320. FOOD AND STARVATION
How to make a horse stand by his food and starve to death. Grease the front teeth and roof of the mouth with common beef-tallow, and he will not eat until you wash it out; this, in conjunction with the above, will consummate a complete founder.
Could this be true?
If it is, what is it about beef-tallow that would cause a horse to do this?
Wut? No. if you put something bad tasting in a horses mouth – horses are not inclined to enjoy the taste of beef – it makes a funny face, drools a lot, licks its lips, and may be very annoyed for a half hour. After a bit of time it will eat normally.
By the way, have fun trying to “grease the roof of the mouth” with tallow. Ha. This sounds like one of those “tips” that leads to a rube looking silly, and farmers laughing.
I also have no idea why you would want to make a horse look foundered when he isn’t.
Most of these “tips” seem very cruel to our eyes, but back then few people cared about equine welfare. I think that many of them are to do with buying and selling techniques. A seller wants to make the animal look better than it is, a buyer would want it to look bad.
Or perhaps in the 19th century you run an inn and you instruct your stable master to grease the teeth of your guests horses so they will avoid eating your fodder. Your guests see the food in the stall should they decide to check on their horses and none’s the wiser that you’ve made some extra profit.
The question isn’t why someone would do such a thing, the question is would it work? To my mind it would be the greasiness factor, not the taste.
Greasing a horse’s teeth and palate (especially with something the horse might find noxious) must also be quite a trick to pull off without getting your hand chomped off. A good chomp by a horse isn’t going to be a minor flesh wound.
Just to clarify – this “tip”, along with the one just before, is intended to make a horse look like it has “founder” (laminitis) a serious lameness caused by a swelling within the foot that makes it stand in a peculiar and distinctive position with the weight on the hind legs (and refuse food). If the condition was severe, and didn’t respond to treatments then available (cold water on the hooves), it would normally be destroyed. (although Herriot once saved a foundering gypsy pony by bleeding it).
Its unclear why you would want to produce the effect of a horse being very ill.
One possible reason would be to try to keep the horse, or reduce its price, when its been left at your property, and the owner is coming to get it or get paid for it.
Another is to rig the horse race, somehow. I suppose in many towns, the only man wealthy enough to act as bookmaker is also going to be a horse owner… so he’s offered 5 to 1 on his own horse , and now its the sure thing ?
The beef tallow thing… Well the horse owner may have horse dentistry equipment to make it safe… it might work on some horses… it might work the opposite and the horse chows down as fast as he can to clean his mouth.
The reason it might work is that horses are vegetarian and kinda know , “instinct”, not to turn carnivore…