New Zealand and cross them with the home product. Different surroundings, food, etc., soon influence the constitution, and this being so, it would be advisable to select those horses of pure descent which have been longest subjected to these altered conditions. Thus the chance of reversion occurring would be increased.

It has been noticed more than once in the preceding pages that a young animal showing reversion is strong and vigorous. It is the belief of dog breeders that those members of an inbred litter which show reversion are the strongest and best. Similarly, experience shows that if an inbred sire and dam produce a dun-colored striped foal it almost always turns out well. Reversion is accompanied by a rejuvenescence; it is as though the young animal had appeared at an earlier period in the life history of the race, before the race had undergone those changes in the way of deterioration which so often accompany inbreeding.