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Horses – Breeding to Colour; Thoroughbreds, Hackneys, and Shires, by Sir Walter Gilbey

March 23, 2011

When I look at this book, I cannot believe it is almost 100 years old. My copy of Horses – Breeding to Colour; Thoroughbreds, Hackneys, and Shires, by Sir Walter Gilbey (second edition, 1912) is in very good condition. The cover looks really good, with golden gilt text and image of a horse. It is now protected with a mylar cover.

Known by horsemen all over the world, Sir Walter Gilbey was author of numerous books on horses. He was also a wine merchant (whose company W. & A. Gilbey eventually developed and sold the gin with the same name) and philanthropist. He became well known as a breeder of shire horses (which are the largest of draft horses, called by medieval writers the ‘Great Horse’). He did much to improve the breed of English horses in general. He became president of the Shire Horse Society, of the Hackney Horse Society, and of the Hunters Improvement Society (now called Sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain), and he was the founder and chairman of the London Cart Horse Parade Society.

In the preface to the second edition, Gilbey writes,

“Horses, and other domestic animals, can be bred to colour, but only within limits.

Few combinations of different colours in sire and dam can be depended on to produce a foal of a given colour, for in no quality is there greater tendency to ‘throw back’ to an ancestor than colour.

In the following pages an attempt is made to explain the different colours in Horses and the reasons for the increasing frequency of some colours and the decrease of others.” (Eisenham Hall, Essex, April, 1912)

Although this book is now available in print-on-demand, showing its worthiness as a subject, I would recommend this original version, which is a beautiful and fascinating look at horse breeding. There are numerous really nice black and white illustrations and photographs of various horses to support the text. The more I look at the book, the more beautiful I think it is. Please contact me if you’d like to know more.

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