Sick Horses 1880

How they are Treated in the Brooklyn City Railroad Stables
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Fears of that dreadful equine scourge, the epizootic, which raged in this city a few years ago, have been of late agitating some of the proprietors of horses. A large horse owner of this city remarked to an Eagle reporter, who had been detailed to investigate the matter, that he was afraid some of his horses were affected with the disease. "The symptoms," he said, "are the same, with very few exceptions, and I am very much afraid that there will be another epidemic." He also said that he had heard that the Brooklyn City Railroad Company had a large number of horses affected in a like manner to his.

Inquiries among livery stable men and others failed, however, to establish the truth of the gentleman's statement. One proprietor said that he had a few horses that were affected with a spinal disease, which resembled very remotely the epizootic, but by careful attention they had been cured.

The Fulton Street Car Stables

The main stables of the Brooklyn City Railroad on Fulton street, near New York avenue, were then visited. The reporter found the car starter, Mr. Thomas Caruthers in charge. That gentleman kindly consented to show anything connected with the horses. "This talk about the epizootic breaking out again is more bosh," said Mr. Carruthers.

"How many horses are there now on the sick list in these stables?" asked the reporter.

"Only about six," was the answer. "We receive all the sick and disabled horses from the East New York stables, and that sometimes turns this place into a hospital."

"How many horses have you altogether in all the stables?"

"About 518 here and at East New York, and 400 at the Greenpoint stables. The proportion of sick horses is "One in a Hundred."

Mr. Carruthers led the way to the loft where the food is prepared for over 400 horses. The quality of the food is first class, and great care is taken in mixing and preparing it.

"The proprietors of other stables may talk about sickness among their horses," and Mr. Carruthers, "but the cause is undoubtedly the poor quality of the food and the carelessness in its preparation. We keep our horses in as good a condition as those in any private stable in the city. Our horses fall because of the immense strain they have in hauling the heavy street cars."

The stables are well lighted and ventilated, and the air is sweet and wholesome. Drains run along the central passage on either side of which are the stalls, keeping the floor dry. Each horse as soon as it enters the stable is furnished with a ticket nailed above its stall, bearing its age, date of purchase, condition of health, and space for a record of its sale or death.

An old Scotch stableman was requested to show the sick horses.

Spinal Disease

"There," said he, "is a fine horse, but he's got the spinal disease."

"Doesn't it resemble the epizootic?" asked the reporter.

"Not at all," was the answer, "it's paralysis, just as in a human being."

The horse, when affected by this spinal disease, loses control of its limbs, and has to be suspended in a sling passed beneath the body. If the horse were left to stand it would soon die. None of the animals were in slings when the reporter called. Two or three had their hoads and bind quarters covered with plasters made of the best mustard spread on paper.

"We sometimes doctors' em with castor and linseed oil, said the stableman.

"How do the horses like the oil?"

"Well, 'bout same as you would, sir," was the answer; "but they don't make much objection."

The best of care is taken of the sick horses, and Mr. Carruthers said that they almost invariably recovered under the treatment.

One of the animals having the spinal disease was led out from its stall. It tottered along with great difficulty and the sling was applied.

There were some horses afflicted with the distemper, and one or two with the colic, which the starter said was the most dangerous disease a horse could have.

"We had a celebrated doctor here during the prevalence of the scourge some years ago," said Mr. Carruthers, "but with the exception of him we have had no veterinary surgeons at these stables. In fact this celebrated doctor, whose name I forget, did scarcely any good."

"Who attends to the ills of the horses?"

"Mr. Stephen Jennings, the Acting Superintendent of the road and foreman of the stables, and myself. We have some experienced stableman, who know right away what to do in the case of a horse becoming ill."

"How long does a horse last on this road?"

"On an average about five years. After that length of time it becomes worn out and unfit for any street work. We sell them to farmers and others for light work, and sometimes at very high rates. We sold a number not long ago for $40 and $50 each."

"Are your new horses more liable to become sick?"

"Yes; our older horses very seldom go under until they are worn out."

"At what season of the year does the most sickness occur?"

The Most Sickness In The Summer

"In the Summer. Sometimes in Midwinter we have a great many cases, but we have been singularly fortunate during the past Winter. You see that horse? Well, he is a green one; we only received him a short time ago and he is now sick with the distemper. We will cure him, however, and make him one of our finest horses."

The animal in question was a fine brown horse and was, in spite of his sickness, in splendid condition. Most of the animals appear in a fine state and look sleek and fat.

The new stables on Herkimer street were then inspected. They are commodious and in a good condition. The older horses are kept here and most of them are used for towing purposes. A number of condemned animals ready to be sold were in the back part with a lot that had just been purchased. There was a great contrast between the strong young horses and the worn out veterans.

"This week as well as last," said the starter, "has been hard on the horses. We have had to run large numbers of extra cars in order to accommodate the visitors at the circuses, and the horses have been constantly worked. I never saw so many people before on this line of cars except at the beginning of the war."

Additions are being made to the Fulton street stables and the ventilating skylights are being replaced with others which will admit more air. The officials take great pride in keeping the place neat and clean.

The Greenwood stables, on Third avenue, were visited, revealing a similar state of affairs. But about a half dozen horses were on the sick list and the remainder appeared in comparatively fine condition. These stables are newer than the ones on Fulton street, and contain a few more improvements. The floors are laid in concrete instead of wood, as in the others, and the system of drainage keeps the place neat and wholesome.

No Fear of the Epizootic

The Superintendent was asked if a fear of the return of the epizootic was entertained.

"No," he answered, "although we can't tell. The other time it came on us pretty suddenly. We have never got at the root of the disease, and scarcely know what it is. That spinal affection you noticed in some of the horses resembles one of the symptoms of the epizootic."

The Primitive Treatment

"Don't you think your treatment is somewhat primitive?"

"Yes," was the answer, "but it suffices. There was some talk not long ago of introducing improved apparqtus, in the way of slings, &c., but the plan has never been carried into effect, except during an epidemic. We use the best horse liniments and powders, and these, with our mustard plasters and oils, combined with careful attention, soon bring about a recovery in nine cases out of ten."

"Do you have many deaths among your horses?" was asked.

"No; the majority of the horses live until worn out by the severe labor. Most of the horses are taken sick on the street. By this way, you would think that a horse, after spending a good part of his life in dragging a street car, would lose most of his sagacity; but it is not so, for they are very intelligent," and he patted one of the animals affectionately.

Lame Horses

A great many horses are lamed by their feet catching in the frogs which occur at the intersection of the streets. These are also a fruitful source of complaint on the part of other horse owners. The flanges of the car wheels are constructed to fit the frogs in certain turnings, when one line runs into another. It is proposed to abolish these frogs, by having automatic switches at the turnings, thus doing away with the dangerous frogs."


Website: The History
Article Name: Sick Horses 1880
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The Brooklyn Eagle May 9, 1880
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