New Zealand Herald, 5 January 1901, Page 1



No. I.


The importation of horses into India dates back to the conquest of that continent, the first horses, of course, going there with the troops at the time the British were winning this bright jewel for their country.

Horsebreeding has been tried in India over and over again since that time, but the results cannot be called anything but failure. Some fine sires and splendid mares have bean mated at various times, but the progeny have been nothing but "weeds," good enough for "garry" horses (native cab horses), but not at all suitable for first-class cavalry mounts or for artillery horses.


Horses have been shipped from Australia ever since our sister continent has had surplus horses to ship, first in sailing vessels - ships or barques far back as the late fifties, and up till some ten years ago. About 1885 steam vessels began to come in, the Beaucephalus (Messrs. A. Currie and Co.) in that year taking one of the first shipments by steam; other steamers followed, entirely superseding the sailing ships. There are now two regular lines of steamships from Australia carrying horses Messrs. A. Currie and Co., with five steamers, each one making three trips a year to India, with headquarters in Melbourne, and the British-India Company, who have a large fleet in the East, but only two or three steamers in the India-Australia trade. The firstnamed company have all their steamers fitted up for the horse trade, and convey horses all the year round, but the" British-India Company send special steamers during the horse season—November and December in Calcutta.

In 1899 it is estimated that of all classes there were 9000 to 10,000 horses sent from Australia, the majority of which were sent to Calcutta,. A few are landed at Madras, while during the horse season shipments are sent to Bombay. Arabs are also imported into the latter port, but the horses at Calcutta, and Madras are mostly colonial-bred. Horses are also shipped to Colombo (Ceylon), Singapore, Java, and other places in the East. The number for 1900 shipped from Australia to India will probably exceed 10,000, while 500 would cover the shipments to the outside ports named above.

During the past twelve months an immense number of horses have been, sent to South Africa— 3000, in addition to those taken by the troopers. A shipment of horses, purchased in Australia on behalf of the German Government, has lately been sent to China, so there will be a scarcity of suitable horses in Australia for export trade for a few years to come, and prices, which are now much higher than they were twelve months ago, will certainly rule still higher in the near future. As a matter of fact, a horse that last year in Australia would be purchased for £15 now brings £25. At the same time a buyer in Australia who is thoroughly acquainted with the requirements, of the Indian markets will often pick up suitable 'horses as low as £5 each, unbroken.

Large shipments of produce and fodder have been made to the Cape since the war started, as well as several shipments to China, so that times have been very good for the station-owners, produce merchants, and horsedealers of Australia for the past twelve months, and the outlook is certainly very promising.

For 1900-1901 season the Indian Government will require more horses than in 1900, as many horses were" sent to the Cape, and horses have also been sent on to China with the various Indian troops. The total number ordered was 1415, which will be delivered from November, 1900, to March, 1901. This does not include horses for native cavalry, but simply horses to fill the requirements of the order sheet, a copy of which is printed with this article.


The trade is largely in the hands of horse dealers, who go all over Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia buying from the station-owners and breeders. From long distances the horses are sent from the nearest railway to collecting stations in Victoria, 10 to 12 horses in a railway truck. If the distance to the collection station is not too great they are sometimes driven. When arrangements are made for a shipment, perhaps a few weeks after collection they are taken by rail to the ship's side at the Railway Pier, Port Melbourne.


Our passage was taken in the fine steamer Euryalus (Messrs. A. Currie and Co.'s line). She is not quite two years old, and was specially designed and built to suit the requirements of the Indian horse trade, and there, is no doubt she is the finest vessel in the horse-carrying business. As a proof of this statement she was specially chartered twice to convey Victorian troops to the Cape, and on one of these occasions 370 troopers' horses were taken on board, stalled, and fixed up for the South African trip in one hour and three-quarters. So pleased was the Defence Department that a dinner and presentation was made to Captain McDonald, and negotiations are at the time of writing being made with a view to the Euryalus being sent to bring back the Victorian troops when their services are no longer required in South Africa.

The steamer is 2285 tons register, with a carrying capacity of 5000 tons, 2400 horsepower, and is, we believe, the largest vessel owned in Australia. She is commanded by Captain Colin McDonald, who hails from Waipu, near Whangarei, well known as sailing out of Auckland some twelve years ago in various commands. About that time he left the brigantine Stanley (of Auckland) in Melbourne, and took command of a large ship called Hersey, until she was sold; he then was master (for the same owner) of the steam yacht Saide, from 1889 to 1895, until she was sold in England. Captain McDonald then came out with Lord Brassey, as master of the Sunbeam, to Melbourne, when Lord Brassey came out to assume the Governorship of Victoria in, 1895. In 1896 Captain McDonald entered the well-known Currie line, as master of the Argus, from which steamer he was transferred to the Euryalus on her arrival in Australia.


The horses, as before stated, are taken by rail to the ship's side at the Railway Pier, Port Melbourne, in trucks. A gangway, with both sides six feet high, is built down the hatchways of the steamer from the main deck to the 'tween decks, and another gangway from the* 'tween decks to the lower hold. These gangways are set up at an angle of 40 degrees, down which there is not much trouble in leading horses. The door of the railway truck is opened, and, say, half a dozen horses (loose) are driven through the gangway to the main deck. Here they enter a narrow way called a crush, just wide enough to admit a horse. The front of the crush is closed with two slip rails, and as the last of the six horses enters the crush it is closed at the other end, after the horses have been driven close up one against the other. They are then haltered and led away one by one by grooms to whichever part of the ship is destined to receive them— lower hold being filled up first. The sides of the hold are divided into stalls with permanent uprights, 2ft 4in apart, fitted at the sides with removable bars, which drop into slots in the uprights, and the floor is made of pine wood laid on the iron decks, and divided into squares by 2in crosspieces, each stall having five squares on the top of the pine floor. This method of flooring effectually prevents the horses slipping when at i sea. in front of these uprights that divide the space into stalls are two chest bars, the top one being 3ft lOin from the floor, secured to the uprights with bolts and nuts. A section of the chest bars is removed, a one end of the row, from which all the side bars are removed, and the horse is then led by a groom into the row and placed head to the hatchway, the side bars put up, and his head secured to the uprights on either side of him with two short chains from his halter. He is then as safely stalled as in a livery stable. The next horse is fixed up in like manner, and so on, only about two horses having to be backed in then the chest bars at the end of the row are put up, and all is secure. The same method obtains throughout the ship, and 521 horses—many of them unbroken—were taken on board, stalled, and fixed up for the voyage from Melbourne to Calcutta in less than one day and a half. It will be clearly understood from the foregoing that the horses are only placed on each side of the ship, one row on either side, their stalls being athwart the ship. The hatchways are never put on, and every care is taken when the tropics are entered to see that there is always a current of air through the ship; as a matter of fact, the lower hold is cooler than the upper deck. All the stalls, etc. are erected before any horses are taken on board, and the gangways remain up till the horses are walked ashore at Calcutta. The gangways, stalls, I etc., are then taken down and put away carefully (every piece being numbered) until wanted for the next voyage. The ship is then ready for her return cargo—tea, gunnies, rice, and other Indian exports.

There were 521 horses shipped on the present voyage, and 78 were carried in the lower hold, 190 on the 'tween decks, 159 on the main decks, 72 in the alley ways, and 22 on the winch deck, but the steamer can carry quite 700 horses at one trip.


The shippers see to their horses in every way, and the ship assumes no responsibility. The crew assist, and carry out the instructions of the shippers under the authority of the officers, but the whole of the Business of taking the horses on board, stalling, feeding, and watering them and cleaning the stalls on the voyage, is in the hands of the shippers or their accredited agents.


The freight is £8 per horse, and is charged on the number landed, not on the number shipped in Australia. All the necessary feed is carried free, and passages are given to the grooms. In addition, the seamen are told off to assist, and a shipper gets assistance from the ship in accordance with the number of horses he has on board. The shippers have to pay their own passages back to Australia.


On the voyage horses are watered at four a.m. daily, fed at five a.m., and cleaned out before half-past seven. They are fed 'again at eleven a.m., watered at half-past three, fed at five and again at eight p.m., and the times are adhered to all through the voyage. A watchman is also up all night to see that nothing goes wrong with the horses. Each horse has his own feedbox, which is hung from the top chest bar with two hooks. The horses are so secured that it is impossible for a horse to eat the food of the next one, nor can he bite his neighbour, even if so inclined.

The feed consists of bran and chaff—no oat feed being given, as it is too stimulating. Medicines are also carried as fever drenches, colic drenches, salts, and wound lotions.


The cleaning is done in the following manner. At the end of a row the chest bars are removed, and generally three horses taken out and stood in the hatchway. The side bars of these three stalls are taken out, and the floor thoroughly cleaned out and sprinkled, with gypsum, which absorbs all the ammonia. The manure is hoisted up in baskets to the deck and passed over the side. Then three horses are moved from the row into the cleaned stalls, their stalls cleaned, as above, and the next horses moved down, and so on until the end of the row is reached, when the chest bars are removed and the horses first taken out put in at the end. The side bars have to be taken out as each horse is moved and reinserted, but only the chest bars of the first three and the last three. horses are taken out, no matter what the length of the row. By the foregoing means the whole of the cleaning is expeditiously done-in fact, the whole of the stabling of the 521 horses is cleaned out before half-past seven each morning.


Most of the shippers insure their horses, the usual amount being £20 per horse, which figure is taken over each horse in the shipment. The premium is usually 4 1/2 per cent., which means, a cost of 18s per head.


Occasionally there are numerous losses by death, especially when horses are shipped in unsuitable vessels. Still, given a man who thoroughly understands horses and who exercises every care on the voyage, the loss rarely exceeds 7 1/2 per cent, to 10 per cent. One prominent firm of shippers, after ten years' experience, has never suffered a greater loss than 6 per cent. The principal causes of death are fever, lung complaints, and heat apoplexy. In specially hot weather, when the wind is aft or on the quarter, a ship is often put head to wind, steaming out of her course, so as to cause a draught and by this means thoroughly ventilate the ship.


We are informed by one of the leading shippers that the average cost in Australia of suitable horses this year was £18. To this has to be added the freight, feed, etc., and in a fair-sized shipment this will run from £11 to £12 per head. The average price fixed by the Indian Government is £45, but much higher prices are paid for specially good animals. As stated elsewhere, good horses are often bought for much less in Australia, and it is no uncommon transaction for £100 to be obtained for a good carriage horse in India in private dealings.

(To be continued.)

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