Friday, May 20, 2011

Dutch cavalry circa 1596-1600

I found this interesting description of the Dutch cavalry around the time when last units of lancers were fazed out from the Western European armies. Dutch were fighting the Spanish Empire and its armies, and one must say that they did fight with valour, bravery and skill, using every possible innovation they could find. The odds were overwhelming and yet they finally won, and in process there was plenty of military art was produced on both sides, from paintings and drawings to prints, showing horses and riders...
The Dutch Army and the Military Revolutions, 1588-1688‬ By Olaf Van Nimwegen

p.97 -99
''Dutch cavalry was initially composed of lancers, cuirassiers and mounted arquebusiers.

Lancers were armed with a lance approximately four meters long, and lancer himself had to a an outstanding horseman, seeing as he made his attack at full gallop.

This limited the employability if lancers, who could only develop their strength – an attack at speed – on flat, hard ground. Cuirassiers, on the other hand, could be deployed both offensively and defensively on terrain that was more difficult to negotiate, and their style of combat required less practice and horses of lesser quality. Cuirassiers attacked only at trot. In January 1597 the Dutch lancers were transformed into cuirassiers. This change was effected almost simultatneously in the Spanish army (comment, who about the battle of the Dunes 1600). The Ordre of 1596 (repeated in 1599 Ordre) prescribed that these cuirassiers had to ride 'strong, stallion-like' horses (that is stallions and geldings perhaps) and be furnished with 'bullet-proof' cuirasses, a visored helmet, arms guards, a bridle gauntlet, a short sword fit for cutting and thrusting, and a pair of wheel-lock pistols [... ] Match (of Matchlock gun) scared the animals and it was difficult to reload the pistol while holding a smouldering match in one's fingers on a nervous horse.
In each company of one hundred cuirassiers, twenty fire of the best horsemen were armoured with heavy cuirasses and with knee plates (he means thighs and  leg armour?). 

To compensate for the extra weight they were not required to carry their baggage on the back of their own steeds. This was the task of the 'bidets', servants mounted on small packhorses (bidet being the French for a 'nag') who were also responsible for gathering the forage. These bidets were expected to take part in battle, but in practice were 'usually a hindrance and detrimental when one has to fight because of running and fleeing of the boys' . Simon Stevin therefore advocated replacing the bidets with dragoons, 'these being foot-soldiers on horseback.' These lightly could transport the baggage of the cuirassiers and fetch forage for the horses just as well.

Stevin's recommendation to establish the regiments of dragoons remained 

unheeded until the 2nd half of the XVII century, but their task was in part performed by the arquebusiers. These were mounted infantry equipped with a visorless helmet (morion), a cuirass, a sword and a wheel-lock carbine. A carbine was a firearm with a length of 'three big men's feet' (c.90cm) and a calibre of 17mm. The relatively short barrel made it possible to load and fire a carbine while in the saddle.''

The attached images are from the late XVI century, or the early to mid period of the 80 years war, as the Dutch-Spanish conflict was known.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gaucho del norte

long time ago I painted this watercolor . I only have a poor scan since I had given the original to a friend and consequently we lost touch.
I copied a painting that was from an English language book on the South American horsemen, especially the gauchos I think, and it was black and white. I think it was  titled el gaucho del norte, and this implies Argentina, and judging from the horse's head it was depicting a criollo horse.
I wonder if anyone, looking at my copy, may know  the name of its original painter and when it was painted?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Interesting take on breed and pure-breds from a 1915 article

 I have been spending more time around horses ever since I left New York, and I see so many different types and breeds of the good old equus caballus, many a fine and lovely animal, that I decided to dedicate a little post to the word 'breed,' as written almost a hundred years ago by Orren Lloyd-jones, Iowa state associate professor.

Let me give the voice to the esteemed professor -
''The word breed has no biological meaning; it is bandied about by different classes of men in different places in the world without uniform regard to either type or kinship of the animals referred to. Its whole meaning is entirely dependent on the action of the rules committee of the breed association. A breed is whatever the breeders want to call it, there are no natural boundaries, and no arbitrary ones that are universally accepted.
A breed is a group of domestic animals, termed such by common consent of the breeders, and in formulating a universal definition no person can go very much further without usurping a right which is not justly his.
The significance of the derivative, pure-bred, may well be considered at this time. When a group of animals becomes sufficiently set off to be called by common consent a breed, a number of breeders unite themselves into an association. A charter is secured from the Government, a breed record or register is established, and rules of eligibility for entry into the same are set down in the by-laws. Thus the breed is definitely delimited and from this time, but not before this time, the term pure-bred can be correctly and safely applied to individual specimens. There is no natural boundary and breeders must await the arbitrary and official one. A pure-bred is an animal entered or eligible to entry in the association books, or descended from such animals.
The history of the Percheron breed of horses is interesting in this connection. Draft horses from France were early imported into this country and in 1876 an association was formed for their registry. But it soon developed that more than one kind of draft horse existed in France and that a motley array of horses was being offered for entry into the American book. A bitter dispute arose concerning eligibility of horses for record. All admitted that a breed existed, but no one could give a satisfactory definition of a pure-bred. Finally in 1883, acting on the insistent requests of American importers, the French breeders established a Record Association. They accepted as foundation animals only those draft horses found in the six provinces which comprised the old district of La Perche. At once American breeders stipulated that imported horses, to qualify for entrance in the American Association books, must first be accepted by the French Society. This ended the embarrassing uncertainty; a breeder could now lay claim to the title "pure-bred" for a horse and could successfully establish his* right to do so. Pure-breds were created by definition as a result of this action by the Society. But though the sale value of these horses was greatly increased, their biological nature was not changed. This word again depends for its meaning on the verdict of a body of men; it is in fact a civil, rather than a biological word. Biologically a horse may carry enough heritable traits to make him a high caste pure-bred Percheron, but if his ancestors lived across the line in Boulogne rather than in one of the six provinces originally specified by the French rules committee, he cannot claim that title, but must remain a Boulonnais.''

*Dear reader, 100 years ago most people involved directly in breeding horses and horse husbandry were men, hence esteemed professor uses that masculine pronoun.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chariots horses of Bronze Age I

--> Salve os,

    I have been slowly collecting information of the Bronze Age and Iron Age Eurasian (and Egyptian to some extend) 'chariotry' and chariot stallions, the most instrumental source in this topic must be  Ms Littauer and Mr Crouwel 2001 opus magnum Selected Writings on Chariots and Other Early Vehicles, Riding and Harness.  But there are other books too Osprey's Bronze Age War Chariots, Mycenaeanians, Egypt New Age Kingdom, Hittite Warrior, Assyrian Army, Drews' End of Bronze Age and Early Riders, and here the most important An early History of Horsemanship by Azzaroli, Ann Nyland training manual for her Arabians based on Kikkuli text , and Peter Raulwing article on Kikkuli text, finally D.W. Anthony The Horse the Wheel and Language .
 Early in the period  - during the late 3rd millennium BC Central Asian horse breeders and warriors of Indoeuropean (Indo-Aryan) extraction brought horses and chariots from the Eurasian steppe into the lands of western Asia, along with chariot archery and rapid horse warfare.

For a equestrian history student this period - roughly 2300 BC to 330BC - 'starts with a big bang': the very first 'book' (part of the Hittite Horse tablets) on horse conditioning and training by a Mitanni (Hurrian) horsemaster (term 'assussanni' that contains Indo-Aryan word for horse - *asva) named Kikkuli who was most likely working for a Hittite king at Hattusa during XV century BC .
The text describes 184 day training of a stallion* or gelding* period (at least 7 months), that started during the autumn with feed and water management, stable treatments and bitting and harnessing until advanced endurance training when harnessed with another stallion or gelding to a chariot's yoke. While we use a generic name 'Kikkuli text' actually the training manual was a combination of Hurrian and Hittite trainers knowledge. The text contains some very interesting Indo-Aryan technical language (not used by the Hittites themselves, who used their own Indoeuropean language) and these terms talk about technical aspects of chariot horse training – eg, plaiting of horses' tails before yoking them to the chariot. There are also names for horse colors – reddish brown, grey, reddish yellow, greenish yellow etc. This color information later shows up in the Mittani records and Egyptian too – reddish, black etc usually sires (stallions) are depicted and often their coat is described in their names (eg curly hair, felt hair etc). Interestingly enough it does not give any information on actual war horse chariot training for battle, and the first known text on war horse training for battle is Xenophon's Peri hippica (IV century BC).

While Kikkuli text is old (from around 1500 BC, then copied in XIV century BC), it is not the oldest as it is apparent from the Hittite surviving library on horse text (archiving of such text was begun prior to Kikkuli text), that that had already some manuals in XVIII century BC, the so called Anitta Text indicates such (according to Kammenhuder 1961 and Raulwing).
Well, is getting late , so until the next time when I will tak more about the horse harness and chariot warrior elite aka 'mariyannu' (maryannu)...

Interesting discussion on Hittite chariotry here

* it is my rather informed belief that ancient horse warriors used stallions and geldings for war, and mare for the most valuable breeding, milk and meat.