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Horse Power: A History of the Horse and Donkey in Human Societies Hardcover – November 1, 1992

2.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Although the rather dull title implies this is a pedantic work, this book is thoroughly absorbing and filled with facts of major interest. For example, the practice of nostril splitting, which helps the horse to breathe better, is well documented both in text and illustrations. Clutton-Brock, a scientist in the Department of Zoology at the British Museum, writes in a scholarly yet very readable style. At the heart of her thesis is proof that the horse and the ass, the only two members of the Equidae family to be domesticated, contributed to the shaping of human history. Offering a historical account of their development, complete with archaeological evidence and excellent illustrations, Clutton-Brock has written a splendid history of both. Highly recommended for science and natural history collections as well as collections focusing on veterinary medicine.
- Anne A. Salter, Atlanta Historical Soc . Lib.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Juliet Clutton-Brock is Senior Scientist in the Department of Zoology at the British Museum of Natural History.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition edition (November 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067440646X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674406469
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 8.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #863,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Holly Ingraham on May 27, 1998
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Why does a "history of the horse and donkey in human society" have some ten pages on prehistoric evolution? This points up a basic flaw of the book, that it wanders from one interesting point about equids to another that the author dug up in her researches, without either sticking to a limited or focused thesis, or being really comprehensive. I don't care what her academic credentials are, she doesn't seem to have actually both read and understood her sources. She shows the illustrations of ancient traction from Spruytte's *Early Harness Systems* which completely refutes any of LeFebvre's claims of inefficiency based on his phony "ancient traction" system (created to support his thesis on slavery) but then discusses LeFebvre without Spruytte. She shows a photo from Spruytte's reconstruction of Assyrian mounted archer's reining system, using a weighted tassle on the rein to maintain contact on the bit, and thereafter, to her, every big tassle is part of a similar control system, even when the tassle isn't attached to the reins. By her writing, she could never be mistaken for a horsewoman, or anyone who has bothered to read a book on horse breeds. Simply, she claims that the emergence of carriage use "led to demand for well-matched draught horses" and by the mid 1660's "the heavy horse had become established as a breed for use on the land, for haulage, and to carry the nobility in their armour." On the contrary, the development of carriages led to a demand for carriage horses, not draft horses, and by the mid 17th C. the nobility wore very little armor *even* just on ceremonial occasions and were riding the proto-Thoroughbreds, not cart horses and plow horses! If you've read everything else on horses, you may enjoy some of her new bits, like covering the size of ancient and medieval horses based on analysis of bones, but the book best serves as an annotated bibliography to her sources.
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By A Customer on September 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Unlike the previous reviewer, I thought the initial discussion about horse evolution, including the relationship of horses to pre-historic societies was a useful introduction to the subject.
I do think it is very difficult to cover the relationship of horses and human society in less than 200 pages, as Juliet Clutton-Brock has done. Inevitably, just as one becomes absorbed in some historical detail, the paragraph ends, the chapter closes, and the reader is left slightly frustrated. Some of the information about "light" vs "heavy" horses is slightly out-dated; Deb Bennett's book "Conquerors: The Roots of New World Horsemanship" gives an updated treatment of the 5 (or 7) prehistoric races that contribute to all modern horse breeds. But again, these lapses are more to blame on the brevity of the book than the author's ignorance.
I did appreciate the color and B&W photos and reproductions illustrating different types and harness of horses. Anyone starting research on the horse in ancient societies could do worse than begin here.
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