Foxhunting Life with Horse and Hound



How Domestication Has Changed the Horse's Genes


The course of civilization was profoundly altered by the domestication of the horse on the steppes of Eurasia some 5,500 years ago. Merchants, soldiers, explorers, and adventurers of all stripes—newly empowered by the horse to gallop rather than walk—expanded trade, warfare, migration of populations, and the transmission of ideas.

To understand the genetic changes wrought by the domestication process, researchers have long wanted to compare the genes of today’s horses to those of ancient wild horses. Since no descendants of the latter have survived, scientists until recently have studied the Przewalski's horse, the closest extant breed to those ancient horses.

Now, discovery of horses frozen in the Siberian permafrost dating from 16,000 up to 43,000 years ago has given scientists a direct window into the ancient horse and has offered new insights into the process of domestication. Ludovic Orlando of the Natural History Museum of Denmark and his team have examined DNA from twenty-nine of these ancient bones and compared it to DNA from five modern domesticated breeds.

They discovered that some genes present in today’s horses are totally absent from the ancient horses. They opine that these genes are mutations that resulted from the selection processes over the years. One such gene not found in the ancient horse is what they have called the short-distance speed gene present in every racehorse.

The very process of domestication—the selection by humans on attributes such as strength, speed, and biddability—has by its very nature led to inbreeding. Over the five millennia since domestication began, genetic mutations not present in the ancient horses have introduced problems in the modern horse unknown to its wild ancestors.

Some scientists not involved in this study believe that comparison of modern horse DNA to wild horse DNA from around the time that domestication started (about 5,500 years ago) would be a better baseline from which to understand the genetic changes caused by domestication.

Click to see Sharon Begley’s Reuters article in the Christian Science Monitor and the accompanying video.

Posted December 17, 2014

Anti-Horse-Carriage Lobby Group Fined


NYCLASS, a group that has lobbied intensively to ban horse drawn carriages from the streets of New York City, has agreed to pay a fine for violating campaign finance rules. The group has admitted to making illegal contributions last year to two City Council candidates, both of whom were elected.

Earlier this year, the Daily News disclosed that a political consultant for NYCLASS threatened to undermine Christine Quinn’s mayoral campaign if she didn’t back the carriage horse ban. In April, 2013, Quinn, who was leading her opponent—the now Mayor de Blasio—in the polls at the time, refused to back the ban. NYCLASS responded by contributing more than $400,000 to a PAC formed by NYCLASS’s political consultant to carry out the “Anybody But Quinn” campaign. Records also show that two of de Blasio’s top financial supporters gave $225,000 to NYCLASS.

With Mayor de Blasio now having sent proposed legislation to ban the carriages to the New York City Council, that body—which includes the two successful candidates who received illegal funds from NYCLASS—will be deciding on the fate of the horse carriages and their drivers. De Blasio said on Tuesday that he intends to personally lobby City Council members to pass the ban.

Dirty business, all under the syrupy guise of “Free the Horses; Stop the Abuse.”

Posted December 12, 2014

NYC Mayor to Introduce Horse Carriage Legislation


NYC Mayor de Blasio hasn’t forgotten his promise to ban horse drawn carriages from the streets of New York City. He has waited a full year since his election, but now, according to, de Blasio plans to introduce the legislation into the City Council early in December. He proposes to offset the loss of jobs to the carriage drivers by giving them a year to find other employment and by offering them free permits (worth $6,000 each) to operate green cabs.

“If they offered me a green cab medallion I wouldn’t take it,” said one carriage driver. He was perhaps speaking as a man who has chosen to work with horses—a personal and emotional decision the mayor (and many others) may not comprehend.

The operating rationale for the mayor’s decision to ban the carriages is that it’s cruel to make the horses work, and it’s a danger on crowded city streets. A hard look, however, suggests that’s a sanitized excuse for a developer-driven decision to convert the stables to higher income use.

The issue has been in the news for the past year, and it’s not clear that the mayor has a majority backing for his position among the population—it having been shown that the horses are exceedingly well cared for and given adequate rest. Click for Talma Palmeri’s complete article.

Posted December 1, 2014

The Wall Street Journal is conducting a poll on the horse carriage question. As of this morning, with more than 15,000 votes tallied, those in favor of the carriages remaining on the NYC streets are at 56%, while those in favor of the ban are at 42%. Click to vote.

Updated December 5, 2014

Winning in Tax Court with Thoroughbreds


Peter J. Reilly, writing in Forbes, tells of a recent tax court case won by a taxpayer claiming horse business losses, despite the taxpayer’s failure to satisfy all the classic IRS tests.

The taxpayer was a successful businessman whose annual salary averaged around one million dollars from his concrete business. He suffered losses, however, from his other business—owning and racing Thoroughbreds—from which he obviously derived much pleasure. He passed some of the IRS tests, but was weak in others. However, he worked very closely with his trainer, and it was that relationship upon which the case turned.

The IRS questioned, with good reason, the intensity of the taxpayer’s profit motive. However, because the taxpayer worked so closely with his trainer, the court decided that the two were essentially embarked on a joint venture, and that the trainer certainly had a strong profit motive, in that training and racing Thoroughbreds was his primary business. The court concluded that the taxpayers motive was, therefore, the same.

Click to read the complete article.

Posted November 22, 2014

"Right to Hunt" on Mississippi Ballot


Voters in Mississippi will have the opportunity on November 4 to make hunting and fishing a constitutional right in that state.

Hunters and lawmakers there have become increasingly concerned as animal rights advocates across the country seek to further limit sportsmen’s choices. Seventeen states in the U.S. have already made hunting and fishing a constitutional right, subject to existing laws and regulations.

Although animal rights groups deny their intention to curtail hunting and fishing, their assurances are incredulous in the light of clear and unequivocal statements made to the contrary by the leadership and spokespersons of those organizations. Click to see quotations—both for and against—as expressed by various organizations on the subject.

Posted October 19, 2014

Three Convicted of Foxhunting in England


Persuaded by evidence furnished to the court by investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), an English judge found three men from one of that country’s foremost hunts guilty of illegally hunting the fox. Joint-Master Timothy Windham Basil Smalley, MFH; huntsman Ian McKie; and kennel huntsman Andrew Proe of the College Valley North Northumberland Foxhounds were convicted in Berwick Magistrate’s Court.

LACS cameramen secretly filmed a meet on February 27 of this year. The videos showed foxes bolting from covert, and it appeared that hounds were in the chase. The defendants argued that hounds were following a drag scent and that hounds came across the fox and switched to the live hunt. McKie tried to explain to the court that it takes some time to stop a pack, but the judge was not persuaded. In other evidence put forth by the plaintiffs, the allegation was made that Smalley lifted his cap and pointed in the direction of the fox and that staff encouraged hounds with horn and voice.

The conviction was a disappointment to the pro-hunting community. Outside the court, huntsman McKie said that hounds were stopped successfully, and the fox was not killed. Another judge, he felt, could have come to a different conclusion. As yet, no decision on an appeal has been announced.

Foxhunting Life reported on August 2 that a spokesman for the Countryside Alliance expressed confidence that the men would be exonerated, as was the only other defendant—Percy huntsman Robert McCarthy—to be charged under the Hunting Act in that jurisdiction back in 2009.

Click to read the complete article in The Telegraph.

Posted October 15, 2014

NYC Horse Carriages a Campaign Issue in the State


Republican Congressman Michael Grimm—notwithstanding his endorsement by HSUS’s Humane Society Legislative Fund—doesn’t support Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City.

“I don’t think we should ban the carriages. The only thing we should mandate is that the horses are treated well and treated humanely,” Grimm told the New York Observer.

Grimm, who is challenged in the election by Democratic candidate Dominic Recchia, Jr., opined that the issue is purely political and not a matter of animal welfare as liberal Democratic Mayor de Blasio and animal rights groups have insisted. The stables, put to other uses, would be financially beneficial to developers, Grimm suggested.

Mayor de Blasio did not return the Observer’s request for comment. Click for more details in Ross Barkan’s article.

Posted October 14, 2014

First WNV Case in Virginia in 2014


A horse in Virginia has tested positive for West Nile Virus. This is the first case of WNV in Virginia in 2014. The horse, an eight-year-old Paint Gelding stabled in Augusta County, had not been vaccinated.

WNV is a mosquito-borne disease, and the first cases are generally seen in August and September, according to Dr. Joe Garvin, head of Laboratory Services at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The mosquito season in Virginia can run through November, and many veterinarians recommend vaccination at least yearly, but as often as semi-annually in mosquito-prone areas. The protocol calls for two doses of the WNV Vaccine administered three to six weeks apart. Vaccination against Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE)—another mosquito-borne disease—is also recommended.

WNV can be contracted by humans as well, though horse to human transmission is unlikely. The usual vector is through a mosquito that has bitten an infected bird. Prevention methods other than vaccination would be the elimination of standing water sites, use of insect repellents, and removing horses and people from mosquito-infested areas from dusk to dawn.

There are no drugs with which to treat horses or humans who have contracted WNV. The mortality rate in horses is about thirty percent. A veterinarian should be consulted if a horse exhibits neurological symptoms, such as a stumbling gait, facial paralysis, going down, or drooping.

Click here for more information on West Nile Virus in horses. Click here for more information on West Nile Virus in humans.

Posted September 30, 2014

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