HL Deb 19 July 1898 vol 62 cc258-83

"To call attention to the reports and evidence presented by the Commission appointed to inquire into the horse-breeding industry in Ireland, and to move to resolve, That the condition of horse-breeding in Ireland demands the attention of Her Majesty's Government."—(Lord Kenry Earl Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)


My Lords, although I think I must admit that Ireland has taken up a good deal of the time of Parliament this Session, I hope your Lordships will excuse me for bringing this question of horse-breeding in Ireland before your Lordships, because it is a matter of much greater importance to the country than it at first sight might be considered. There are no really reliable statistics to be obtained as to the importance of the industry, and I will not therefore trouble your Lordships with any; it is sufficient to say that the returns of the number of horses exported alone, are quite sufficient to prove that the breeding of horses in Ireland is an industry of great magnitude and importance to a poor country such as Ireland is, and a country which is devoted almost entirely to agriculture. But, my Lords, the returns themselves scarcely give an adequate idea of the importance of horse breeding, because anyone who knows Ireland well is well aware that in a great many cases horse-breeding is really the most profitable, if not the only profitable, part of the farmer's occupation, and especially in the case of the smaller farms, the fact that a man is enabled to sell a horse for a fair price makes a difference in balancing his accounts at the end of the year, quite out of proportion to the actual value of the animal that he has sold. Now, my Lords, I may say at once that I do not desire to press upon Her Majesty's Government the necessity of granting a large sum of public money at present. I do not mean to say that I do not think it would be very desirable if they did so, and that it is not greatly needed in Ireland, but at the same time there have been many demands made upon the Treasury—some of them on the part of Ireland—and for many reasons I do not desire to press that unduly upon Her Majesty's Government, beyond expressing the hope that next Session may see a scheme formulated for encouraging horse-breeding in Ireland, and that Parliament may be requested to grant sufficient funds for the purpose. But, my Lords, if inaction in this respect may, at any rate for the present, be entirely excluded, I think action, that is the manner in which existing grants of public money are expended in Ireland, affords a perfectly fair subject of criticism, and I shall address my remarks particularly to that point. The Commission which was appointed to inquire into this subject in 1896, made two reports; one signed by seven, and the other signed by five out of the 12 Commissioners. On a great many points the Commissioners were unanimous. They were, it is scarcely necessary to remark, unanimous in desiring to obtain some money out of the Treasury; they were unanimous in many other matters, in considering that registration was desirable, and in making many recommendations of that kind; but the main point upon which they differed—practically the only point—was in reference to the merits or demerits of a particular strain of blood as a means of improving and encouraging horse-breeding in Ireland. It was impossible to avoid the fact that a great deal of the time of the Commission was occupied in discussing the merits of the hackney sires, for improving horse-breeding in Ireland, because the Commission was really appointed mainly to inquire into that subject. The hackneys were introduced in 1892 by the Congested Districts Board, and a considerable number of sires of that breed were located in the congested districts. This irruption of hackneys on the part of the State caused considerable dismay, rightly or wrongly, in the minds of many persons interested in horse-breeding in Ireland, and that disquietude resulted in a deputation waiting on the Lord Lieutenant in 1896, and as a consequence the issue by the Lord Lieutenant of a Commission, over which I had the honour to be chairman. Therefore, it was under the circumstances I have mentioned inevitable that this vexed question of hackney blood should have largely occupied the attention of the Commission. The Commission was on that point divided in the proportion of seven to five, and the fact that the Commission was so divided appears to be considered a sufficient reason why the Congested Districts Board should not change their policy in respect of this particular breed of horses. A question was asked on the subject in March last in the House of Commons by Colonel McCalmont, and in reply to him the Chief Secretary said that the matter was one for the consideration of the Congested Districts Board, but he added— I cannot hold out to my honourable and gallant friend any hope that the Board are likely to agree to a complete reversal of their policy upon the report of a Commission so divided in opinion as the Horse-breeding Commission was. In May last a deputation waited upon the Lord Lieutenant, and in reply to them he also commented upon the want of unanimity among "those who were supposed to understand what was wanted for horse-breeding in Ireland." Therefore, it appears evident to me that no alteration will be made in the methods pursued by the Congested Districts Board in this matter of horse-breeding, because their methods have the approval of a large minority of the Commission, and under those circumstances, I must, with your Lordships' permission, make some comments upon the Report of that minority, because I want to impress very strongly upon your Lordships and upon Her Majesty's Government the absolute necessity of considering, not merely the Reports, but the evidence upon which those Reports are founded. In the first place there are three matters which appear to me to have been to a great extent lost sight of by the minority. Our inquiry had, firstly, nothing whatever to do with the merits or demerits of hackneys in the abstract; nothing whatever to do with that question, excepting in regard to the effect that the introduction of that blood would be likely to have in Ireland. Secondly, we were concerned only with the question of State assistance, and had nothing whatever to do with the action of any private individuals; and, thirdly, we were not interested with any particular individuals, or any particular classes, but were bound to consider the question referred to us—namely, the whole industry as an industry and as a whole. I cannot help thinking, after reading that minority Report over and over again, as I have most carefully done, that in framing it the signatories of the Report have been influenced by considerations of the merits of the hackney merely qua hackney in the abstract, and of his merits in other countries besides Ireland; that they forgot that our inquiry was concerned only with the action of the State and with an industry as a whole, and have considered particular classes and the action of individuals, and have been influenced in the Report by all these considerations. Now, my Lords, I must bring to your Lordships' notice, one or two cases of the way in which evidence has been treated in the minority Report. I will take the very first paragraph of that Report. It deals with the number of stallions, and the breeds of them in various parts of Ireland. It says that the return "will bear the strictest investigation." It is a return made by the Royal Irish Constabulary, and it is certified to be correct by the district inspector. My Lords, in the first place, I think it is quite inaccurate to say that the returns "will bear the strictest investigation." We did investigate them, and in the majority Report, paragraph 11, we say— The returns furnished by the constabulary of the number and breed of stallions can be relied upon only in respect of thoroughbreds, and even in that case mistakes may occur; in other cases, the owner's description, from which the returns must be chiefly drawn up, cannot be checked. It seems to me that it is absolutely certain that that must be the case. How can a police constable be supposed to be able to form an opinion for himself as to how a horse is bred? He can only, in the case of a thoroughbred, ascertain it for certain by reference to the Stud Book, and in other cases he must take the owner's word for it, and owners sometimes make mistakes. I remember a case which came before us incidentally of a horse which was advertised as a thoroughbred on one occasion, and on another occasion it was advertised as a hackney. If that came once before us in quite an incidental manner, it may not be of infrequent occurrence. Then, my Lords, this first paragraph in the Minority Report, dealing with the subject, goes on to say— In such essentially hunter-breeding counties as Meath, Westmeath, and Cork, in addition to a considerable number of half-breds more than one-third of the entire number of stallions in each county are returned as draught-horses, so that practically the heavy draught-horse is not confined to any particular part of the county. But why introduce the particular word "heavy"? That word does not occur in the Returns. The word "heavy" introduced there is purely evolved from the inner consciousness of the Commissioners, but it makes an enormous difference in the inferences that are to be drawn from these Returns. The inference on reading that—and no one can help drawing this inference—is that heavy cart-horses are scattered broadcast all over Ireland, and common in purely hunter-breeding counties. Well, my Lords, the Returns themselves, if you will examine them, specify two classes; they put Cleveland Bay, Yorkshire Coach Horse, Shire, Clydesdale, and Suffolk Punch, animals which may be fairly described as heavy horses, into one class, and in the other class they put half-bred draught-horses. The Returns show that of the first class there are 188, while of the second class—the half-bred draught-horses—there are no less than 628. The fact of the matter is, in Ireland the words "cart - horse" and "draught-horse" are very frequently used in their natural sense to describe an animal that drags a cart. The cart may be of the lightest description, and the horse may be of any breed. The Minority Commissioners say— In such essentially hunter-breeding counties as Meath, Westmeath, and Cork, in addition to a considerable number of half-breds, more than one-third of the entire number of stallions in each county are returned as draught-horses, so that practically the heavy draught-horse is not confined to any part of the country. But the Returns show that the proportion of heavy cart stallions to horses of other breeds was in Meath 9 to 96, in Westmeath 4 to 60, and in Cork 18 to 278. My Lords, I must protest. If you excise the word "heavy" from this paragraph, the whole theory that is built up on it falls to the ground. If your Lordships study this Report you will find that a theory runs throughout the whole of it, and that on the assumption that that theory is correct, witnesses are examined and cross-examined, and innumerable questions are asked, and that theory is that the hackney is superior to the Clydesdale and other heavy horses—that heavy cart-horses are very frequent in the best hunter-breeding districts, and that they have done no harm, and that consequently the hackney could do no harm. All that is built up upon the absolutely unwarrantable introduction of the word "heavy" into that particular paragraph. I must protest also against the way in which particular sentences are extracted from voluminous evidence and are quoted without any of the qualifying remarks that the witnesses have made, and at the same time without any reference to the general tone and tenor of the evidence. On pages 26 and 27 there is an imposing array of witnesses marshalled "in favour of the hackney," to use the words of the Report, and amongst them you will find, for instance, Captain Fife, the founder of the Compton Stud, the Rev. Cecil Legard, and many others. I think Captain Fife must have been very much, astonished at finding himself put down as being in favour of the hackney for improving the breed of horses in Ireland. He is quoted as saying— (Q.) Would you object as a chance cross more to cart-horse blood in hunters than to hackney blood in hunters that had a considerable proportion of thoroughbred crosses? To which he replies— I would rather have the hackney with the considerable proportion of crosses to the cart horse. That is a very natural answer. He was asked which would he prefer of two evils—the cart-horse with no thoroughbred crosses at all, or the hackney with several crosses of thoroughbred in him, and he replied that he would sooner have the hackney. I am not going into the evidence at great length, but if your Lordships will take the trouble to read his evidence I am absolutely certain that you will say that the whole general tone and tenor of it is distinctly against the introduction of the hackney blood as likely to be of benefit to horse-breeding in Ireland. Then on page 26 Mr. Thomas M'Mahon is mentioned as being in favour of the hackney. He is made to say— You must have a hackney with good neck and shoulders, good knees, legs, and feet, a short back, and a tail on the top of his back, with action; if you put that upon a half-bred mare in my country I will guarantee you will breed a good selling horse. Now I must go to what Mr. M'Mahon said— (Q.) What kind of mares do they breed from?—I could not tell you the pedigrees of them. (Q.) No, I don't suppose you could, but yon might give me an idea of what they are like?—Some of them are pretty fair; and if they got a good cross they would breed a very useful horse. If they were crossed with a good thoroughbred stallion, in the first place, with short legs and plenty of bone, and one that went straight in his action, and stepped a little high; not a very big or leggy thoroughbred stallion, only a horse about 15.3, with plenty of bone, good shoulders, and tail on the top of his back. Then there is the hack- ney; if you want to breed from a hackney with this class of mare, you must have a hackney with good neck, etc. And the answer continues as already quoted. Your Lordships will see that the all-qualifying words, "if you want to breed from a hackney," are omitted. What Mr. M'Mahon recognises first is the thoroughbred horse, and then he says, If you want to breed from a hackney you must have such and such a kind of mare; and further on, in reply to a further question on that point, he says— (Q.) The mare that you would mate with a hackney would require to be a better shape and make than the one you would mate with a thoroughbred?—It would, with better neck and shoulders, and well ribbed, and straight on her legs, with plenty of bone. Well, my Lords, the meaning of Mr. M'Mahon's evidence is perfectly plain. He spoke of the advantages of breeding from the thoroughbred, and said that if you wanted to breed from the hackney you should use a superior kind of mare, and yet he is quoted as being "in favour of the hackney." I could mention a great number of instances. There is the Rev. Cecil Legard, who says— But if there are districts where they do not profess to breed hunters, where there are small, little, mean mares, I would not nay ponies, but pretty, well-bred little things, there I should say that they would do much better to have hackney stallions in that district than thoroughbred horses, simply with the idea of breeding saleable animals for harness. But those are not the kind of mares that you find in the congested districts—"pretty, well-bred little things"—they are just about as opposite sis anything that you can imagine. Again, I say, if your Lordships will take the trouble to read through Mr. Legard's evidence you will find that the whole gist and tone of it is much the same as Captain Fife's, and certainly he is not in favour of the introduction of the hackney by way of benefiting horse-breeding in Ireland. My Lords, there are cases, too, where portions of sentences, and very important portions of sentences, have been somehow omitted in this Report. There is the evidence of a gentleman of the name of Hetherington at page 27. The Report says that he is a very important witness—a large dealer in London, buying for the French Government—he has been buying for the French Government for 20 years, and during that period he has purchased an average of 20 stallions every year. The minority quote what he says in favour of the hackney, and conclude by saying that Mr. Hetherington said— Take him all round, the hackney is the best harness horse in the world. Now, my Lords, again let me tell you what Mr. Hetherington really did say— The hackney horse is the best harness horse in the world, take him all round; but keep him to himself—don't mix him more than you can help. In the Report these latter words are left out, "don't mix him more than you can help"; but those words make all the difference in the world. There is nobody who proposes to breed pure-bred hackneys in the wilds of Arran, or anywhere else in the congested districts. The sole end for introducing the hackney is purely for the purpose of mixing it, and yet this Mr. Hetherington is quoted as being so strongly in favour of the hackney as to say that he is the finest horse in the world, without the qualifying words, "don't mix him more than you can help." I think that Mr. Hetherington's real opinion may be gathered from some answers to questions a little further on. He says— If the South of Ireland ever wavers in its allegiance to the thoroughbred horse, I contend that all your foreign trade, which is a great thing in Ireland, would be lost. The foreigner gives nearly as much for a hunter as an Englishman does, and he always goes to Ireland for it. (Q.) And he goes there because of the reputation that Ireland has got for breeding the best?—He does not go on the reputation. He begins by buying them for five or six years; he gradually finds his way to Ireland, because he finds he gets better there than in England. (Q.) Then any alteration in the breed would be a risk, at all events?—I should think it would be a curse. I submit that the fact that these all-important words happen to be omitted from the Report, causes this Report to convey a very inaccurate idea of what he really did say, and what this important witness's evidence was as given before the Commission. On page 25 of the Report there are a number of witnesses mentioned as unfavourable to the hackneys, and the whole value of their evidence is quietly discounted by the Report stating that they have had no experience— Those witnesses over and over again speaking strongly against hackneys, and making the most extreme statements, and then in the end in almost every instance admitting that they had no personal experience of them. Then, a little lower down, the Report goes on— Several witnesses who had had no actual experience of them. It mentions 10 witnesses, three of whom were dealers. My Lords, if you will look at the evidence of the seven witnesses who are not dealers, you will find that every one of them distinctly states that he had personal experience of the hackneys Major Studdert says that he had driven in Suffolk both Yorkshire and Norfolk hackneys. Mr. Peter Fitzgerald, Chairman of the Limerick Horse-breeding Committee, said that he had owned a hackney himself, and that he was familiar with the produce of the Congested District Boards' hackneys, both in those districts and in other places. He spoke to seeing the third prize yearling at Puck Fair sold for £5 15s., and the first prize two-year-old offered for £12, and not sold, and of a number of yearlings being sold by auction from £3 10s. to £5. You will find that Major Connellan, Mr. Kennedy, Sir Owen Slacke, and Mr. Winter, the veterinary surgeon, give evidence, and in all of those cases they say that they have had experience of hackneys themselves. It is not correct; it is totally incorrect. As to the other gentleman mentioned—Mr. Daly—it is true he made some rather strong remarks, otherwise the evidence of these gentlemen was very moderate, simply relating to the experience they had had of hackneys, and what they had seen of the produce. They did not think them very suitable. Mr. Daly says— I think, if it was the object of the Government to ruin the horse-breeding industry in Ireland, they could not go about it in a more effectual manner. He had no particular experience of hackneys, nor had Messrs. East, Wimbush, and Withers. But surely it is ridiculous to pretend to say that a dealer like Mr. Daly, and men like Mr. East, Mr. Wimbush, and Mr. Withers, could form no opinion whatever as to the value of hackney blood because they do not deal in hackneys themselves. You might just as well pretend that I, or any of your Lordships, can form no kind of opinion as to the effect of strychnine because we never poisoned ourselves or anybody else. If you want strong opinions as to the value of hackney blood you must go to men who are admittedly men of experience in England—men like Mr. Holtby, a breeder in Yorkshire, and one or two others. He was asked whether Yorkshiremen were devoting themselves a good deal more to breeding hackneys, and with what effect. In reply he said— that where they have got show horses they have done pretty well, very well indeed with many of them, but with some of them badly. If they are not fortunate enough to produce show horses, which foreigners and everyone else come to buy, they get a very poor price indeed. And when asked, in Question 12,255, as to what becomes of the misfits of the ordinary half-bred hackney, the most that he could say is— There is this good thing about them, that as soon as they are put into work they are very soon done. They don't last; we are not troubled with them very long. The whole general result of his evidence is that it is profitable to breed pure-bred hackneys, but it is not profitable to breed half-bred hackneys for light harness work, and this in the very centre of the hackney breeding district; and his opinion is borne out by Mr. Reynard, who is also engaged in breeding in the hackney breeding district of Yorkshire. Mr. George Richardson, dealer, of Leeds, corroborates. He says— I think hackneys are not any good at all; they are useless animals except for show purposes, just for about five minutes, and then it is all over, and that action is forced action"; and adds— I have seen so many of them, and bought a good many. I have had some of the best hackneys and shown them. Of course, there is a lot of evidence to the contrary effect. Evidence must be weighed, balanced, and contrasted. All that I desire to show is that, in quoting carefully culled specimens from the answers of witnesses opposed to their views, and in ignoring altogether most of the evidence of experts against them, the Report of the minority does not present to the public a fair and impartial summary and review of the evidence given before the Commission. One more case I am constrained to mention. During a visit of six of the Commissioners to the congested districts a noticeable event occurred at Dingle. A deputation of ratepayers waited upon the Commissioners and presented the following resolutions: firstly, the absolute necessity of providing some suitable and better class of stallions for the district; secondly, that from their experience of the hackney breed of horses in that part of the country, the most suitable class of stallion would be a thoroughbred and a shire horse, if possible; thirdly, that they considered the progeny of the hackney stallion unfit to realise a proper price. The Minority Report says in reference to this— That they have reason to believe that the deputation was not the spontaneous outcome of the people's wishes. I submit that such a comment upon evidence is, to say the least of it, extra-ordinary. I was in the chair when the deputation was received. Three of the signatories in the Minority Report were also present, and I assert that not a word was elicited calculated to throw the slightest doubt upon the bonâ fides of the deputation, nor were the bonâ fides of the deputation ever called in question before the Commission. I appeal to your Lordships to say whether it is treating evidence fairly and impartially to seek to invalidate evidence of this nature by saying in a Report, without offering a shred of reason for so doing, that a deputation was not the spontaneous outcome of the people's wishes. As a matter of fact, if it be legitimate to comment at all upon the motives of witnesses, this deputation must be looked upon in a very different light. In the congested districts Mr. Wrench is looked upon by the inhabitants as an all-powerful divinity, upon whose smiles or frowns their happiness or misery depends, and anybody who knows Ireland well will admit that a very strong feeling of urgency must be necessary to compel men to speak publicly against the well-known wishes of an all-powerful benefactor. I greatly regret the attitude of the Congested Districts Board towards the inquiry. I am sorry they did not endeavour, at any rate, to preserve a neutral attitude, and to keep an open mind. Far from this, the board stated in a public letter to the Commission that they considered their action to be directly impugned. I think that, under the circumstances, rather an unfortunate expression, seeing that a member of the board was a member of the Commission. Mr. Wrench is a member of the board, and the member of the board mainly concerned with this matter of horse-breeding. Mr. Wrench was, by this letter of the board, placed in the position of standing in the dock, sitting on the jury, and acting as counsel for the accused, all at one and the same time. I appeal to anyone to say whether I have in this review of the Report been in any degree guilty of exaggeration. It has been necessarily brief and cursory, but I hope sufficient to convince the House and the members of the Government of the necessity of studying the evidence before adopting a course of action, or condoning action because the Commissioners could not agree upon a Report. The situation is not a very complicated one. We have in Ireland a country admirably adapted for breeding and rearing of horses. Good reasons exist for supposing that the breed is deteriorating. It suffers from its very excellence, for foreign buyers eagerly snap at all the best mares. The breed also suffers grievously from the inferior quality of the thoroughbred stallions standing in the western districts. The sum of £3,550 is granted annually towards the encouragement of horse-breeding all over Ireland on the lines of its natural development. All along the western seaboard of Ireland a tract of wild country exists. Some of this is unfit for breeding horses of any kind, but the greater part is well adapted to produce superior ponies. In these small districts a sum of about £5,000 is annually expended in encouraging the breeding of a type of horses on unnatural lines, totally dissimilar to the type naturally developed. We, the majority, consider such an attempt wasteful and useless as far as the congested districts themselves are concerned, and exceedingly harmful to the industry throughout the country generally. I contend that it is not fair to contrast the produce of the inferior thoroughbreds standing in the congested districts with the produce of the hackneys belonging to the board, though, as a matter of fact, they do compare very favourably, because of the acknowledged inferiority of the thoroughbred sires. What class of thoroughbred can a man be expected to take into the country as a commercial speculation when it will have to compete with the board's sires at a fee of 5s.? The result is practically to compel the farmer to patronise the board's horses. I submit, therefore, that the great weight of evidence given before the Commission is to the effect that the class of animal that can be bred by hackneys in the west of Ireland is unsaleable, and that the demand is small and decreasing; that the breed of ponies which formerly existed there in large numbers, and which still exists, would meet with a ready sale at remunerative prices; that the hackney blood would seriously deteriorate the quality of horses produced in the hunter-breeding districts of Ireland generally, if it percolated into those districts, and that nothing can prevent its doing so. As regards the ponies, the majority of the Commission consider that if anything can be done to help the poor people in the western district to produce a saleable animal, it should be in the direction of re-establishing and encouraging the breed of ponies. The Congested Districts Board hackney stallions have failed. The great balance of evidence was that their produce was unsaleable, and that they did not get the class which dealers went to the west to buy. They produced inferior little horses which nobody wants, instead of superior big ponies, for which there is a demand. Mr. H. M'Donnel, of Galway, says, in reference to the Congested Districts Board's work— Yes, I think they have done some good in the breeding of Welsh cobs, but I don't think the hackney. He is condemned by the outer public altogether; they won't touch him. They say when they come to Connemara they want to get a pony, they don't want to buy a horse. To the same effect is Mr. Samuel Usher Roberts, whose evidence on other points is largely quoted by the minority— Do you think hackney blood would improve ponies?—I don't think it is the right way to improve them. I am quite sure the barb or Arab will produce better animals off them. I saw instances of it. I was judging at Holly-mount Show, and I saw a very beautiful pony mare, just such an animal as I describe, good shoulders, good hard legs, good feet, and all the appearance of a hard, wiry animal, with great stamina, and showed a great deal of breeding. She had a two-year-old and a yearling, got by a hackney sire. They were as bad a stamp of young horses as ever I saw. They were hairy-legged, and had no redeeming feature that I saw. And Mr. Reynolds— Have you seen any hackney produce from the west in your district?"—I saw some that were represented to be that. There are a number of foals come up; hundreds of them were sold in the different fairs the last month or so. I asked some of the men why they had not better foals. 'Oh, bad luck to the hackneys,' was the reply. The evidence of Mr. P. Fitzgerald, and of Mr. Winter, veterinary surgeon, of Limerick, as to the value of hackney produce, is to the same effect. The Minority Report attempts to deny the value of these Connemara ponies, and that a paying trade in them is possible; and they even quote Mr. Miller and Mr. Meleady as giving evidence to the effect that breeding ponies could not be a profitable industry. This is another instance of the curious way in which evidence is treated. I cannot take up the time of the House in examining all these matters in detail, but if your Lordships will look through the evidence of Mr. Miller, a breeder, Mr. Meleady, a large dealer, and Mr. Malone, a veterinary surgeon, you will see that the construction put upon it—that breeding ponies cannot pay—is quite unwarrantable. Mr. Meleady was doubtful whether selling ponies at five years for £16 or £18 was a profitable business, but as to the value of the Connemara ponies, he thought very highly of them. He had bought all he could get, and, to use his own expression, if he saw a good one money would not stop him; and it is plain that the opinion of the other two witnesses is that a good pony, crossed with a suitable thoroughbred, will produce an animal suitable for making a polo pony, and which is in the raw worth from £40 to £50. Of course, breeding a first-rate polo pony is, like all other breeding, a matter of uncertainty, but according to these witnesses, who are engaged in the business, the raw material is, on the chance of its turning out well, worth £40 or £50, and the rest are useful animals which will pay their way, for the Connemara pony is a marvel of soundness of wind and limb, and has frequently been the dam or granddam of first-class valuable hunters. It seemed to us to be forced upon us by evidence that the best way to help the congested districts was to re-establish the breed natural to the country, that the hackney could not do this, and that the hackney blood would spread over the country generally, and do infinite mischief. It is claimed that a system of registration would, at least, have this effect, that a buyer would know what he was buying, and therefore, if he did not approve of the hackney strain, he need not purchase any animal contaminated by it. But how on earth could a system of registration sufficiently rigid be carried out to be of real use? In that respect registration would have to be universal and compulsory, and it is ridiculous to suppose that any Government would undertake to introduce so arbitrary a measure, or would be able to carry it out. Registration, no doubt, would be very useful, and ought, to be encouraged; but to suppose that registration can be effective in confining any particular strain of blood to any particular districts in a small country like Ireland is, in my humble opinion, absurd. It is clearly shown in the evidence that the most profitable description of breeding in Ireland consists in breeding horses likely to make hunters, high-class carriage horses, and cavalry remounts, and that Ireland has, through the operation of perfectly natural causes, obtained a perfectly justifiable reputation for producing the best horses of this kind in the world. That being so, I hold that the majority are right in thinking that the industry has developed itself naturally on these lines, that any State aid should be employed in the same direction, and that experiments in other directions should be left to private individuals. The weight of evidence shows that hackney blood would seriously damage, if not entirely destroy, the pure eminence to which Ireland has attained as a horse-breeding country; and it is not only shown in evidence, but is, I think, plain to common sense, that in a small and narrow country like Ireland it would be impossible to confine hackney blood within any definite limits. I assert, further, that it is proved in evidence that even as far as the congested districts themselves are concerned, the only result of introducing hackney blood is to produce a type of animal for which there is but very slight demand, and which cannot develop into a profitable industry. I would remind your Lordships again that we are not attempting to interfere in any way with the idiosyncrasies of private individuals. We have to deal with the question of what direction Government grants shall take. We hold that all Government money should be employed in a way which is likely to be most profitable to the country generally, and there cannot be a shadow of doubt that that is in encouraging the class of horse for which Ireland has a world-wide reputation. It is in the support of the thoroughbred that all Government money is expended in England, although no one denies that horse-breeding of quite a different character can there be carried on at a profit, and, a fortiori, it is in that direction that Government money should be applied in Ireland. I am strongly of opinion that any Government grant should be entrusted to one body. There can be no particular object why the Congested Districts Board should act independently if any other body entrusted with the administration of Government funds for the purpose of encouraging horse-breeding in Ireland. The expenditure of money by two different bodies acting on different lines within the same district will produce inevitable confusion. Imagine the position of a farmer who has the choice of a horse sent down by a Royal Commission or by the Royal Dublin Society and a horse belonging to the board. He will say to himself these are both Government horses, and must be all right, but his mind will be swayed by the expectation of benefits to come, and he will go to the horse belonging to the board, which he hopes will do so much in other ways for his prosperity and happiness. The Congested Districts Board have done, and are doing, work of incalculable value in encouraging fisheries, small textile industries, and improving the breed of cattle, pigs, and sheep, etc., in the congested districts, and in all those respects nothing that they can do can possibly have any detrimental effect on the country at large. But in their efforts to improve horse-breeding they have gone on wrong lines, and even if that were not the case, and their efforts were attended, or were likely to be attended, with success in their districts, there can be no question whatever that they must result in damaging the country generally to an extent which is out of proportion to any good that they can do in the congested districts. A permanent Commission ought to be created on the lines of the Royal Commission in England. That is most important, and I hope that the Executive in Ireland will not be unmindful of this point. All the Commissioners were agreed that registration on the lines undertaken by the Royal Dublin Society should be more generally adopted. We were all agreed as to the desirability of counteracting by money prizes the drain upon Ireland consequent upon the exportation of her best mares, and as to the necessity of providing or subsidising or leasing approved sires. After all these recommendations I trust Her Majesty's Government will occupy themselves to the extent, at any rate, of considering and formulating a complete scheme of organisation. The recommendations require, of course, a money grant to make them effective. I do not desire to press that upon the Government at the present moment, but I express an earnest hope that next Session a request for sufficient money for this purpose may be preferred. What is urgent is that the recommendation of the Majority Report, to the effect that the encouragement of hackneys should not be continued at the expense of the State, should be seriously considered, for in that case the mischief is active, the harm is being done, and every year makes it more extensive. I sincerely trust that in looking at this matter the Congested Districts Board will dismiss from their minds any prejudices arising from the suspicion that their action is impugned. They can dispose of their money grant in any way they please, and I know of no method whereby they can be restrained except by the action of Parliament; that is to say, practically by the House of Commons. I earnestly hope they will look at this most important matter of horse-breeding with an unprejudiced eye, and will consider, weigh, and balance not only the Reports, but the evidence also, for I should deeply regret if it became necessary to take any action in Parliament which might seem to cast a slur on a Department which is in all other respects doing such useful and admirable work in Ireland.


I always speak with considerable diffidence on an Irish subject when I see so many noble Lords from Ireland present, who of necessity must have a very considerable and deep knowledge of the Irish question. My Lords, I may venture to claim the right to have an opinion, on this question of horses in Ireland, and I believe very few of your Lordships have derived more benefit and more amusement from hunting than I did during the eight years in which I had the honour to fill the position of Her Majesty's Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. I have had the pleasure of hunting in many counties in Ireland, and I thus became acquainted with the various breeds of horses used in sport there. Besides that, I suppose there are very few of your Lordships who have had as many Irish horses in their stables in England as I have had during the last 30 years. My Lords, I agree with a great deal that has been said by the noble Earl; I agree as to the enormous value that has been placed upon the horse-breeding industry in Ireland, and I agree with him as to the value to be placed on individual hunters there. I do not say anything about thoroughbred stock, for I believe that thoroughbred stock will take care of itself. Of late years the Irish thoroughbred has proved itself a very serious competitor—as witness last year—in the great races in England; and, as to Irish hunters, I believe there is no animal in the world which has such staying power, such jumping power, and such pleasant manners as the Irish hunter. And why is that? First of all, in the old days in Ireland, more than in the present day, the farmers used mares that were admirably adapted to breed hunters for their agricultural purposes. That is the case in very few districts in England, but in Ireland there were whole districts in which you might have seen animals at the plough fit to carry a gentleman to hounds, and many of these animals do hunt. I remember once in Ireland—your Lordships will forgive me giving an anecdote—I was very much amused with what occurred out hunting to a wealthy squire. He had noticed some days before a very good young horse, and as we were going along from covert to covert he noticed this young horse ploughing. He immediately jumped off the road, went over the fence, and tried to bargain as to the purchase of the horse. It so happened that my friend was rather deaf, and a most amusing scene took place. This gentleman went up to the farmer and began to bargain with him. He made little progress. He found that the farmer was holding out for a large price. Knowing that my friend was deaf, his friends riding along the road said to the farmer, "Don't let him have it for the money; he will give you much more than that." That shows that in Ireland there is this peculiarity about horse-breeding, that you may find ploughing the field the most excellent hunters. Anyone who has hunted in Ireland has seen young colts following hounds loose, jumping banks and the most intricate fences. Colts thus learned to jump and know as much about jumping as horses three times their age in England. I have the highest possible opinion of the Irish hunter, and I do not wish in the least degree to alter the mode in which these Irish hunters have been bred. I have helped in some way, in the course of my life in Ireland, in regard to horses. I have introduced stallions, and in so doing I have always introduced thoroughbred stallions, for I believe the thoroughbred stallion is the best to breed hunters in the country. But I venture to disagree with the noble Earl on some points, because he limits his view to one class of horse. The noble Earl limits his view to the hunter class, and he seemed to forget that there is an enormous trade and demand in this country and abroad for draught and cavalry horses of different sorts. Now, I cannot help thinking that in regard to this class of horses you may introduce a very good element by introducing the hackney blood. I do not wish to introduce this element into those districts of Ireland where hunters are bred; but, as your Lordships know, in the north and west not many hunters are bred, and we ought to consider the farmers in those districts. I do not see why these farmers should be entirely neglected, and why some attempt should not be made to encourage them to breed an animal of better value than what they breed now. I understand that the Congested Districts Board, which I am glad to see is so highly praised by the noble Earl, is disposed to help in this direction. Now, I am not here to defend the hackneys. At one time of my life, in helping the breed of horses in our neighbourhood, I never touched a hackney, and I would have nothing to do with anything but thoroughbred horses. But of late years I have found the hackney in the country, crossed with mares ill-suited to a thoroughbred horse, get animals of substance and action, and consequently of value. I wish in Ireland to guard against the danger of the hackney blood percolating into the hunter; but the men who breed hunters are the larger class of farmers, and I think they will be able to take care of themselves and will scrupulously avoid hackney blood. With the splendid quality of the Irish hunter, I think that the breed is best obtained by crossing the mares with thoroughbred horses; but there are other districts in Ireland, and other people who breed horses, who ought to be considered. I hope they will be able to get some good animals from this hackney blood, and I venture to hope that the voice of the majority of the Commissioners will not be absolutely followed. All classes of breeders in Ireland should be considered, and we must not forget that harness horses are an important class, and are used in large numbers. I think that encouragement should be given to them in various parts of Ireland as well as to hunters.


said it had been stated that the fee of the stallion was too low. His opinion was that the lower they could put it the better.


I perhaps have some claim to address your Lordships on the subject, owing to the experience I have had as the first President of the show of the Royal Dublin Society. I have also been Master of Hounds, and I specially engage your attention to the fact that I was for seven years during the summer on the borders of Connemara in the very district where these horses come from; and I aver this, from my own experience of what they have to do, and of their general utility, that it was impossible to find a more useful or more suitable horse for the congested districts than the cream-coloured horse with a black mark down his back like a zebra. That is the best horse that money can produce as a sire for the congested districts. I have one of the old original yellow horses, and I never rode a better animal. I believe that no sire could be, under any possible circumstances whatever, better produced than the yellow horse with a mark down his back like a zebra. I have had a great experience, and I can say that the yellow pony with the white mane is not so good as the other. I have had great experience, for I have bought several of them. I do not think that under any circumstances the hackney can be called as hardy a horse as the old original yellow Connemara pony, and I hope they will go back to it when they begin breeding. As to his qualities as a sire, I hold a very decided opinion. I sincerely trust that the hackney blood may be kept out of the three provinces of Leinster, Munster, and Connaught.


I hope I may be allowed to thank the noble Earl who has brought this matter forward. I agree with him that it would be a very sad day for Ireland if the ancient breed of hunters were interfered with in any way by any fresh breed. The noble Earl [Lord Spencer] seems to be well satisfied with the hackneys as they are bred now. In that case, why do you want to alter the breed? It has answered very well for a number of years. I perfectly agree with all that the noble Earl [Lord Dunraven] said, but I think he ought to have said something more about the mares. One of the reasons why we have such good hunters in Ireland is that the farmers' mares are much better bred than in England. I think my noble Friend will agree with me that if you get these mares tainted with this horrible hackney blood you will lose the excellence of your hunters. That is my belief; and I repeat that I think we in Ireland owe thanks to the noble Earl for bringing this matter forward. Lord Spencer says he does not fear the percolation of the hackney blood. The danger there is that it is bounty fed; in fact, the fee is only five shillings. I do hope that something will be done to check this hackney stallion blood percolating throughout the country.


I think there is one point to be emphasised, and that is the reason for the action of the Congested Districts Board in introducing this strain into the country. We must remember that nearly 40,000 horses are exported from Ireland, and it is most important to us to keep the breed of horses perfectly pure, not only from the hunter's point of view, but also from the point of view of remounts. Enormous quantities of remounts are bought for the English Army and for foreign armies. The noble Lord opposite [Lord Spencer] said he did not object to hackneys; but, surely, he would not like to see a breed of straight-shouldered, high-stepping, slack-backed animals introduced into the country. The question has become almost a public one in Ireland. There is one point which has not been touched upon, and it is this, that the effect of the Royal Commission has been the showing up of the hackney, and that the Irish farmer is now well aware of the evils that are attendant upon using a hackney sire. Our feeling in Ireland is that the hackney is to be avoided. I think the Irish farmer is now shrewd enough not to mate his mare with hackney blood. I do not wish in any way to say a word against the Congested Districts Board. They have done much to encourage fisheries and to improve the breed of cattle; in that respect their service has been wonderful. But we must remember that since 1882 a very large sum of money has been spent in horse-breeding schemes. At the farm at Shankhill 16 out of 25 horses are hackneys. Since 1882 nearly £30,000 has been spent; £6,592 has been spent on the stud farm at Shankhill, When we consider all the distress, and the main object for which this board was created, we all feel in Ireland that if that money had been spent in some other way than in encouraging this particular breed of horses, which stinks in the nostrils of Irishmen, it would have been better. I do not wish to trouble your Lordships any further in the matter. I am delighted that the noble Earl has brought the matter forward. I only hope that it will secure the attention of Her Majesty's Government. It is to be hoped that Her Majesty's Government will take note of what we, who hunt and who breed and who sell horses in Ireland, all feel, for we are all perfectly alive to the evils of the hackney blood, and do not intend in future in the horse-breeding districts of Ireland to have anything more to do with that high-shouldered brute.


I must say something for the hackney. My noble Friend's description of the animal is such that, if it had been brought into my district, it would be looked upon with contempt by everybody. I am sure the noble Lords who spoke of hackneys in the manner they did had better make themselves acquainted with first-class hackneys. My only experience is with the Indian cross. During the time I was Secretary of State for India I took a great deal of interest in this particular matter, and was myself in a district where first-class hackneys were bred. Hackneys were crossed with light Arab horses for the purpose of cavalry remounts. If the result was not as good as it might have been, the failure was entirely due to not having first-class hackney blood; for when I saw the prices I knew they would only get a second-class animal.


I am certain that everybody who listened to the eloquent speech of the noble Earl who brought forward this question will have recognised the way in which he criticised the various points that were brought before the Commission. The noble Earl proceeded to talk very strongly against the introduction of hackney blood into Ireland through the action of the Congested Districts Board, and I was afraid that perhaps the answer I would have to give him would be somewhat unsatisfactory, inasmuch as I should have asked him to excuse me from going into a discussion on the respective merits of hackneys and thoroughbreds. But he wound up his speech by expressing the desire that Her Majesty's Government would practically confine themselves to the recommendations about which the Commission was unanimous. There, I think, I can satisfy the noble Earl, because I can assure him that those recommendations are being most carefully considered at the present moment, and that the Report has in no way been lost sight of. The Lord Lieutenant does not feel, in view of the difference of opinion expressed by the Commissioners, inclined to recommend the abolition of the system which has hitherto been adopted by the Congested Districts Board. But, of course, the various reports that are brought forward by many people who are deeply interested in horse-breeding in Ireland can be considered by the Congested Districts Board themselves, and I have no doubt they will receive careful attention. I would point out to your Lordships that the Lord Lieutenant proposes to create an authoritative body in Ireland, probably similar to the Commission for that purpose in England, for the management and for the encouragement of breeding pure, sound, thoroughbred horses. Of course, in connection with that proposal the matter of finance crops up, and the financial arrangements are now being considered by the Government. It is hoped that as soon as the various arrangements can be made a practical scheme may be formulated, and it is possible that it may be complete before the close of the Recess. I may also my that the recommendations of the Commission with regard to the question of registration, and the absolute necessity of doing all that is possible for the purpose of ensuring the use of sound stallions in the country, will not be lost sight of; but, of course, it would be premature at this moment to say what the exact steps would be to secure a great improvement, and the doing away of unsound stallions.


stood at the Table to reply.


The noble Lord is not entitled to make a second speech, as he has not moved a Resolution.


resumed his seat.

House adjourned at 6.35.