Published in 1910, this article gives an account of the once profitable and competitive nature of heavy horse breeding and use in Galloway.
The part of Scotland in which the Clydesdale may be said to have found a second home was the province of Galloway, and especially the county of Wigtown and the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. It is significant of the rapid strides which that locality has made as a Clydesdale centre, that while in 1845, when the Highland and Agricultural Society's show was held at Dumfries, there was scarcely a single exhibit from the two counties named, the show held in the same place in 1886 would have been like "Hamlet" with the principal part omitted, had the Galloway contingent been absent. It is comparatively easy to fix the date when the modern era in Galloway Clydesdale breeding began, and to name the men who played the leading part in introducing that era; but there were Clydesdales in the Stewartry before the Muirs went,about 1840, from Sornfallo on the slopes of Tinto to the Banks Farm, Kirkcudbriojht (which has gained a world-wide celebrity in these later days in the hands of Mr. William Montgomery), and there were Clydesdales in Wigtownshire before Mr. Robert Anderson, Drumore, introduced the black mare, Old Tibbie and her neighbour, and the stallion. Old Farmer 576, in 1835, from Lanarkshire. In 1830 Farmer 292, the Balscalloch horse, gained a £30 premium at the Dumfries Show of the Highland and Agricultural Society, and his sire was a Wigtownshire horse, named Clydeside, foaled very early in this century. This horse's name is suggestive of a Lanarkshire origin. It is indeed difficult to account for such a name, except on the supposition that the horse was either bred in Clydesdale or was of the type which had at that early period become identified with the Clydesdale district. There is some reason to believe that Comely, the grand-dam of Garscadden Lovely 40, or her dam was also a prizewinner at the 1830 show, where she is believed to have been purchased by Colonel McDowall, of Logan, an enthusiastic horse-breeder. In this connection we hazard the theory, based on the well-founded report of the keen rivalry that prevailed between Mr. Anderson, the tenant of Drumore, and the laird of Logan, that the reason for the 1835 excursion of Mr. Anderson into Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire in company with Mr. William Fulton, Sproulston, was to purchase animals in Clydesdale or its neighbourhood that would defeat the Galloway-bred Clydesdales exhibited by Colonel McDowall. In view of the acknowledged success of Mr. Anderson, the probabilities are that the horses reared in Wigtownshire, being what Americans would call "graded up" by means of Lanarkshire stallions from the original Galloway nag of which Shakespeare speaks, were not equal in size and weight to the horses bred in Clydesdale; and by introducing both stallions and mares from Lanarkshire, Mr. Anderson practically introduced a new breed into Wigtownshire. This breed or tribe largely dominated the Galloway draught horses for many years, and formed the foundation on which the splendid modern reputation of the Wigtownshire Clydesdales has been reared.
It is not, however, to be supposed that to this revolution, from which Wigtownshire derived great benefit, it contributed nothing. As has been proved to demonstration within recent years, the most divergent results appear in foals which, starting life on equal terms, have been reared respectively in Galloway and in the West of Scotland. The climate and soil of Galloway are formidable elements in the competition for show-yard honours amongst young Clydesdales; and given the possession of the advantages of a Galloway up-bringing, the young Clydesdale starts on its life journey with a considerable advantage over its neighbours.
The early draught horses of Kirkcudbright were, we think, of a lighter type than those of Wigtownshire, and possibly the “grading-up" process, by means of Lanarkshire horses was there begun at a later date than in Wigtownshire. In Sir John Sinclair's "Account of the Husbandry of Scotland," published in 1812. vol i., p.120, several of his correspondents discuss at considerable length, the relative merits of horses and oxen for agricultural work, and they indicate that the question was still in doubt as to which was the more profitable kind of labour. A pair of horses, they say, cost £64 15s., and three oxen, which were apparently regarded as equal to two horses, cost £42. Horses, they alleged, yearly diminished in value, whereas the oxen increased annually until they were six years old. The latter they regarded as fit for every kind of farm labour, but unfit for walking on turnpike roads; and while the horse was admitted to be superior for harrowing, the ox excelled in the plough. A Penrith gentleman, whose opinion Sir John quotes at p.126 of the same volume, eulogises the Scottish farm horse, and characterises him as preferable to any he had ever seen in England. They were of greater weight than blood horses, and better adapted for draught. Dr. Singer, who wrote on the agriculture of Dumfries, about the close of last century, states that the work horses in use there were the results of many crossings of different breeds, being larger than the real Galloway, but less than the pad-formed dray-horse of Glasgow and its neighbourhood. He indicates, however, that there was a growing feeling amongst farmers in some districts, for the stronger, if slower, cart-horse; while at the same time, in other places, on account of the necessity that existed for the horse being able nimbly to make his way along narrow bridle-paths, and, mayhap, to lend speed to the smuggler, a dash of the blood of the saddle-horse to give clean limbs and mettle was preferred. He further indicates that the nature of the soil to be wrought had an important bearing on giving direction to the tastes of the farmers in regard to draught-horses. The farmer whose land was light found a comparatively light horse preferable; because he was at once more easily maintained, and performed his work with greater ease and rapidity; while the farmer who had a heavy and deep clayey soil to manipulate called for a heavy, powerful horse to do his work.
A notable book on the early agriculture of Galloway, is the Rev. Sam. Smith's "Survey,” published in 1810. The reverend chronicler is eloquent in his praises of the old Galloway nag, and seems almost to regret that the old days of what he calls "predatory excursions" had come to an end. At page 290, he shows himself to have been a Darwinian before Darwin, by his accounting for the hardiness of the ancient Galloway on the principle of natural selection and the survival of the fittest; and at page 269 he discourses thus on the Galloway horsas of his own time:—
"It is much to be regretted that this ancient breed is now almost lost. This has been occasioned chiefly by the desire of farmers to breed horses of greater weight and better adapted for draught; and very little value attached, in times of tranquillity, to horses well calculated for predatory excursions. The horses, which in the lower districts are employed chiefly for draught, do not appear to be a distinct breed from the ponies of the moors; but are a variety occasioned by breeding from those of the largest size, and gradually improved, from being kept on the superior pasture. . . . The breed has seldom been preserved pure, but yet it is not difficult for connoisseurs to distinguish those which have much Galloway blood. They are deservedly held in estimation as being peculiarly adapted for the different purposes of husbandry. They are round in the body, short in the back, broad and deep in the chest, broad over the loins, . . . level along the back to the shoulder, not long in the legs, nor very fine in the head and neck: their whole appearance indicates vigour and durability, and their eye commonly a sufficient degree of spirit.
"Though inferior in size to the dray-horses of many other districts, they are capable of performing as much labour and enduring still more fatigue; they are more easily kept and less-liable to disease."
Mr. Smith goes on to say that the size of these native horses had been increased by the introduction of well-boned stallions from England and Ayrshire, and, to a less extent, from Ireland.
The raw, strong, and coarse product of this union formed the material on which the influence of the Clydesdale from Lanarkshire was first impressed. Their size was from fourteen to sixteen hands high, and at four years old they were sold at prices from £15 to £50.
The first of the Lanarkshire breed hired by farmers in the Stewartry was Samson 1288, himself foaled in 1827 or 1828, and his grandsire, Smiler, foaled very early in the present century. He was the property of Mr. John Muir, Sornfallo, Lanark, and was bred by Mr. John Paterson, Grange, Pettinain, Lanarkshire, out of a black mare which gained many prizes at Lanark. He was hired in 1831 or 1832, and again in 1833 or 1834. In the intervening year Mr. Frame's Clyde, from Broomfield, was hired, but in view of the multiplicity of horses of that name in early Clydesdale annals, it seems hopeless to attempt to identify this horse. It may, however, be a fair guess that he was Young Clyde 949. Samson 1288, as may be seen from the Stud Book, left a number of colts which were good enough to be kept as stallions in Galloway. One of these was Young Samson alias Borgue 1372, a horse bred in the parish whose name he bore. He died when young, but left one foal, Lofty 1187, foaled in 1836 or 1837, bred by Mr. Jas. Muir, Maidland, Wigtown, who sold him to his brother, Mr. John Muir, Sornfallo, by whom he was brought back into Galloway when Mr. John Muir entered on the lease of the Banks farm. Lofty's dam was a mare, Darling, purchased from Mr. Jas. Frame, Broomfield. This Lofty 1187 was sire of another Darling, the dam of another Lofty 456, and he finally was the sire of Jean, the dam of the famous stallion Lochfergus Champion 449, in whose veins the blood of the Wigtownshire and the Kirkcudbright Clydesdales were thus blended, his sire being the Drumore-bred horse Salmon's Champion 737.