Monday, November 24, 2014

Horsepower


 Remounts. World War One.

I've been doing a series of posts here recently on transportation.  I started out with the default means of transportation, walking, and then recently I did one on bicycles, the device that first introduced practical daily mechanical transportation to most people, most places, in the western world, and which continues to be the default means of daily transportation for a lot of people around the globe.  Here I turn to nearly the oldest means of alternative ground transportation (accepting that floating transportation was the second means for humans to get around, following walking), that being animal transportation. And when we discuss animal transportation, we mean for the most part equine transportation, at least in the context discussed here.. 

Mounted men on saddle horses, draft transportation with wagon pulled by draft mules, and pack transportation with donkeys.  A unique photograph, in Yosemite, if the three basic types of equine transportation with the three basic equines.

I didn't start with horses in this recent series, in part because I'm pretty familiar with horses myself and so they're sort of second nature to me, part of what the process of posting here hopes to help me overcome as a writer.  But I also didn't start here with horses as:  1)  walking makes more sense, in terms of a starting point and; 2) we all think we're so used to the story of the Equine Era that we tend to misunderstand it, and have to start somewhere else.
 
Copper, a Saddlebred, which I once owned.

Of course, noting this, I'm not completely accurate as I've written on horse transportation quite a bit actually, and well before this recent series.  One of the relatively popular topics on this blog has been the Revolution In Rural Transportation thread, which was once one of the top ten popular ones.  But we're taking another look at it now, in any event.  And we're taking a look at it in the same fashion we did for walking and bicycles, that is, we're starting way back in antiquity, but we'll conclude by looking at that period in the 20th Century when things really began to change.  Like most things of this type, we'll tend to find that this topic is subject to Holscher's First Law of History, everything happened earlier than generally supposed, and Holscher's Second Law of History, everything last occurred more recently than you suspect.

As previously noted, for eons and eons, people basically walked. And also for eons and eons agriculture was extremely basic, or perhaps more accurately nomadic.  Archaeologist for a long time have spoken of "hunter gatherers", but in reality most "hunter gatherer societies" are actually hunter, small scale farming and gathering societies.  Not all, of course, in regions that are very well provided with vegetative food, there was no farming, and in some rare areas of the globe where these societies still exist, that's still true.  A recently issue of the National Geographic featured once such group in Brazil, for example, that still did very little or next to no farming, instead gathering and hunting.

Humans spread across the globe in vast antiquity, of course, and at some point somebody had the idea of herding the game animals that would cooperate, essentially converting themselves from hunter/gatherers into hunter/herdsmen/gatherers (or low yield farmers).  How long ago this occurred is debated, but it seems relatively clear that the animals that were first herded are the ones that pretty much still are, with some later additions.  Aurochs (wild cattle), horses, reindeer, onakers (wild donkeys) and camelids.  Something about these big animals made them easier to semi domesticate and herd than others, leading to domestication.  Reindeer, I have to note, still really surprise me in this category, and of course a wild reindeer differs from a tame one not at all, even now.

And it was reindeer, some believe, that humans first rode, and a long while back  As odd as that is, the origin of the idea to ride a reindeer, if you are a reindeer herder, makes obvious sense.  It'd get tiring following them around on foot day after day.  If they are there anyhow, why not just ride one, assuming that it'll put up with it, which apparently they can be broken to do.

According to those who have studied this, it was in the region where reindeer herders and nomadic horse herders overlapped that riding horses first occurred. This is no surprise, really, in that anyone who has herded horses must find the prospect of herding them from the ground a daunting prospect.  Only on horseback could the herdsmen really plan on keeping up.  When they saw mounted reindeer herders, the idea of mounting a horse must have come nearly immediately.

 Soldier riding reindeer at survey camp of Eastern Siberian Railway
Imperial Russian soldier riding a reindeer, the first thing, it seems, humans rode.

But it probably took at least a little time. Those horses weren't domestic horses in any sense of the word. They were barely what we'd consider horses at that, more in the nature of ponies really, and very wild. But the men were wild too, and soon entire steppe cultures were mounted.

The horse spread out everywhere in the old world from there.

But they didn't really spread evenly.

 [Village criers on horseback, Bird On the Ground and Forked Iron, Crow Indians, Montana]
Crow Indians, who repeated in the 18th Century what our distant ancestors in vast antiquity experienced on the Steppes, adopting animal transportation as a start up proposition.

Contrary to the schoolyard myth, where some romantic child proclaims "we could all go back to riding horses", there was never a day in any sort of farming community or urban community in which "everyone rode horses". At the same time, however, the impact of horses was so vast, and their use as a transportation and draft animal so significant, that it can hardly be appreciated by most people today. Truly, as we've tried to explore in at least one other thread, it was a world in which people worked with animals.

Only in nomadic and semi nomadic cultures did everyone, or at least nearly ever male, ride.  The original tribes coming out of the steppes certainly did.  Their successors, people like the Mongols and the Huns, did as well.  The Arabs were a horse, and camel, mounted people back into their early history, and a certain percentage of them remained that way until quite recently, indeed some still are, giving their name to the hot blooded horse which lived throughout the region.*  Certain African peoples were heavy uses of horses.  Some Germanic tribes along the Rhine were reported by the Romans to be nearly entirely mounted, as a culture, on the cold bloods of the region.  Turks were a nearly completely mounted people when they came out of Central Asia on a horse that was, for all practical purposes, the same stock as the Arab Horse.  the Cossacks, a Central Asian people in their own right, were a nearly unique mounted people in close association with a much more agricultural and industrial people.  And of course, when horses came on to the North American plains in the mid 1700s, some Indian tribes adopted them to the extent of becoming completely mounted people.

 Imperial Russian Cossacks. Cossacks are associated with military service, but they were a mounted people in any event and their use as cavalry reflected a cultural trait.  It must have been cold when this photograph was taken, as the Cossacks depicted have their hats pulled down, which was not the norm.  Usually, they cocked them at an angle and pushed them towards the back of their heads.  Horses depicted here may be panjes, Russian ponies, with "panje" meaning "peasant".

Otherwise, however, in other societies, and very early on, riding a horse generally meant that the rider was some sort of agriculturalist who lived with and used horses, such as a mounted stock worker; occupied a role in society that meant he had to have a horse issued to him, such as a soldier or mounted policeman, or was wealthy and could afford the expense of keeping a horse, even though he didn't live, perhaps, where the horse was kept and didn't take care of the horse, or the tack, himself, on a daily basis.

 Cavalier and Roundhead (rich and poor)
 Cavalier and Round Head (Rich and Poor).  The cavalier rides a hot blooded horse, the peasant is riding a donkey. The position of the donkey rider is correct, that being for reasons I'm unaware of, except for very large donkeys called today "Monster Jacks", people ride the rear of the donkey, not its middle, perhaps for the reason depicted here in which the peasant's donkey is carrying a load in addition to a rider.  This scene depicts a condition which existed for eons.  Even in ancient Greek society only the well to do were mounted.  Everyone else generally walked.

 Returning from market
Rural family returning from market.  This family, man, woman and child, are using horses as saddle animals, with the lead horse also packing quite a load.  Pretty typical farm family scene the globe over.

 British Cavalry passing through wrecked village
 British cavalry during World War One.  British officers, going into the war, were largely drawn from a traditional landed or semi landed class, and would typically have learned to ride at home in their youth.  Regular enlisted volunteers wold have learned to ride in the Army.  Mounted reservists were typically in Yeomanry units, who were drawn from rural regions and probably also learned to ride at home.

The archetype of the British cavalryman in World War One, mounted on a very large charger.

This meant that the great mass of people in most societies, in anyone era, weren't regularly riding horses and probably weren't riding them at all. This was certainly the case after the start of the Industrial Revolution, but was even the case in most places before that. If we take Medieval Europe as an example, the reason that we find Medieval Chivalry so interesting is that they're an example of what we note here.  "Chivalry" comes from the word "cheval", French for horse.  Chivalry were the well to do landed gentry who could afford to own horses, and therefore part of their obligation in society was to serve as mounted warriors, i.e., knights, in times of war.

 Saracens, North Africans, and French Chivalry, at the Battle of Tours.  French mounted combatants would have been largely drawn from the landed class.  Foot soldiers from less well funded classes.  The Saracens, on the other hand, probably were drawn mostly from North African mounted tribesmen.

But even in the United States, at least by the mid 19th Century, this was tending towards true.

Now, surely early in the country's history, the percentage of men who rode was undoubtedly fairly high.  When farming dominated as it did at that time, most men would have had some ability to ride and in some regions of the country it was a necessity.  Even New England fit that category early on, with one type of horse, the Narragansett Pacer being associated with that region and being noted for being a pacing gaited horse, suitable for comfortably traveling significant distances.  But as cities and towns developed, this became less and less true.  Which isn't to say that there weren't occupations that rode, there were, some of which would surprise us today.

Many lawyers, for example, rode as part of their occupations.  Judges frequently did. Indeed, that fact is memorialized today by the term "circuit court" which remains in use, although nobody rides or even really drives a circuit today (although there are districts, at least in Wyoming, where one judge presides over courts in different locations).  One now retired judge in Wyoming's Seventh Judicial District had a small statute of a circuit riding judge in his office for years.  At any rate, for many years, entire teams of lawyers rode circuits, following a judge who also did.  This was particularly true before roads were improved in any fashion, as a coach is an uncomfortable or impossible vehicle if the roads are bad, but a horse can go absolutely anywhere.

Some clerics did as well, all of which was referred to as "riding a circuit".  Methodist ministers are frequently associated with this, and Catholic Priests in some regions of the world relied on mules to such an extent that mules were somewhat reserved for them at law.  In one South American diocese an early Bishop, who was later canonized as a saint, spent something like the first seven years of his appointment in the saddle, just covering his very large diocese.  Well into the 19th Century, or even the 20th, there were certain regions of North American where to be a Priest or minister meant you had to ride.

Mail carriers also did, and to such an extent that a "post" rider was part of the post office's original seal.   And the term "posting" is associated with the Post Office, although that's not the only explanation for that term referring to rise to the trot.  Some rural routes in the United States were still served by mounted mail carriers as late as the 1940s.

Rural mail carrier, Kentucky, 1940.  Of note here, this rider is using a flat, or "English" saddle, which we would expect for this region of the country at this time, but which films invariably do not get right.

Mounted policemen were a common feature of most big cities well into the 20th Century, and there were also rural police forces that were entirely mounted.  This is something, in a diminished fashion, that carries on to the present day.  Urban police forces themselves really started making an appearance in the US after the Civil War, when towns and cities had grown sufficiently large that a county sheriff's office or a town marshal no longer would suffice for city policing.  As policemen covered quite a bit of ground a fair number of them were mounted. And as this tended to immediately follow the Civil War, quite a few early police forces were equipped with forms and tack that strongly resembled that of the Union Army.  Even today police departments with significant mounted units tend to use tack that strongly recalls that of the late 19th Century U.S. Army.

And while this thread doesn't really seek to fully explore it, well into the mid 20th Century the military used a tremendous number of horses and mules.  Every army that fought in World War Two used at least some mounted troops, and some armies used significant numbers of them.  Even the United States, contrary to what is commonly believed, had some mounted men in Europe during the war.  The Germans and the Soviets had a lot of mounted men.  The last mounted assaults by formations of mounted men in the U.S. Army, the Soviet Army and the German Army, all occurred in the spring of 1945.**  The United States, recognizing the declining importance of horses in the war, but still requiring huge numbers of mules, continued to have a Remount program until about 1947, when it was finally turned over to the Department of Agriculture, complete with some captured German horses brought back into the US post war.***

Jonathan Wainright being promoted to Brigadier General in 1938. Wainright would become a prisoner of the Japanese early in World War Two and would famously endure the war in captivity.

Some armies used huge numbers of horses for transport. The Germans, again, provide a prime example. The Germans actually used more horses in this role during World War Two than they did during World War one, and by the wars end they were principally horse powered in terms of transport and artillery transport.

Cavalryman training at Ft. Riley Kansas, 1942.  The U.S. Army's cavalry training facility remained in operation until after World War Two. The date the last cycle was trained is uncertain, but it was likely in 1946 or 1947.

Cavalry, globally, had a much longer run that people imagine, because it actually still exists, or perhaps more accurately mounted infantry does in some armies.  At least one central African army still has mounted infantry.  Mounted infantry units figured prominently in the wars in Rhodesia and Angola of the 1980s, proving to be highly effective in both instances.  Paramilitary mounted troops, moreover, exist in a lot of armies that patrol remote areas of the globe.  And, mounted bands continue to exist as irregular troops in some places of the globe where mounted banditry lives on.

And then there's military mules.

Mules, in fact, remain a big untold, in part, story for World War Two. The US, German, Italian, and British armies all used huge numbers of mules, with the Allies having a particular advantage in this category a the United States produced the best mules in the world, and really still does.

U.S. Army mule, 1863.  Most Civil War mules were pack mules, but some infantry formations were ultimately mounted on mules to give the infantryman mobility. This was repeated again during the Indian Wars, when it was found that on campaigns infantry couldn't keep up in the early stages of the campaign with cavalry.  They generally could if a campaign became long, however, as cavalryman were mounted one trooper per horse, something generally not done with civilian horsemen.  Cowboys, for example, typically rode seven horses to the man in the 19th Century and still ride several horses to the man today.

U.S. Army mule, World War Two,. or perhaps 1930s.  This mule sports a Phillips Pack Saddle, a type of load specific pack saddle system developed after World War One.

U.S. Army mule column.  Note that this string of mules is not tied together, the way civilian pack strings normally are.  These mules are so well trained they are following each other in a single column, without being tied.

Pack mules remained in the U.S. Army until the late 1950s, at which time the last U.S. Army unit that was a pack transportation unit, a reserve unit in Colorado, was phased out.  However, even at that, the Armed Forces never quit training troops how to pack horses and mules. The Army's Special Forces still does, and within the past decade it has issued a new manual on the topic. The Marine Corps has maintained an active pack transportation school the entire time.  As horses and mules have been used recently in Afghanistan the wisdom of doing this has been demonstrated.

Pack horses and mules were not just a military thing, of course. Certain industries and enterprises relied extensively on pack horses and mules well into the 20th Century.  While its sometimes claimed that the Jeep replaced the horse in the Army, what it really replaced was the pack mule, sort of, and this is sort of true of the pack mule in the civilian world as well.  Be that as it may, there's still pack mule, and horse, use today, including by the Federal Government. The Forest Service maintains a remount program even now, in which it teaches a small number of its personnel in riding and pack mule use, and it keeps a string of pack mules in the Rocky Mountain West.  Pack mules and horses receive extensive use by outdoorsmen, particularly large big game hunters, and some continue to use them simply for packing trips.

 Jeeps and mules, World War Two.

Setting riding (and packing) aside, and military use, the big presence of horses that has really been forgotten was the use of horses in draft, or draught.

 [New York City. View along waterfront on West Street; many freight wagons; street car]
Street scene, New York City, 1904.  This photograph was taken the year after Henry Ford introduced the Model T, and the year after Harley Davidson first started manufacturing motorcycles.

For most people, horses intersected with daily life in the form of a horse in harness.  While most people didn't ride, everyone depended on draft horses, and this became more the case during and after the Industrial Revolution, than before.
Omaha Merchants Express and Transfer Company, 1908.

For most people, horses intersected with daily life in the form of a horse in harness.  While most people didn't ride, everyone depended on draft horses, and this became more the case during and after the Industrial Revolution, than before.

While its hardly appreciated now, the means of transportation, at least locally, for most of the Industrial Revolution and well into the 20th Century was by draft horse.  Local transport companies owned thousands of horses across the United States. And in the first quarter century of the 20th Century, railroads were the largest owners of horses in North America. That may seem odd, but that's how the things delivered by rail were delivered.

Transport horses so dominated in North America that they impacted the types of horses produced by individual farmers, who were the sources of nearly the entire supply.  Prior to the Industrial Revolution, farming dominated the horse market and farmers, always being practical and economically minded, raised horses of a type called a "chunk", that being a short blocky horse that could be used for riding, driving, or pulling.  The Morgan or Canadian horses (the two being closely related to each other) provide perhaps the most familiar example of that type of horse to us today.  But in the cities, transport companies had demands for specific types of horses that they desired, and heavy haulers wanted a heavy horse.  The common view today that the big draft horses we see in parades were "farm" horses isn't really correct.  In fact, they're not desirable as a rule for farming, as their angle of draft is to severe.  They became that big and blocky when heavy haulers favored that type of horse, and that type of horse really only became so big and blocky at the end of the horse transport era.

In fact, the urban draft market was so heavy, and so dominated what private horse supplieres were producing, that it concerned the British Army, which relied upon Canadian horses for a reserves supply of remounts, and began to concern the U.S. Army, which had always secured its horses from private vendors as well.  The English never did develop a Remount program, but the United States did after World War One, when the direction things were headed in was pretty plain.  This put the U.S. Army directly into the horse ranching business, leading to a system in which the Army owned the stallion and had its choice of offspring.  Governed under strict military guidelines, this lead to an improvement in the quality of horses in the United States, and in fact is largely responsible for the conformation of Quarterhorses today.

Remounts, 1923.

Draft horses in cities and towns were such a part of ordinary life that we can hardly even conceive of it today, or the same reason that we don't think of light trucks and work vans much. They're just part of the background of life, and dominated much of what would have been regarded as normal, necessary and vital of everyday life.  In other words, stuff we totally tend to ignore in our own lives today.

Small beer wagon, 1939.  Note the heavy draft horses being used.  The wagon driver is a "teamster", giving rise to that term, and to the original union for them which survives today.

Draft horses and freight wagons delivered beer to bars, ice to butchers, fish to fish mongers, milk to people's houses, ice to their homes for their "ice boxes" and coal for their furnaces.  By the early 20th Century the first cars and trucks had made their entry and long distance travel was by rail, but in towns and cities horses were truly the beasts of burden, pulling wagons and carts in every town and city.
 
 Budweiser wagon, 1943.  Probably the archetype of horse drawn freight wagon, in many people's minds

Ice wagon, with very placid light draft horse.

And how the ice was cut.  Horse drawn ice saw, heavy draft.

United States Fuel Administration poster urging Americans to order coal early, due to the potential of World War One shortages.  This poster depicts heavy draft horses in use, which is no doubt accurate for this type of work.  It also depicts a dump box on the wagon, showing how wagons were as specialized as truck boxes are today.

Horses also performed the role that dump trucks and blades performed in cities and towns.  Dirt, and snow, removal was horse powered.

Draft team removing snow from a railroad crossing, St. Lambert Quebec, early 1940s.   Horses are heavy drafts.

[Wagons removing snow]
Snow removal, New York City, 1908.

And all of this well into mid Century as well.  The delivery of ice tended to be carried on by wagon, as a dying industry, until it died, being perhaps one of the last urban horse drawn freighting services to continue, but it continued in some locations in to the 1950s, as people slowly replaced their ice boxes with refrigerators.  Today, perhaps somewhat ironically, it's Budweiser's giant beer wagons that are popular in the public mind, as they've made it a symbol, and the big beer wagons were always dramatic. But a lot more ice was hauled in towns and cities than beer.

Horses also provided light transportation, both through the private ownership of carts and buggies for those who could afford to keep them, and for hire as well.

Light Irish cart of a type typical in Ireland up through the 1940s.  Irish carts of this period are typically referred to as a "dog cart", reflecting that they were light carts.  In the United States another type of light cart was called a "dog cart", but it was a light two seated cart, which was sort of the sports car of its day, and used in pretty much the same fashion as sports cars today, by pretty much the same class.  Ireland and the Irish were heavily associated with horses, being a rural people who depended upon them enormously, and horse related sports remain popular in Ireland today.

Once again, it was of course the case that not everyone owned a buggy by any means. They cannot be thought of as the equine powered predecessor of the automobile.  The same problems that confronted the average urban dweller in regards to a saddle horse, confronted them in regards to a buggy, if not more so, as it entailed keeping at least one horse. Some occupations did typically own buggies, however, with physicians being particularly likely to own one.  Indeed, this was so much the case that one type of buggy was called a "doctor's buggy".

Sign for physicians office, 1940s, recalling the relatively recent era when doctors had buggies as part of their occupations.  Oddly, the buggy depicted is not the type which is called a "doctor's buggy", but is more of a "dog cart".

Stage Coach, 1910, Riverside New York.  Note, this is well after most people would associate traveling in this fashion, and in a location you wouldn't typically hear of either, but both were common.

Hansom Cab, New York City, 1896.  A wagon called a Hansom Cab is still a tourist attraction in New York today, although New York's recently elected mayor, in an act of unreality and political buffoonery, declared an intent to eliminate them, showing the increasing extent to which the politics of that city are divorced from the the real world.  Horse, it should be noted, has his head in a feed bag.  The horse is a light or medium draft horse.


Public Transportation, Washington D.C.

All of this doesn't even begin to address, of course, the services horses that were present in any one city, such as the thousands of horses used for fire departments all over the country.

[D.C. Washington. Fire Department activities: horse-drawn hook & ladder truck leaving firehouse (folder 438)]
Washington D. C. Fire Department

The last of the Horses Engine Co. 205, New York Fire Department
 New York's Engine Company No. 205, the last horse drawn engine company in the New York City Fire Department, 1922.

Horses even had an impact on the features of cities and towns. A nationwide public effort was undertaken in the early 20th Century to provide nice watering basins for them, and they still exist in quite a few towns and cities.   A nice one, for example, exists in downtown Denver, although I have yet to take a photograph of it. Iron rings were sent into sidewalk cement as well, for tying horses up while their owners did their business.  One of those remained in a sidewalk near my office building, at which point it became a victim of  a sidewalk reconstruction effort.  And of course every town of any size had a livery to accommodate horses.

Shower for horses, a feature in big cities during hot weather, put in by people sympathetic to horses.

Outside of the cities, horses provided the horsepower, if you will, for everything, for a very long time.  That they supplied the muscle for freighting in the 19th Century is no surprise, but what may be a surprise is the extent to which this continued on well into the 20th Century.  Indeed, as odd it may see, the early transport for the oil industry was horse powered.  One of my wife's great uncles worked as a freighter with a large team for one of the early oilfields in this region.

Zurr's Station and Water Tank, Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Wagon Road, Placer County
Water wagons.

A unique photograph showing every mode of transport, almost, in the early 20th Century in Alaska.  Horse, foot and bicycle.

And of course horses and mules were critical for agriculture and for much longer than people generally suppose.  This is very well known, but how long this continued on is not appreciated.  People suppose that tractors came in around the same time as the car, and the conversion to the internal combustion engine happened overnight.  This is simply untrue.  Engine powered farm machinery was slow to come in, in some ways, and horses and mules remained the farm standards well into the mid 20th Century (and remain the ranch standard, in some roles, today).  The Great Depression, for one thing, slowed mechanization of the farm, which had only barely begun to commence when it got rolling, and while tractors and other machinery had existed for a long time by that point, they were far from universal on the farm.

Plowing, late 1930s.

Sheepherders, early 1940s. Scenes like this still occur, and were very common in the West well into the 1980s.

A mule and a plow, what the Government advertised for those seeking farm resettlement loans.





Mule-drawn wagon with water supply near Jeanerette, Louisiana

Horse drawn water barrel, Louisiana, 1938.

 Combine, 1910.

 Saddle horses at branding.

Perhaps the most surprising thing for most people may be how long this went on, and that it even does to a small extent today.  A common conception of things is that cars came and the engine replaced the horse overnight, but it did not work that way.  Cars did come in rapidly for personal transportation, which isn't a surprise as they offered something that their main competitor, the bicycle, did not for average people, that being distance.  A person could cover a lot more ground with a car than they ever could with a bicycle, and even go from town to town.  But things were slower in other areas.  Horses carried on in urban freighting well into the 1920s and in some roles into the 1950s.  Horses carried on in the everyone's army until the after World War Two, and mules beyond that.  In agriculture average farmers in some instances kept on farming with horses and mules into the 1950s and in ranching horses have carried on in the West to this very day.

 Horse market, Omaha, 1914.

Epilogue

This is a topic that's actually a bit hard to conclude, as in some ways the story of horse use isn't complete.  Horses remain with us, and even in the most industrialized countries, there are working horses today.  Horses remain in use in ranching for example, to a far greater extent in the West than people imagine.  They even carry on in the stock industries of Italy and Spain, which we don't think of much here. They continue to have a role in policing, and have been reintroduced in some towns and cities in recent years, and have gone back into use patrolling the border.  The Army, which went away from horses with finality following World War Two, and from mules in the late 1950s, has even found that it isn't possible to completely escape them, and Special Forces troops were mounted once again at the start of the war with Afghanistan.

Truth be known, but for the fact that we're so acclimated to machinery, the horse would be well suited for more roles than it currently fulfills.  Horsemen know that, but it's hard to advance that point without sounding hopelessly romantic.  Anyone who has ever ridden much, for example, well knows that the vantage from the saddle is much greater than that from the ground, and searches that are routinely undertaken by parties of walking people, or sometimes with aircraft, would be better off supplemented by riders. Frankly, the walking people could entirely be replaced with riders.  Much more policing work could be done with them, police forces just aren't all that familiar with them today.  And so on. Of course, all that's easy for me to say, as I like horses.

The horse continues to cast a pretty long shadow today.


*Hot Blood v. Cold Blood.  Hot blooded horses are those lighter horses that stem from more southerly regions, originally, such as Arabs.  They're generally "hotter", more lively, than Cold Bloods. Cold Bloods are heavy horses, stemming originally from a wild Northern European horse.  They've given their blood lines to the draft breeds today.  Of course, there are mixes and most horses have some hot blood into them today, to some extent.

**The last U.S. Charge by a mounted unit was one conducted by the Mounted Reconnaissance Troop of the 10th Mountain Division in 1945.  Commonly it is claimed that the last US charge was by the 26th Cavalry Regiment, in the Philippines, in 1942, which is correctly only if only a cavalry unit, rather than mounted infantry, is considered.  The last charges in which U.S. troops of any kind participated have occurred in Afghanistan with Special Forces troops attached to the Northern Alliance.

The last German charge may have occurred when a German cavalry unit charged across a US unit in an effort to flee the advancing Red Army in April, 1945.  However, so many German troops were mounted during World War Two this is somewhat difficult to determine.  Likewise, the Red Army used cavalry until 1953 and determining when the last Soviet charge occurred would be difficult. The Soviets may have conducted mounted actions internally after World War Two as they confronted internal resistance after the war in areas that had formed anti Soviet guerrilla bands during the war.

The last regular Army that the US probably served alongside that had mounted cavalry formations might be the Republic of Korea's army, which still had mounted units in 1950 when it was attacked by the North Koreans.  On the other hand, the British have actually used provisionally mounted troops in the Balkans in recent years, so this may not be correct, and the US has used, as noted, some Special Forces troops who have been mounted in Afghanistan.

***For more on the topic of Military Horses, including this topic, see The Society of The Military Horse website, the place that's the absolute last word on this topic.

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Related threads:

A Revolution In Rural Transportation.

Riding Bicycles

Walking.

Working With Animals.