Where have all the horses gone?

Eric Banks

  • The Age of the Horse: An Equine Journey through Human History by Susanna Forrest
    Atlantic, 418 pp, £9.99, October 2017, ISBN 978 0 85789 900 2
  • Farewell to the Horse: The Final Century of Our Relationship by Ulrich Raulff, translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
    Penguin, 448 pp, £9.99, February, ISBN 978 0 14 198317 2

Eight million horses perished in the First World War, along with untold numbers of donkeys and mules, just as the ascendency of the car made clear that the pervasiveness of the horse as a working animal was coming to an end. The disappearance of the horse from urban –and later rural – life didn’t happen overnight. Horses and donkeys were still found in great numbers in British towns and cities until just after the Second World War, when the shift to motorised transportation of goods caused the collapse of the equine market and 200,000 city animals were euthanised in a two-year period. The farm population dropped steeply, from nearly 1.1 million in 1944 to 147,000 a decade later. What Isaac Babel called obyezloshadenie, or dehorsification, unfolded over a longer period, and more recently, than we might think.

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