My Ulterior Motive

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My original purpose for the upcoming set of books was the explore the history of color in the different breeds. I did have another motive, though. It is impossible to tell the story of those colors without also telling the story of the breeds themselves, so in many ways the books are as much about breed history as they are about color. The idea of “breed” – and the related concept of “purity” – is often misunderstood. As anyone unfortunate enough to get me started on that topic is aware, I believe this situation harms animals. Purity of blood should never trump health.

That brings me to the horses pictured in this post. In writing the books, I have reached out to various registries and breeders for photographs. One of the most generous responses came from the Kladruber Stud in the Czech Republic. Countless pictures filled my inbox, many far more suited to a coffee table picture book than my more modest project.

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Kladrubers are the last of a type of horse once known as galakarossiers, or ceremonial carriage horses. Kladruby nad Labem where they are bred is among the oldest of the European royal studs, having been established in 1560. The farm is currently on the Tenative List for UNESCO’s World Cultural Monuments.

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Like most of the old European carriage breeds, the Kladruber is endangered. In writing the books, one of my hopes was to raise awareness of some of these little-known breeds. But in the case of the Kladruber, they also serve as a model for intelligent preservation of rare animals. There are two “breeds” of Kladruber, the Old White and the Old Black breed. This is in keeping with how color stood in for breed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, by the way. The black variety was almost destroyed in the early twentieth century, with only one surviving stallion line and four purebred mares. Those directing the restoration made the decision to outcross to maintain the genetic health of the population, while still preserving the historical baroque type.

This wasn’t actually as radical as it might seem to those used to equating breed with purity. It was how Kladrubers were originally bred. It is how horses have historically been bred the world over. It is my hope that by telling the stories of these different breeds, more people realize that diversity and not absolute purity is really what is traditional.

And if that opens some minds to the less common colors out there, that wouldn’t hurt my feelings either!

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6 Responses to My Ulterior Motive

  1. Eleanor Harvey July 21, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    The American TB industry could measurably improve the strength and resilience of its breed by paying attention here.

  2. Joanie in Carlsbad July 21, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    Until dog, cat, horse, and other animal breeders understand the bottleneck they have created in their breeds, and what they are doing to the comfort, health, and performance of the ‘pure’ animals, they are destined to ultimately adversely affect the very animals that they love. We know more than we used to, and we can do much better.
    Thank you for bringing this to our attention!

    *****Can’t wait for the book!!*****

    • Michelle July 21, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

      There is a series regarding this in dog breeding and the Kennel Club in Britain on You Tube. It is great to listen to what the geneticists are affirming regarding breeding practices and the destruction that we are leading so many of the pure bred dogs towards. Then of course there is lack of action and downright avoidance and denial of the topic by many breeders and the Kennel Club.

  3. Rebecca Turner July 21, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    man Id love to see those photos they sent you! I think its great they sent you some!

  4. Sarah MB July 21, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

    As a trained conservation biologist (my college minor), I believe the concept of the “purebreed” – to its literal end – is dangerous for all domestic animals. I heartily recommend Margaret Derry’s book, “Bred for Perfection,” to give an in-depth perspective on how this concept arose and how it took root – and none of it is pretty. Thank you, Lesli, for suggesting the book to me!

    • Michelle July 22, 2011 at 2:08 am #

      According to the series I mentioned above, it had to do with designing and creating a higher human race. This was pre-Hitler mind you. Very scary indeed!