Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rudolph F. Kurz - Journal 2

staying with Herr Kurz and his journal, another bit I want to share with you.
First, a little note he writes about the American horses he saw in Saint Louis early in his adventure:

''During the first 3 months of the year 1848 I painted a number of horses from life.
 I saw them all day long, standing before my window. American horses are bred 
from no particular stock but area product of much cross-breeding. 
They are, on the whole, excellentfor riding but not strong enough for draft horses.
 Indian ponies - dwarfed horses — resemble in many respects the spirited 
but some-what delicate Breton trotters.''

Second, about the backwoods farmers, cattle and horses.. for their wives:

Meanwhile, I made my first acquaintance with the American log cabin and the backwoodsman. The fellow chewed tobacco incessantly, spitting his brown juice right and left. The mother smoked a pipe as she swayed back and forth in a rocking chair, a piece of furniture as indispensable, it seems, as a bed. The log house is built usually with only one room; the huge fireplace serves for kitchen. The entire family and their guests sleep in that room,; its only vestige of ornamentation was found in pieced-together bed coverings called quilts. There is no trace of running water, vegetable gardens, flower gardens, or orchards, and,as compared with ours, the same might be said of their stables and granaries. The people themselves were most friendly and seemed to be contented with their lot, because they were easily satisfied.As to their appearance, they did not look healthy. Even the native-born Americans are not exempt from fever. The freshly broken forest land is by no means salutary for any one. The backwoods-man, therefore, is wont to be a tall, gaunt man with hollow chest and pale, almost ashen, complexion.

The food of these people consists, three times a
day, of black coffee with a bit of brown sugar, fried ham and
hominy (boiled maize), corn bread, and molasses. The children
are very fond of crumbling their corn bread in warm ham gravy.
Although they possessed cows and chickens, milk and eggs were
a rarity in winter.The backwoodsman seemed not to have the least
idea of stall feeding; it was far too much trouble for him to
arrange, particularly in the depths of the forest. Furthermore, he
cared too little about cattle to put himself to the inconvenience of
giving them the necessary attention; consequently, the poor beasts
presented, in winter,a sorry sight, shocking to a native of
Switzerland. At a zigzag fence that enclosed the house lot the cows had
to stand exposed to the wind, snow, and rain. With shoulders and
hoofs thrust forward and their gaunt backs covered with a crust of
snow, half-starved,benumbed with cold, their only possible comfort
the smell of corn nearby, they seemed to me the embodiment of

As excuse for this negligence toward his poor cattle the farmer declared that the beasts were better adapted to the out-of-doors than to stall feeding and, accordingly, Nature had provided especially for them; there was forage enough under the snow. With regard to wild cattle that is, in a way, true, but not when it is a question of domestic annuals.
Every beast loses in instinct in proportion to what it gains by training. The farmer gave a peck of corn more to a cow with a young calf (also, to a sow with a litter of pigs), so that the animals would not stray too far. He accustomed the cow to stay near the house, where she longingly and with bovine patience looked forward to having the corn, that she constantly smelled in the nearby corncrib, at last between her teeth. If she preferred to be independent and wander around for food, not appearing again in the evening, then the farmer went after her and brought her back with a whip and many a "hulloa" and "damn." If this treatment of cattle were confined to the backwoodsman only, it might be explained, for he cannot grow hay in the forest and has to feed his cattle on corn. But the same thing is true in the West: one rarely sees even a well-to-do farmer there who cuts winter forage, and not even then unless he lives near cities or towns, where he can sell the hay at a good price. 

The horses were protected during severe weather for the reason that the backwoodsman's wife was especially fond of horseback riding. "Visiting" — that is, riding around to visit the neighbors — is for the farmer's wife what "shopping" is for the city woman. 

paintings of George Caleb Bingham - from Wikipedia

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rudolph F. Kurz - the journal 1

I have been very interested in the history of the American Indians of the Great Plains, especially during the period of 1630s (when the Plains Apaches started riding the Spanish New Mexico on horseback) to 1868) ( the second Treaty of Fort Laramie).
I especially enjoy the period literature written by the traders, trading companies officials, and mountain men and travellers written during the late XVIII and first half of the XIX century, during the so called Fur Trade period on the Plains.
The Journal of Rudolph F. Kurz belongs to this class of sources, and yet is more unusual than the most, for it was written by an artist who perennially short of funds came to the US via New Orleans, and then worked his way up the the trading posts of the American Fur Trade Company where  lived and worked on the Upper Missouri, drawing the tribal peoples and writing about his life on the Plains ( including working under the boss Edwin Thompson Denig, whose life and work will become the subject of some posts, I hope - via library collection).
The Journal was written in German and finally translated by Myrtis Jarrell and published by Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology   in 1937. The American editor of Kurz's journal  J. N. B. Hewitt wrote in the foreword (Washington 1937) :

Mr. Kurz witnessed a number of historically important events in 
the valley of the Mississippi River. While in this great western 
region he learned much of the final westward migration of the 
Mormon people resulting from the bitter hostility of the white peo- 
ple with whom the Mormons came in contact. 

He likewise witnessed the great rush westward of the money-mad 
to California after the reported discovery of gold there. His com- 
ments on these events are sometimes rather caustic, but they appear 
to be based on his own observations. Mr. Kurz is especially critical 
in his remarks on the causes and the conduct of the Mexican War, 
which had broken out just before he reached this country. 

Mr. Kurz lived at several of the great trading posts of the fur 
companies on the Missouri River, being occupied at times as a clerk, 
especially at Forts Berthold and Union, and so came into direct 
contact with the daily lives of the Indians, of the carefree traders, 
and of the officers of these trading posts. 

It was this intimacy with the private lives of these several classes 
of people which supplied him with the data he so interestingly in- 
corporated in his narrative, since he witnessed conditions which have 
long ago passed into oblivion along with the buffalo. 

At all times he evinced a deep sympathy for the Indians in their 
struggle against the destructive encroachments of the white man, 
and so he willingly excused the Indians for their foibles. 

Maestro Kurz wrote about himself:

[...]from my earliest youth primeval forest and Indians had an in-
describable charm for me. In spare hours I read only those books 
that included descriptions and adventures of the new world; even 
my own beautiful homeland pleased me best in its records of primi- 
tive times, when sturdy shepherds and huntsmen, with their noble 
forms unconcealed — like the "woodmen" in heraldry or the Germans 
of Tacitus — roamed freely in the virgin woods where dwelt the 
aurochs and the stag, the bison and the gazelle, the wild boar and the 
unicorn, the chamois and, what is more, the dragon. Now primeval 
forests exist only in inaccessible mountain fastnesses ; cultivation ex- 
tends even to the snow-capped peaks. Man's habitations spread over 
the whole earth; there are churches and schoolhoiises without num- 
ber; yet where are men found dwelling together in unity? "Where 
does sober living prevail? Or contentment? I longed for unknown 
lands, where no demands of citizenship would involve me in the 
vortex of political agitations. I longed for the quietude of imme- 
morial woods where no paupers mar one's delight in beauty, where 
neither climate, false modesty, nor fashion compels concealment of 
the noblest form in God's creation ; where there is neither overlord- 
ship of the bourgeois nor the selfishness of the rich who treasure 
their wealth in splendid idleness, while the fine arts languish. 

When I was allowed to devote myself to painting, those longings 
became all the more intense for the reason that, from the moment 
I determined to become an artist, my life purpose was fixed : I would 
devote my talents to the portrayal of the aboriginal forests, the wild 
animals that inhabited them, and to the Indians. From that mo- 
ment I had an ideal — a definite purpose in life to the attainment of 
which I might dedicate all my powers. To depict with my brush 
the romantic life of the American Indian seemed to me a subject 
worthy of the manifold studies I was to undertake. In fact, the 
comprehensiveness of the plan proved my greatest difficulty, because, 
in the study of art, landscape and animals require each a special 
training that is only little less important than that demanded for the 
representation of human beings. Many years would be required of 
me, if I was to attain to mastery in a single one of these subjects. 
Nevertheless, my enthusiasm for art, my perseverance and untiring 
patience — self-will, as this trait is often named — gave me fair hopes 
of realizing my aims. 

I spent 12 years in preparation for my professional tour. Dur- 
ing that time I had wavered between this country and that in trying 
to make up my mind which would be the best field for my work. 
It was not merely a question as to which zone afforded the most
luxuriant landscape and the greatest variety of wild animals, but, 
above all else, which country afforded, also, the most perfect type 
of primitive man; for, as my studies progressed, my ideals became 
more exacting, my aims more lofty : I aspired to attain to the excel- 
lence of antique art — yes, still more, to equal Raphael's master works. 
Accordingly, it was no longer my purpose to portray the Indian 
as an end in itself but to employ that type as a living model in the 
portrayal of the antique. Baron Alexander von Humboldt, whom 
I had the honor to meet in Paris in 1839, recommended Mexico as 
the country above all others that would serve my purpose best. 
The lofty Cordilleras, the luxuriant vegetation of the tropics, the 
Comanche Indians, the buffalo, etc., were all there together— un- 
surpassed in any other geographical zone. In Brazil and in Suri- 
nam, it is true, vegetation was much more abundant, but, on the 
other hand, the wild animals were less varied in kind and the In- 
dians not so finely formed. Furthermore, the North American In- 
dian, inasmuch as he has to exert himself to a greater degree for his 
livelihood, has far more intelligence and energy than his southern 

In 1839 I decided in favor of Mexico and, so eager was my desire 
for travel, I would have set out thither at once had not my friend 
Karl Bodmer restrained me with his good advice. He wisely urged 
me not to be in too great haste, but first to become so practiced in 
the drawing of natural objects and in the true representation of 
animals and of mankind that the matter of technique would no 
longer offer the least difficulty. Then I should be able to discern 
quickly the natural characteristics peculiar to the region in question 
and to portray the forms with facility and ease. It is an undoubted 
fact that, when one has to labor painfully with drawing, perspective, 
and the combining of colors while sketching or painting an object or 
scene, life and action suffer thereby. One must have a practiced 
hand and an experienced eye to be able to indicate with a few swift 
strokes the preeminent characteristics of an object, which he can 
keep in mind upon painting the same or else recover always with 
ease. The ability merely to make sketches would not avail me. I 
must devote myself to prolonged study in art. 

Regarding the so called scientific aspect of the journal Kurz said:

No scientific de-scriptions of natural life, as studies of mine, will be found 
therein. That work has been admirably done by recognized scientists such as
 Audubon, Prince Neu Wied, and others. My pictorial representations are more
 complete, more accurate in so far as the animals are portrayed together with
 the terrain that offers the best setting for them, and the Indians are 
represented not only in their ceremonial garb but also in the dress of 
everyday life. An artist depicts but one moment of an action, though there 
may be many more ideas as well as descriptions of habits and customs 
that, while not suitable to his purpose, are interesting and justify an 
account of the whole action. On the other hand, the pictorial delineation
is supposed to be a clearer, more complete picture than the most perfect
description in words. 

The task as he saw it:

My chief task in this work was to give from my own observation 
a sincere portrayal of the American Indian in his romantic mode of life,
true representation of the larger fur-bearing animals and of 
the native forests and prairies. The pictures are intended to be true 
to nature but chosen from the standpoint of the picturesque and de- 
picted in an aesthetic manner. They are intended to satisfy natural- 
ists as well as artists, to broaden the knowledge of the layman and 
serve at the same time to cultivate his taste. 

Armed with pencil and brushes and his enthusiasm messer Kurz set out from Bern, Switzerland and arrived in Louisiana in December 1846, and so his American adventure began...
In the coming weeks I hope to include here some of the Kurz's description of the Plains people and their horse culture, including the drawings. All the text and drawings come from the 1937 publication available on
the drawing above -  it perhaps shows the artist himself during his life on the Plains, with an 'Indian pony'

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Polish Winged hussar - a toy soldier

when I was a boy there were very few toy soldiers one could play with that were related to our Polish Commonwealth history (perhaps our Communist overlords did not envision too much glory to the noble cavalry).

 So there were several different winged hussars made from various plastic and rubber materials, but nothing really fancy and durable, and now these figures are a collector items in Poland (eg 1, 2, 3) .
For some years I have been buying for my son various quasi historical figurines  from Schleich, Papo and some others.
Now, my friend and great artist, Grzegorz 'ducz' Kupiec, has been sculpting figurine toys for the toy company from Poland named Tissotoys.

Some of these figurines are clear representation of our  Polish (and Czech, like the immortal Krecik- Krtek) most famous  children films or comics characters, and he always wanted to have some Polish knights and winged hussars.

but the figurine line also includes a growing number of historical toys also designed to be used as toys by children and ... adults alike  :) .  The historical figurines thus far  are: pan Zagloba, colonel of dragoons, Zaporozhian Cossak (based on the principal characters from Henryk Sienkiewicz's 'Trylogy') and a winged hussar.

My most favourite, obviously,  is this figurine of a winged hussar:

I hope the museum shops in the States, like  the MET, Chicago, or Philadelphia where Polish winged hussar armours and weaponry are held, will be selling them to children.
 The company plans to have 'ducz' sculpt more hussars and other Polish historical figurines from various periods - from the Medieval knights to World War II toys soldiers. I do hope so.  I am more than certain that 'duch' will deliver many more great figurines, to the utmost delight of children and collectors.

please note I do not own the rights to these photos and the Tissotoy company kindly allowed me to show them to you on my blog.

also, do note that I have no financial interest in this company nor I was approached to write this little entry. I am simply happy to see these fine figurines enter the children toy market, and additionally I am going to buy some for my own children (ok, and for myself as well).

Monday, October 6, 2014


Salve friends and fellow travellers,
back to blogging after a hiatus of sorts, in Septemebr I spent some time visiting quite a few late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches and other monuments in Mazowsze(Masovia) and old Ziemia Sieradzko-Łęczycka.
I photographed several funerary monuments, with some nice XVI century knightly armour depicted.

 I did some horse riding and just playing with a horse or two while in Poland, thanks to a fine horse woman Magda and ... my niece Pati.

I did not do much sketching or painting during (getting injured in a mountain biking marathon race did not help either), I admit, for being the parent of a little 5 months old baby and a  13 years old teenager your time is being all eaten up :)
 Per drawings some quick sketches:
after Gorelik-McBride (from 1 watercolour sketch on a light weight paper

 2 a ball pen with some digital color

 3 one with coloured BiC ball pens

 4 sketched with a ball pen and digital colour

.And a concept sketch of a Parthian after the rock carving from Tang-e-Sarvak

well, until the next time, perhaps tomorrow

Polish team of horse archers, Michał Sanczenko et  Anna Sokólska et al, went to
 Korea - good luck to all horse archers taking part in this competition as it is taking place right now!  Here a fantastic horse archer and horse breeder from Iran, Ali Goorchian, in a video  from Malaysia.

Monday, September 8, 2014

500 Years of the Battle of Orsza AD 1514 - a woodcut from Bielski's Chronicle of Poland

Marcin Bielski, Prawdzic coat of arms (1405-1575) who was a Polish nobleman, soldier and prolific XVI century author in Jagellonian Poland (union of Crown of Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania under a king from the Jagiellonian Dynasty),  wrote and then published the first history of Poland entirely in Polish language, titled ''Kronika Polska Marcina Bielskiego'' (Marcin Bielski's Chronicle of Poland) (part of the 'Kronika Świata' - Chronicle of the Universe).
 The book was published with some woodcuts within the text. Joachim Bielski, son of Marcin, continued his father's work and published updated version in 1597 - eg a digital version from the Jagiellonian University library.

One woodcut illustration shows the battle of Orsza(Orsha), a pitched battle fought between the forces of Jagiellonian Poland and Grand Duchy of Muscovy,  And today, Septemeber 8 2014,  is the 500 years anniversary of that famous battle, however the official media in the Republic of Poland (Rzeczypospolita) are quite silent on the subject - how sad ! Perhaps there is more in the Lithuanian, Ukrainian or Belorussian media?
We all share a common history with one another, albeit the Lithuanian government, member and signatory of EU treaties on minorities etc) has been discriminating against the Polish minority in Lithuania in breach of international law, EU laws and agreements with the Republic of Poland. 
 Ruthenian prince and hetman Konstanty Ostrogski, Ostrogski coat of arms, was the victor of this engagement, worth noting that the  was one of the most important and successful Jagiellonian Poland commanders.

Polish National Museum holds a famous painting showing the very battle.
This Northern Renaissance painting is a veritable mine of information on the early XVI century Polish and presumably Grand Duchy  of Lithuania military - including the early winged hussars who played not a small role in this decisive engagement on the Dnieper River (interestingly there were all together 3 battles fought in the Orsza vicinity and all victories of Polish-Lithuanian forces.

Orsza battle AD 1514 has not been a subject of many works of art in the past, for some reason the battle was forgotten, and it was not a subject of literary works of fiction, sadly and generally speaking our Polish Jagiellonian XVI century, the great Golden Age in Poland's history, has not been subject of novels nor films (but for a handful of TV films on the famous international figures like Mikołaj (Nicolas) Kopernik and queen Bona Sforza).
Portal has an article on the painting by Józef Męcina-Krzesz, painted circa 1884, on the subject of Orsza battle. The original painting can be found in Równe in Wolyń (Volhynia), today's Ukraine.  The painting was published in a form of woodcut in old Polish art magazine Kłosy in 1885. A detail  of the woodcut here.

Gaited Horses in Fiore's Manuals - very interesting take on the fighting manual's various illustrations showing mounted combat and use of gaited horses in Medieval combat - very worth your while.
And an intro to ambling horse in history - here . By the way I really love riding amblers/pacers like Paso Finos or various American breeds.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dzianety in Cracovia - Jan III AD 1676

In Polish, translation to follow soon, about the horses and horse tack of Jan III and his entourage in 1676:

W roku Pańskim 1676 sekretarz króla Jana III pan Cossimo Brunetti  (zmarły 1678) napisał raport to księcia Kosma (Cosimo) III Medyceusza opisujący uroczysty wjazd Jana III Sobieskiego i jego koronacje w Królewskim Mieście Krakowie.

In 1676 Brunetti Cosimo (d. 1678), secretary to our king Jan III Sobieski, wrote a report to duke Cosimo III d'Medici - the subject matter being the Jan III ceremonial entry into the royal city of Kraków and his crowning there :

''Szły za temi cztery chorągwie usarzów ; każda o 200. 
koni, to jest : z 60. towarzyszów szlachty, z których każdy 
miał dwóch lob trzech pocztowych. Próżna byłaby praca 
opowiadać okazałość i piękność rycerstwa tego; mówić 
bowiem, o zbrojach jego, o wysokich kopiach z długiemi 
charągiewkami, o tygrysich ich skórach, pysznych koniach, 
kalbakach, rzędach, strzemionach, cuglach od złota, haftów 
i drogich kamieni, byłoby to przyćmić ich piękność. Jest 
to jazda jakiej niema na świecie; żywości i przepycha, 
bez widzenia własnemi oczyma, pojąć niepodobna. 

Po usarzach jechała szlachta przepysznie ubrana na 
dzielnych dżanetach. Tyle ich było, iż sami dziwowali się 
 ''Okazał się nakoniec Król Jmć na dzielnym rumaku; 
rzęd jego okryty dyamentami. Król Jmć miał na sobie 
szubę niebieską przetykamą złotem i srebrem, podszytą so- 
bolami, żupan na dnie pąsowem, przetykany złotem z gu-
zami dyameotowemi , i spięciem z dużych dyamentów i 
karbankułu, tak wielkiem,' jak podobnego niema w Europie; 
przy kołpaku z kokardą dyamentową, były trzy perły nie- 
widzianej wielkości, z których wychodziło kilka czarnych 
piór czaplich. W około końca szło mnóstwo paziów bo- 
gato po Francuzku ubranych, i 24 lokajów ubranych po 
persku  w kolory tak dobrane, tak bogate, iż oczy wabiły. 
[..] iż się zdawało, że się już kalwakada skończyła; 
gdy raptem pokazało się trzynaście koni, prowadzonych 
jeden za drugim , przyodzianych w drogie, złociste, szyte 
perłami i drogiemi kamieniami tyftyki; trzynasty koń miał 
rzęd, kulbakę, strzemiona, cugle, pistolety, olstra, szable, 
czekan ze stali, tak sztucznie i misternie robionej, iż Książe 
Toskański, niema w galeryi, ni na dworze swoim artystów, 
którzyby co podobnego wypracować mogli. ''
Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, Zbior pamietnikow Tom V 
CNN article on the American wild horse aka mustang  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Eagle of king Władysław IV Waza - repost

 per my project White Eagle I have been scanning the digital libraries for images of eagles in Polish art prior to 1795. In my opinion the most beautiful Polish eagles appeared in the Baroque art.

While looking for some works of Samuel Twardowski I found a very nice image of our Eagle.

 This White Eagle in the Baroque setting shows itself beautifully in a woodcut from the Jesuit  father Adam Makowski's published sermon said on the occasion of Polish Crown victory during the  the Polish-Muscovite War of 1632-34, where the genius of king Władysław IV Wasa (Vasa) shone its brightest..
This published sermon has a very nice long, Baroque name  -''Nadzieia Swięta Sczęśliwey Expedycyey Moskiewskiey y Zwycięstwa [...] Władysława IV.: Przy Łzach Wesołych Na Obrazie Naświętszey Panny w Myślenicach nowo widzianych.''(AD1634)
Please find the title page from the said publication

There is a famous 1634 map engraved by Willem Hondius studio after the drawings of royal military engineer Jan  Pleitner (done in situ),   showing this Polish victory.
 Nota bene the engraved coper plates survived the winds of war and destruction of time and are held in Sankt Petersburg Fine Arts Academy museum. We had some discussion about the Polish cavalry images from the map and Hondius/Pleinter on Kadrinazi blog.
I will bring some images from this monumental map in the future, as they hold very interesting information about horse care etc while at war.
 I added some color to show the king's coat of arms more clearly

accidents happen - while organizing my blog I accidentally deleted this entry, hence here it is again, a bit enhanced

Łęczyca - XVI Royal Castle Tournament

our not so glorious summer is coming to an end, not at least because of the weirdest weather in central and northern Europe and eastern US - it has been cold and rainy during most of this month of August. Must be global warming...

Ad rem, continuing with the chivalry tradition the Łęczyca Royal Castle was again the site of medieval and renaissance reenactment fair and knightly tournament (16th already), and if you are on the Web you could view,  I hope from your comfortable seat, several  nicely done  films recording events that took place this past weekend.
General overview - including hawking, landsknechts, target archery,  horse archery and flag jugglers.
Horse dressage
Knights - reenactment of the knightly tournament.
also some photos from the opening ceremony  and closing.
 Some sketches of mine, loose subjects, from Balkan Turkish delil, nomadic, Tang China to just playing with digital medium:


70 years ago, 19-21 August 1944 the soldiers of the 1st Polish Armoured Division,  in the tradition of Polish winged hussars et al fighting at Zbaraż or Hodów,  successfully fought and won the battle of Mont Ormel Ridge.  Nice article in Polish - title aptly 'The Victory of the Armoured Winged Hussars.' My own grandpa Wincent, in war since September 1939 or the German attack on Poland, took part in the Operation Burza during that eventful summer.


Friday, August 22, 2014

South African Horses - Horace Hayes

back to English :) - but I am planning to write an entry or two in Spanish - on winged hussars :) -
Ad rem, my favorite XIX century British horse writer M. Horace Hayes travelled extensively and widely during the Victorian era, and after his military career  he travelled around the globe studying and breaking (gentling) horses.
Captain Hayes wrote about his horse adventures and observations in many books, perhaps the most important and longest lasting being his book "Points of Horse," but for the purposes of this 'chain' of entries also "Among Men and Horses " and perhaps couple more works may be quoted etc.

Cpt Hayes wrote a bit about the South African horses, from his experiences of  riding them and observing these horses and horse practices in the British South Africa before and during the 2nd Boer War. In this part of the entries I am posting quotations about Cpt Hayes's observations and quotations on the history of horse breeding in South Africa, fodder, coach travel etc.

In the chapter titled "Colonial* Horses' of his treatise 'Points of Horse' our horseman tells us that:
''My first introduction to Cape horses was in the early
sixties, when I was a subaltern in an Indian field battery.
Throughout the fifties, the Cape Stud Department, which
was under the control of that good horseman. Colonel
Apperly, furnished a large number of very useful remounts
to the Indian Army; but soon after the Mutiny, the supply
dwindled down almost to vanishing point. To judge by
the remainder which I saw and by a couple I owned,
they were remarkably hardy and wiry animals, and were
up to a fair amount of weight ; although somewhat under-
sized (about 15 h) and rather plain about the head and
croup. They were certainly well adapted for campaigning
in India, on account of their having been bred in a dry
and warm climate. This type of Cape horse is now prac-
tically extinct. The thick-set Transvaal gelding shown in
Fig. 499 is, however, a near approach to it''

Then he goes to say that:                           
 ''We should
here bear in mind 'that in South Africa there are few
districts suitable for the breeding of valuable horses, and
that the horse-breeders of that part of the world are,
during the spring, summer and autumn, beset by the
danger of " horse sickness." This disease and want of
water are the two great banes of horse-breeding there ;
and the inordinate dryness of the country greatly reduces
the supply of fodder and the amount of arable land.
Also, the indigenous locusts have an unpleasant custom
of eating up every green thing during their frequent
Nearly all the grass in South Africa is natural ; " tem-
porary " and '' permanent " pastures being comparatively
unknown. Consequently, on the grazing grounds there is
a very large admixture of weeds and deleterious herbs.
Therefore the Cape horse, which has existed for many
generations under this condition of pasture, has acquired
the useful ability of being able to distinguish good grass
from noxious herbage. If he is turned out on the veldt
with several new arrivals from foreign lands, there will
be no difficulty in recognising the native equine product
from the others, by the peculiar way he grazes ; because,
instead of eating the plants as they come, he plucks his
favourite grasses in small tufts, here and there, at com-
paratively wide intervals of space. This faculty of
selecting proper food on the veldt is undoubtedly the
chief cause which made him the best campaigner during
the late Boer war.''
''The Dutch East India Company appears to have founded
the race of Cape horses towards the end of the seventeenth
century by the importation of Barbs and Gulf Arabs.
Mr. Duncan Hutcheon, who is the Colonial Veterinary
Surgeon, tells us in his interesting pamphlet, Military
Horses and Hoiv to Breed Them, that " in 1792 eight stud-
horses were imported from England. They are believed
to have been of the early English roadster breed. In the
same year, five stud-horses arrived from Boston, and the
following year a number of horses and mares were brought
from the New England States, and are described as of
Spanish or Eastern blood. In addition to these, in March,
1807, during the Peninsular War, two French vessels were
captured at the Cape, containing some Spanish horses
en route to Buenos Ayres for breeding purposes. It is
said that from these were obtained the blue and red roans
which were considered by the colonists as so valuable
for their great power of endurance. ... It was in
1813, however, that the dawn of a new era in horse-breeding
commenced at the Cape. In that year Lord Charles
Somerset was appointed Governor of the colony, and soon
after his arrival he directed his attention to the improve-
ment of the Cape horse by means of the English thorough-
bred, and during his term of office he imported a con-
siderable number of first-class thorough-breds, both stallions
and mares. During the three following decades, first-class
thorough-breds continued to be imported by the leading
horse-breeders of the Western Province, and the male
progeny of these were distributed all over the colony as
stud horses. It was after these importations had im-
pressed their character and qualities on the native-bred
stock — from 1840 to 1860 — that the Cape horse reached
the highest stage of perfection which it has ever attained.
It was during the latter part of this period that large
consignments of horses were shipped to India, which
earned for the Cape horse such a high reputation with the
Indian authorities."
''The decay of horse-breeding at the Cape, which began
about forty years ago, was considerably hastened by the
importation of weedy and worthless English thorough-
breds, few of which I venture to think cost more than
£50. At the same time, some of the Cape breeders, like
Mr. Hilton Barber and Mr. Alec Robertson of Storm-
fontein, employed good thorough-bred sires, and bred
animals that were able to hold their own on the Turf
against imported English race-horses. Like other dry
countries (Arabia and India for instance), South Africa
possesses the great advantage, from a horse-breeding
point of view, that its equine produce hardly ever suffer
from that form of laryngeal paralysis which is commonly
termed " roaring," even when their dams and sires are
'' musical." Hence the fact of a sire being wrong in his
wind is of little detriment to his stud career in that
country. The noisy Belladrum and the still more obstre-
perous Candlemas, who was own brother to St. Blaise, are
cases in point.''
''Mr. Mellish, whom I have the pleasure of knowing,
has imported several high-class Cleveland bays and Hack-
neys for crossing with South African mares, and may
probably be successful in producing fashionable trappers
by their means; but such an admixture of blood would be
useless for saddle purposes, if we may judge by the result
of similar experiments which have been tried in India. ''

''At present, the vast majority of South African horses
might be fairly classed as ponies, from an English polo-
pony point of view. Their blood is so mixed that it is
impossible to divide them into distinctive classes, according
to the districts in which they are bred. Of course I here
refer to the ordinary South African horse or pony, which-
ever name we may hke to give him ; and not to thorough-
breds specially intended for racing, or the produce of
recent foreign crosses. The South African as a rule is
hardy, docile, sound, capable of standing a great deal
of hard work, but is somewhat lacking in speed. Although
his want of size and substance put him altogether out of
the hunter class or the misfit hunter class, from which
the English cavalry trooper is obtained, he makes a very
useful hack, and an admirable mounted-infantry remount.
His deficiency of blood and the semi-starvation diet which
he has had to endure for several generations, unfit him as
a rule for high-class polo.''
''The best horse-breeding districts I have seen in South
Africa are those of Colesberg in the Eastern Province,
and of the Mooi River in Natal. ''
Captain Hayes goes to elaborate about his further personal and very close experiences with the South African colonial horses when
''during a horse-breaking tour which I made through South 
Africa in 1891-92, I had excellent opportunities of studying the 
horses of Cape Colony, Orange River Colony, the Transvaal, 
and Natal; for I broke in many scores of them, and was
asked to judge horses at several agricultural shows which
were held, while I was staying in that country. During
1901 [during the 2nd Boer War], I had the pleasure of renewing 
my acquaintancewith these animals on two occasions 
when I went out to the Cape in veterinary charge of remounts,
and of taking the photographs which illustrate these pages.''
 Now we will cross over to ''Among Men and Horses'' where Cpt hayes tell us about his arrival and about the manner of his travel in South Africa :

''As the journey from Kimberley to Johannesburg, where
I had arranged to go, was rough and costly, I thought
it best to leave my wife at Kimberley, where we had several
pleasant friends, and to attack the Randt alone. After a
wearisome journey of two nights and a day in a most un-
comfortable train service, I arrived in Kronstadt, which is a
small town in the Orange Free State, and had then to travel
twenty-four hours in a coach before arriving at Johannesburg,
the capital of the gold fields. 

The coaching in South Africa is of a primitive kind, and
would not commend itself to old Charlie Ward, or even to
his son Frank. Yet for all that it admirably accomplishes
its purpose. There are no roads either to speak of, or to see.
After saying that the country is an open one and not fenced
in, I have praised the 'going' as far as I may truthfully
venture. The coach is of the old American backwoods sort,
is hung on leather springs, and is capable of holding twelve
closely-packed inside passengers, with a few less hampered
ones outside. Having to be very strong to resist the terrible
jolts it receives on its cross-country travels, it is heavy,
and as the cattle are either weedy ponies, or small mules,
their individual deficiency in pulling power has to be made
up by an increase in their numbers. Consequently, a team
of ten or a dozen has to do the work of four or six ordinary
horses. These animals are harnessed two by two, with one
pair of reins for the leaders, and another for the wheelers.
The intermediate pairs follow the leaders and do not require
any special guidance. The man who holds the reins is an
unconsidered cypher. The driver, who is the ornamental
man of the show, amuses himself with a light fifteen foot
pole, from the end of which hangs a long thong, finished
off with a lash of gemsbok raw hide. This sportsman prides
himself on the dexterity with which he can manipulate this
funny-looking whip, and has more tricky ways of ' catching '
and ' double thonging ' than ever entered into the mind of
even poor Jim Selby. With this flail he can reach either the
near or off leader, and can, if he likes, cut ' chunks ' out of
any of his team. He is, however, supposed to show his
skill less by punishment, than by describing figures in the
air with the thong, and by shrieking in a peculiarly terrifying
manner at his horses. Besides the fifteen-footer, he carries
a kind of magnified dog-whip for the special benefit of the
wheelers. The third and last person of the coaching show
is the guard, whose business is to take tips, tell the passengers
yarns, and induce them to patronise the halting-place shanties,
at which he is on the free list for food and drink.''
''The ponies, or horses, if I may dignify them by that term,
are admirable workers for their weight, and will trot along
merrily and pull gamely up hill and down dale over bad
ground, a stage of twelve miles, once, and sometimes twice a
day. Their sole food is Indian corn, oat hay, and any grass
they can pick up on the veldt. The ' mealies ' are given in a
dry state, whole or crushed, or after having been soaked over
night in water. The oat hay, or ' forage ' as it is called,
consists of oats which have been cut before the grains in the
ears have lost all their milky character, and which have been
dried in the sun like ordinary hay. If the ears were allowed
to ripen more than I have stated, the grains would become
so much loosened that they would fall out of the ears on
too slight provocation to bear transit, or ordinary handling.
This ' forage ' is an excellent food. Although I have used
a good deal of it with horses when I lived in Calcutta, to
which city it is often brought from Australia, where it is
known as oat hay, in steamers that are loaded with horses,
I am unable to decide whether or not it would be a good
substitute for English hay. Anyhow, it is a valuable adjunct
or change to a horse's food. It is sometimes used in
England during years in which there is scarcity of ordinary
to be continued
Original spelling in quoted passages
*  British Empire prior to 1945
Battle of Falaise Gap took place 70 years ago and our Polish Armoured Cavalry fought and attained  immortal glory in this decisive engagement during the battle of Normandy 1944. Let us remember and hope that Europeans would stop fighting one another,  eg the present and terrible war in Ukraine. 

Karol Szajnocha - Kopia Husarska

today's entry in Polish :) - a short story about winged hussar 'kopia' (lance) written by a Polish XIX century historian Karol Szajnocha.

Polski historyk, bibliotekarz, badacz źródeł, literat i patriota wielkiej miary mości pan Karol Szajnocha opublikował artykuł o kopii husarskiej et husarii  (oryginalnie wydane w tomie II 'Dzieł' we Lwowie - nakładem Karola Wilda w drukarni E. Winiarza w 1857 roku)
...oto cały tekst z edycji 'Dzieł' (via wydanej w Warszawie w 1877 roku:






Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cheval de frise

at least since the Middle Ages infantry used various portable devices to protect themselves from the numerous cavalry, especially shock cavalry. A device known by a French name - cheval de frise - was quite effective against cavalry and was used whenever possible, eventually crossing  over to the Americas, and the US armies used this device as well, from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War.

In Polish military history, since we mainly used cavalry to attack and destroy the enemy in a pitched battle, there are instances when our enemies employed cheval de frise, caltrops, or both, along with artillery, muskets and pikes, eg battle of Gniew, battle of Kliszow - where winged hussars were stopped and prevented from securing a potential victory because the enemies used the defensive portable devices.
At Klushino the cheval de frise ('kobylice' or 'ostrostawidła' - names according to a XVII century Polish military engineer and architect  Józef Naronowicz-Naroński) failed to stop our winged hussars.

Since there are historical sources describing the device then I am going to take the opportunity afforded by the digital library collections via google books and to quote a rather late depiction of this defensive infantry tool precisely depicting a cheval de frise as used in the early XIX century.

''A treatise on the science of war and fortification: composed for the use of the Imperial Polytechnick School, and military schools ; and translated for the War Department, for the use of the Military Academy of the United States : to which is added a summary of the principles and maxims''
written by Simon François Gay de Vernon (baron & Napoleonic army colonel, published in France in 1805) translated by John Michael O'Connor,United States Military Academy.
Printed by J. Seymour, New York 1817

vol I- p 294-295
'Before the use of artillery, great quantities of chevaux de frise were carried in the train of armies, and they were then, as in our days, used for several purposes; especially to cover parts of fronts of battle, and shelter them from the assaults of a numerous cavalry. The infantry likewise used them as a moveable intrenchment that was always ready at hand. Nowa-days, the chevaux de frise that are carried along with the artillery train, are of little other use than to close up the outlets and gorges of enclosed works, destroy fords, etc.
The cheval de frise is composed of an hexagonal beam 20 to 30 decimetres (6 3/4 to 10 feet) long, and 20 by 20 centimetres (8 inches). On the six sides or faces 33 stakes called lances, are fixed, and are 15 decimetres (5 feet) long, and in thickness not exceeding 5 by 5 centimetres (2 inches); they are shod with iron. Each beam has its extremities furnished with an iron, ring, from which a chain is extended with two eyes and furnished with a T. This chain serves to unite together all the chevaux de frise, and form one whole of parts difficult to separate.
Chevaux de frise are made of white wood, with a view to render them light. The total weight of one, including the lances, is 63 kilogrammes (abuut 120 lbs. Eng.). We have already seen that openings or passages should be left in the least exposed parts of intrenchments, either for the movements of troops, or lor communicating with the country without. These passages are closed in various modes, but most frequently with particular chevaux de frise, or by barriers. These obstructions are used at all posts, and are prepared by the troops to prevent surprise, This kind of cheval de frise, although a little complex, may be made by the common workmen found in every village. The description therefore of this work, forms part of those elements of fortification in which it is proper to instruct the young officer of the line, so that he may be able to conduct the essential defences of a post.
The body of the cheval de frise intended for closing an outlet, is 30 to 35 decimetres (10 to 12 feet) long, and 25 by 25 centimetres (10 inches) thick: when fixed, the diagonal of the section perpendicular to the axis, is vertical. It is sufficient to bristle it with lances set square on the 4 faces, or we may cut the beam into 6 faces or sides. The lances are set in grooves with iron bolts or heavy nails, and clasped with iron, the better to fix them to the body of the cheval. To make this machine moveable, one of the ends is cut and a hole of 10 centimetres (4 inches) is bored in it, to pass through the rounded head of one of the fixed upright posts. To support the other end of the cheval and give it an interior rotary motion, it is left of the rectangular form for a length of 30 centimetres (1 foot), and on the two upper faces four spindles (fuseaux) are set two by two in the same vertical plane and perpendicular to the axis of the body. These are fixed and strongly bolted, and joined together underneath by a cross piece. The two horizontal cross pieces are 15 centimetres (6 inches) apart; they are crossed in the middle by a bolt with a trundle. This trundle or wheel bears the whole weight of the cheval de frise, and traverses upon a circular timber fixed in the ground. This same end of the cheval lies against the second upright post, and is fixed to it by a bolt or other means.'

original spelling of the 1817 edition

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Some links & sketches

so ends the month of July, and on this day falls the birthday of my favourite French actor Louis de Funes, whom I think I saw once riding an equid in his movies, it was a mule.
Well, wherever you are, happy birthday maitre Louis :)

Amongst my old sketches I finally took picture of the whole sketch I did some years back, it was an idea for a graphic story that never went anywhere.

Of course I am sketching the Persians
Saka nomad saddles of I millennium
added a few touches to this Turkish deli
some concept sketches of Slavic warriors & horses of the X and XI centuries
( the first one after a drawing done by a Polish artist Andrzej Klein, author of the fantastic drawings for the monumental work on the Grunwald battle 1410 titled 'Bateria Apud Grunwald')

the last sketch after a drawing by a Polish great story teller and artist Szymon Kobylinski
And finally several articles to read
by Bruno Overlaet - on Sassanian kingship via Naqsh-i-Rustam and Taq-i-Bostan
Marek Jan Olbrycht - Parthian Military strategy at Wars Against Rome
Leonardo Gregoratti - on Palmyrenes and Arsacids (Parthia)
Marian Feldman - on chariots in the late Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean and Near East.