At the Vermont State Fair in 1865 there was an interesting discussion at the hall of the Junction House, on the following subject: "Is it expedient to allow the Morgan Horse breed to become extinct?"
The discussion of the question was opened by Hon. John Gregory, of Northfield, who said the subject matter commended itself to everyone who loved the race of Morgan Horses. To say that this race of horses had contributed great wealth to the State of Vermont would be remarking what is well known.
Vermont, he said, had been Morgan-ized, but it was now feared that the Morgan horse was being neglected by horse breeders
. He was, however, in favor of introducing other stock if such could be proved to be superior to the Morgan. Anything, he said, that would contribute to the pockets of the people would be heartily welcomed. He believed that the Morgan stock would last as long as the hills of the state, and that any man must be demented who would undertake to prove that this stock was not worth prizing. He alluded to the great superiority and magnificence which Morgan horses presented in foreign countries and the honor which they had received even at the hands of the French Emperor.
During the many fairs he had attended in the West, the Morgan horse received the preference above all others. Missourians and Kentuckians had thanked the Yankees for introducing this breed of horses. He referred to the great advantages of crossing the stock with the small-boned and long-backed horses of that country. This is the experience of all who have tried them.
He cited several instances wherein the Morgan horse had proved to be the best for stage horses, and adverted to the pleasure enjoyed years ago before railroads were introduced, when the traveler rode behind the Morgan horse over the hills and down the valleys at the rate of twelve miles an hour. But, he confessed, the Morgan horse of today did not possess that vim which in those days characterized them.
Fifteen years ago the best Morgan stallions could be purchased for from $500 to $1000, but now they command from $1600 to $3000. He rehearsed these facts in order to stir up the minds of those interested that they might all return to their first love.
He did not believe the intelligent farmers were willing to let this class of horses become extinct, when pride, wealth and pleasure lend an influence for their perpetuation, and especially state pride.
He perhaps was too enthusiastic in favor of the Morgan horse; if so, he was not alone in that enthusiasm, for thousands have got "Morgan on the brain." He thought there was great danger of letting this race of horses become degenerated, to give place to the class of long backs and long legs now gradually working the Morgan horses out of existence.
There was not a horse in Vermont today which would compare with the early ones from which descended our choicest stock. What horse is now living that will compare with "Woodbury" "Bullrush" or later with "Billy Root" "Gifford" or "Black Hawk"?
We have faster horses than we had twenty-five years ago, but it is questionable whether breeding for great speed is preferable to stock for all purposes. He hoped that the subject would be investigated. The Morgan breed of horses should be fostered and cherished; and as Vermont is among the foremost in the Union in point of intelligence, frugality and industry, so should she be as great in producing a breed of horses that are known beyond the limits of her own borders.
Mr Gregory was followed by Leonard Tucker, of Royalton, who took the affirmative of the question. In his opinion there was no breed of Morgan horses in existence at present, and fortified his position by referring to those traits which are attributed to constitute the race. They were laboring to perpetuate a race of horses only in name, not in reality, and they were deceiving themselves.
He did not believe there was a genuine Morgan horse in the country, unless it be the "Walker" horse. He referred to the Justin Morgan horse of 1795, which, he said, was a thoroughbred English horse containing Arabian blood. The horse could not be found that contained any of the blood of that horse. We had begun too late, he said, to perpetuate the Morgan horse. Horses might be found that partake of the characteristics of their ancestors, although not possessing one-sixteenth of that bloodline. He was in favor of crossing with the best bloodlines that could be found.
The Chairman gave an interesting description of the traits and characteristics of old Justin Morgan, as seen by himself.
Dr Henry Boynton, of Woodstock, was the next speaker. He said that the language used in expressing our ideas in regard to the bloodlines of different animals is calculated to produce much error. We say that a given horse produces half the bloodline of the parent, while the characteristics of that equine may be entirely like or unlike that parent, or entirely unlike the opposite of the other, as much so as it had been the product, not of its own mother, but of another horse. But if it partakes equally of the bloodline of both, why should it not partake of the characteristics of both?
The error which results from the use of this language is this: A horse owner having mares and stallions which are the product of noted ancestors, because they are such he talks of his pure bloodlines and breeds accordingly; not because he has studied the characteristics of the animal, and is careful to unite them in most judicious manner in order to increase and strengthen their best attributes, but because he possesses pure lineage and can make no mistake. In following this practice many breeders will ruin a good stock in a generation.
To guard against this error all men who wish to perpetuate the good qualities of a breed of horses should take especial care. Let them breed to perpetuate the most valuable equine qualities, and not trust themselves blindly to an unreliable horse breeding program.