Phar Lap is Dead!  The terrible headline traveled around the globe and plunged Australia into mourning.  Why was this headline news?  Who was Phar Lap and why were Australians heartbroken by his death?  Phar Lap was a thoroughbred race horse with an incredible story.  It is the story of an inauspicious beginning, a triumphant rise to fame, and a tragic and mysterious death.

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Phar Lap.  From The Age

The horse that would be named Phar Lap was born in New Zealand, by Night Raid, out of Entreaty.  At the yearling auction at Trentham the chestnut colt was lot 41, the last one of the day.  He was large and clumsy, but based on his pedigree alone, Australian trainer Harry Telford wanted him.  Telford had convinced American David J. Davis to buy the colt sight unseen.  Telford’s brother placed the winning bid, 160 guineas.  A better bargain has never been had on a race horse but that fact would not be revealed for some time yet.

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Harry Telford.  From Museum Victoria

Phar Lap was shipped to Australia to embark on his training and eventual racing career.  When he arrived he was skinny, had developed boils on his face, and was so gangly and clumsy that Davis flat out refused to pay to train him.  Telford couldn’t afford to buy the horse from Davis, however they came to a lease arrangement where Telford would feed and train the horse for three years in exchange for two thirds of its winnings.  Initial training efforts were not very successful and Telford decided to have Phar Lap gelded and turned out for a while to mature.

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David J. Davis.  From Museum Victoria

As a two year old, his training got underway in earnest.  The regimen included grueling workouts where Phar Lap carried heavy weights up and down the coastal dunes.  It was in Telford’s stables that Phar Lap would meet and bond with the young strapper Tom Woodcock.  Tom fed and cared for the horse, and spent more time with him than any other human being.  The two developed a deep friendship and Tom was rarely more than a dozen yards away from Phar Lap for the rest of the horse’s life.

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Tom Woodcock and Phar Lap.  From Phar Lap, the story of the Big Horse, by I. R. Carter (1965).  NSLM. The gift of Alexander Mackay-Smith.

Phar Lap’s racing record is 51 starts for 37 wins, 3 seconds, and 2 thirds, including a streak of 14 consecutive wins between September 1930 and March 1931.  The highlight of this series was an impressive three length win at the Melbourne Cup while carrying the high weight of 138 pounds.  

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Phar Lap wins the 1930 Melbourne Cup by three full lengths, finishing with a time of 3 minutes and 27 seconds.  IMAGE CREDIT: National Library of Australia / Wikimedia Commons

He frequently won by several lengths and preferred to give ground early in a race and then run down the horses ahead of him.  He also frequently carried heavy weight handicaps, although that didn’t seem to bother him except for the 1931 Melbourne Cup race in which he failed to place while carrying 150 pounds, 52 more than the winner of the race.  He had incredible stamina and often raced a grueling schedule.  In one week in 1930 Phar Lap not only won four races in seven days, including the Melbourne Cup, but also survived an assassination attempt.  Someone shot at him from a car on Saturday morning, he raced and won the same day, won the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, and two other races on Thursday and Saturday.

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Phar Lap with jockey Jim Pike riding at Flemington race track c 1930
Charles Daniel Pratt, 1893-1968 – Held in the collection of the State Library of Victoria

The public fell in love with Phar Lap.  The 1930s were difficult depression years in Australia and the people latched onto the horse’s rise from obscurity to complete domination of the racing world.  He was an underdog who succeeded through hard work and heart, overcoming obstacles such as heavy weight handicaps and even an assassination attempt, in his unstoppable rise to the pinnacle of Australian racing.  They saw in him traits that they valued as a nation, and they thrilled to see him win.

Having met every challenge available in Australia, Telford and Davis set their sights on conquering American racing.  It was decided that Phar Lap would make the long voyage across the Pacific and arrive in time to participate in the Agua Caliente Handicap on Sunday, March 20, 1932.

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Phar Lap being loaded onto the ship.  Taken from The Age

He arrived safely on January 15 to great fanfare and spent the next two months getting acclimated.  On the day of the race Phar Lap didn’t disappoint.  In front of a racecourse packed with 20,000 spectators, he let the pack lead him and then ran them all down effortlessly, winning by two lengths.  He broke the track record for the distance while he was at it.  Watch Phar Lap winning the Agua Caliente Handicap here.  Phar Lap was in peak condition and poised to take the American racing circuit by storm.  Sixteen days later he was dead.

After the Agua Caliente race, Phar Lap was taken to a breeding farm belonging to Edward D. Perry, near Menlo Park, California.  Here he was resting and training as plans were made for his tour of the United States.  On the morning of Tuesday, April 5th, Tom Woodcock found Phar Lap in obvious distress.  The vet that accompanied the party from Australia was summoned.  Initially they thought he was suffering from a colic attack but as his condition rapidly worsened, they began to suspect poisoning.  Despite their best efforts Phar Lap hemorrhaged and died shortly after noon.  By 3:30 the news was out.  Expressions of shock, disbelief, sadness, and condolence poured in from around the world.  How could this have happened?  As it turns out, this question still has not been definitively answered even 85 years later.

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Suspicions that Phar Lap had been poisoned surfaced quickly in the press.
Source: Museum Victoria

The initial autopsy noted that the stomach and intestines were severely inflamed and the lining of the stomach was badly perforated.  The speed of death was much faster than one would expect from colic and almost immediately rumors of intentional poisoning began to spread.  Multiple agencies and individuals investigated, often reporting contradictory information and results.  The possibilities are wide ranging.  He may have been poisoned, either intentionally or accidentally.  It’s possible that someone wanted to kill Phar Lap, after all he had already been the object of one assassination attempt.  Accidental poisoning may have resulted from eating forage that was tainted with insecticide, or through arsenic contained in a tonic.  He may have developed severe bloat, or intestinal tympany, from eating wet alfalfa.  Others have suggested colic or colitis x.  At a minimum one can say that the case continues to hold the public’s interest.  Every few years a new article is published claiming to have definitively solved the mystery.  The truth may never be known.

Amazingly, his death is not the end of Phar Lap’s story. Almost immediately his heart was preserved and given to The Institute of Anatomy in Canberra, where it was exhibited next to the heart of an army remount horse.  Phar Lap’s 14 pound heart dwarfed that of the remount which weighed only 6 pounds.  It can now be seen at the National Museum of Australia.

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Phar Lap’s heart.  From the National Museum of Australia

His skeleton went to The Dominion Museum in Wellington, New Zealand (now called The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa).  For five years it was stored in boxes in the basement due to lack of funds to articulate and display it.  When a subscription list was opened in the Referee, the money was easily raised in just two weeks.  Phar Lap’s bones were assembled and his skeleton was put on display in 1938.

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From The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

His mounted hide is in The National Museum of Victoria in Melbourne.  It is a masterpiece of taxidermy and was completed by Louis, Leslie and John Jonas of Yonkers, New York.  Although they had never before prepared a horse, their outstanding workmanship on wild animal exhibits was well known in museums.  The exhibit opened in 1933 and remains one of the museum’s most popular.  Through these exhibits Phar Lap’s amazing story survives and continues to inspire those that hear it.

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Equus caballus, taxidermied mount of the racehorse Phar Lap. Registration no. C 10726.  Photographer: Benjamin Healley  Source: Museums Victoria
Copyright Museums Victoria / CC BY (Licensed as Attribution 4.0 International)

The Library holds many biographies of famous horses. If you’d like to learn more about the lives, adventures and accomplishments of these fascinating animals, including Phar Lap, stop by the Main Reading room.


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Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

This weekend I’ll be going to the Virginia Foxhound Show.  It will be my first time at a hound show and although I’ll be going with someone knowledgeable, I’ve been doing a little homework and thought I’d pass along what I’ve learned thus far.

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The Virginia Foxhound Club Hound Show at Mrs. Marion DuPont Scott’s “Montpelier,” Orange , Virginia, 1959, by Jean Bowman. National Sporting Library and Museum, Archive Collection (MC0040).

The developmental history of foxhound breeds can and has filled volumes.  The English foxhound was developed through the cross breeding of several varieties of hounds used to hunt hare and stag.  The goal was to create a pack hound with nose and stamina enough to hunt the red fox across long distances, with mounted hunters following behind.  As the story goes, the American foxhound’s development began with a pack of hounds imported to the colonies by Robert Brooke in 1650. Over the next 200 years additional imports of English, French, and Irish hounds were crossbred with the American hounds ultimately resulting in the modern American foxhound.

Although both the English and American foxhounds were developed to hunt fox, breeders select for traits most beneficial in their local terrain.  This divergent selection has resulted in hounds with distinctly different physical characteristics.  The best summation of this difference that I found is that, American foxhounds are the Thoroughbred of foxhounds, while the English are Percherons.

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Example of an American Foxhound.  Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1975 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

American foxhounds should have a slightly domed skull, long, large ears, large eyes, straight muzzle, well laid-back shoulders, a moderately long back, fox-like feet, and a slightly curved tail.

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Example of an English foxhound.  Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1973 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

By comparison, the English foxhound is a bit shorter and more heavily built.  They have a wider skull and long muzzle.  Their ears are noticeably shorter and higher set than the American hounds, and their legs are muscular and straight-boned, with rounded, almost cat-like paws.

While hound shows can be interesting to the layperson, and are certainly social events for the groups involved, their main purpose is to further refine the development of the breeds.  It is an opportunity for breeders to see what others have accomplished, and to display their own successes.  Bloodlines with favorable traits are identified and plans are made to add them to breeding programs.

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Program for the first Virginia Foxhound Show, 1934.  National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0071)

The first Virginia Foxhound Show was associated with the American Foxhound Club and was held in 1934 at the Montpelier estate of Mrs. Marion DuPont Scott.  The meet was suspended during WWII and did not resume until 1955 at which time it was run by the newly formed Virginia Foxhound Club.   The show continued at Montpelier until 1961 when it was moved to the Upperville Horse Show grounds.  In 1965 it was relocated for several years to William W. Brainard, Jr.’s  estate, Glenara, near Marshall.  Finally it settled at Oatlands in 1970 and remained there until 1996 when it moved to its current location at Morven Park.

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This emblem decorates the silver cups presented as trophies in The Virginia Hound Show.  National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0040)

Although the show originally focused only on American Foxhounds, in the late 1960s it began to open up and now features American, English, Cross-bred, and Penn-Marydel Foxhounds.  Today the Virginia Foxhound Show is the largest sanctioned hound show in the world.

Here’s what I’ve been told to expect at the show.  All handlers wear long white coats.  Those showing English hounds, sport bowler hats, while all others use riding helmets.  English hounds are shown off leash, showcasing natural movement.

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Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1974 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

There are contests for the best of both sexes of, individual hounds, couples of hounds, and parent/offspring, within each class, American, English, Cross-bred, and Penn-Marydel.  The hounds are judged for conformation to an ideal breed standard.

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Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1969 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)
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Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1972 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

There are also pack classes of five couple of hounds.  These are judged as a unit on uniformity, conformation, and way of moving; on the obedience of hounds to huntsman; and on the responsiveness of hounds to huntsman.

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Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1974 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

The Junior Handler Class is open to children associated with exhibiting packs.  There are two divisions, aged under 10, and aged 11-16.  Participants are judged on handling and presentation of the foxhound.  This promises to be quite cute as the children sport the same white coats and hats as adult handlers.  I’m looking forward to seeing all the hounds in person!

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Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1975 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

If you would like to learn more about foxhounds, hunts, or sporting dogs in general, the Library has many resources available.  There are extensive archival materials on various hunts, their hound pedigrees, journals of kennel activities, hound shows, and hunt diaries.  The Main Reading Room houses books on a wide range of breeds and strains.  You can also learn about training sporting dogs, kennel construction, or the medical care of these canine athletes.  Readers can catch up on current events in the hound community through Hounds magazine, also available in the Main Reading Room.  Come visit me in the Library and I’d be happy to connect you with any of these resources.


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Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

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Great Sporting Posters of the Golden Age, Sid Latham (1978)

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s manufacturers of guns, munitions, and to a lesser extent fishing tackle, promoted their products with large colorful posters and calendars, featuring artwork commissioned from some of the finest illustrators of the era. I was recently introduced to this art form through Sid Latham’s book, Great Sporting Posters of the Golden Age (1978). This oversize volume, found in the Library’s Main Reading Room, showcases two dozen advertising posters.

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Brant by Lynn Bogue Hunt (1909), for Du Pont Powder Company.

Right away one notices the lack of product information on these posters. There are company names, and tag lines, but beyond that there are only the images. Rather than directly peddling their products, these companies seek to evoke the memories and feelings of a viewer’s own experience in the field, and to associate their products with those experiences.

Here we see the thrill of the chase.  The image on the left was created for The Horton Manufacturing Company by Philip R. Goodwin (1917).  The lake scene on the right is by an unknown artist and was created for The Laflin & Rand Powder Company (1904 or 1905).  Quite a few of the posters in Latham’s book are by uncredited artists.  He tells us that some artists would not sign their commercial work in order to maintain their reputations as fine artists.  Apparently advertising work was considered undignified by some.

The next two posters highlight the beauty of the quarry.  The pair of grouse on the left are by Edward Knoebel (1909) for The Winchester Repeating Arms Company.  On the right, Gustave Muss-Arnolt places the viewer in the sky with a squadron of mallard ducks.  This poster was created for The Peters Cartridge Company.

Some posters, like this one by Carl Rungius for the Savage Arms Company (1904), showcase the moment of victory.

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This scene showing an unexpected occurrence sure to become an oft-told tale was done by an unknown artist for The Laflin & Rand Powder Company (1906).

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Both of the posters below are by unnamed artists.  They highlight a hunter’s working relationship and companionship with his dogs.  The setters on the left were painted for The Winchester Repeating Arms Company.  The hunter resting with his canine companions was created for Lefever Arms Company.

And of course, you can’t go wrong with puppies!  These adorable chaps were painted for The Union Metallic Cartridge Company by an unknown artist (1904).

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One of the reasons I think these illustrations are so evocative is that many of the artists were sporting men themselves. They spent time in the field and as a result their images have an authentic feel. In The Art of American Arms Makers (2004), we can see Philip R. Goodwin’s, Off for the Day’s Hunt, first as a preliminary water color sketch, next as the completed oil painting, and finally as a calendar for Winchester Guns and Cartridges.  Goodwin hunted in Montana in 1907 and 1910.  It’s likely that this scene is drawn from his experiences on those trips.

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Off for the Day’s Hunt by Philip R. Goodwin (1915).  In The Art of American Arms Makers, Richard C. Rattenbury (2004).  The gift of David S. Nelson.

Once the readership of sporting magazines ballooned manufacturers began to reach out to their potential customers through that venue.  There was no longer a need for the posters.  Today they are quite collectible, and of course they remain as evocative as ever.  In fact an added layer of nostalgia increases their beauty.

Beyond creating commercial posters, these artists illustrated books, painted, and sculpted.  The Library’s collections contain many examples of their work, as well as books about their careers.  The museum also holds examples of fine art created by some of the same artists.

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Matchless, by Gustave Muss-Arnolt (1885).  The gift of Harry T. Peters, Jr.

Drop in and read about Lynn Bogue Hunt’s, or Carl Rungius’ life in The Main Reading Room, or view a set of hound portraits painted by Gustave Muss-Arnolt in the Museum’s permanent collection.


SONY DSCErica Libhart has served as the Mars Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

This week I’d like to highlight a section of the Library collection that really surprised me.  Recently, I’ve been working with the big game hunting books.  I’m not a hunter and I don’t come from a hunting family.  While I have no problem with the sport in general, the idea of trophy hunting is disagreeable to me.  As such I began work on the big game books with trepidation.  I expected to encounter long lists of trophies taken or photos of white men posing with their foot on the corpse of a lion or elephant.  While there is a fair bit of this sort of thing, there is also a great deal more to be discovered if one takes the time to read more closely.

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The Dark Continent. Edouard Foa, After Big Game in Central Africa (1899).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

The books that caught my attention were originally published between 1850 and 1950 and are accounts of expeditions, not simply butcher’s bills of the local fauna.  First things first, these books can in no way be considered politically correct.  In addition to the sometimes graphic descriptions of hunting scenes, there are also some comments and attitudes about anyone non-white or non-Christian that many modern day readers would find objectionable.  However, if you try to view the writing through the lens of what was considered acceptable behavior in the late 19th or early 20th century, an extremely interesting account of travel and exploration emerges.

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Dwarfed by the environment.  Edouard Foa, After Big Game in Central Africa (1899).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

In addition to being skilled hunters, these men, and sometimes women, were also geographers, naturalists, anthropologists, and writers.  They journeyed throughout Africa, India, Asia, and North America in a time when travel was still a challenge in and of itself.  And as they trekked, they analyzed and described the behavior of the local animals, sometimes collecting specimens for museums.  They recorded the topography of their routes, and they interacted with the indigenous populations.

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Local shopping. P. H. G. Powell-Cotton, A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (1902).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

Returning home, they published their experiences, recounting not only the hunting, but also the traveling, and their impressions of the lands and people that they encountered.  These accounts allowed the armchair adventurer of the time to experience exotic locales without risking the dangers of injury or disease, and they allow modern day readers to experience a world that in a very real sense no longer exists.

In Two Dianas in Alaska (1909), Agnes Herbert recounts her shooting trip to Alaska with her cousin Cecily.  The account begins with a description of their trip from New York City to Butte City, Montana.

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Agnes Herbert in native parka.  Agnes Herbert, Two Dianas in Alaska (1909).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

While it is interesting to read about the traveling conditions in the United States at that time, what is even more entertaining is her charming and engaging tone.  It reads like a letter from a good friend, with comical remarks, and candid comments.

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Edouard Foa. Edouard Foa, After Big Game in Central Africa (1899).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

 

Edouard Foa’s book, After Big Game in Central Africa (1899), describes his experiences during a three year expedition in Africa from 1894 to 1897.  In it he carefully describes the behavior of many African game animals and includes frank advice for operating in that environment.  For example, when encountering rainy conditions while hunting or marching in the bush, he removes his clothing, places it in a waterproof bag, and walks about in a loincloth, shoes, and hat.  “Not that I can say I have a very elegant appearance in this dress, but I have found it is the most practicable during the rainy season.  Immediately the rain stops the skin dries, and you have not the inconvenience of keeping on your wet clothes, which brings on fever and rheumatism” (p. 51).

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P. H. G. Powell-Cotton.  P. H. G. Powell-Cotton, A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (1902).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (1902), by P. H. G. Powell-Cotton includes a wonderful appendix that meticulously lists the food, equipment, armaments and munitions, and personnel required for a successful journey.

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Don’t forget the egg cup and dessert spoons!  P. H. G. Powell-Cotton, A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (1902).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

Although a prolific hunter, he also furnishes a great deal of information on the local culture, politics, and sites of interest.  The subtitle of his books says it all, “A Narrative of a Nine Months’ Journey from the Plains of the Hawash to the Snows of Simien, with a Description of the Game, from Elephant to Ibex, and Notes on the Manners and Customs of the Natives.”  Here he gives us a photo of the resting place of the true Arc of the Covenant.

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P. H. G. Powell-Cotton, A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (1902). The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

Many of the library’s big game volumes are reprints of much earlier works and include forewords that provide a useful historical and biographical context for the book.  By being mindful of this context, modern readers can still enjoy these intriguing books despite the fact that they have not aged particularly well.


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Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

Frequently, reference questions offer tantalizing tangents utterly unrelated to the original question.  I recently pulled a book called The Hare (1896), from the Fur and Feather series edited by Alfred E. T. Watson, for a visitor that was interested in information on coursing.   In addition to information about hare hunting, this book includes a section on Cookery.  Interesting and practical!

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The Fur and Feather series edited by Alfred E. T. Watson (1895-1896)

In his introduction to the series Mr. Watson says, “Each volume of the present series will, therefore, be devoted to a bird or beast, and will be divided into three parts.  The Natural History of the variety will first be given ; it will then be considered from the point of view of sport ; and the writer of the third division will assume that the creature has been carried to the larder, and will proceed to discuss it gastronomically.” (The Hare, Preface page v.)

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The Hare: Natural History by H. A. Macpherson ; Shooting by Gerald Lascelles ; Coursing by Charles Richardson ; Hunting by J. S. Gibbons and G. H. Longman ; Cookery by Kenney Herbert. c1896. The gift of Dr. Timothy Greenan.

Intrigued by the possibilities of 1896 cookery, I leafed through hare cookery only to stumble across this line, “The only meat I know which might be taken for hare is that of the porcupine, not only in flavour and closeness of grain, but also in appearance, ‘which the blacknesse thereof convinceth,’ for, contrary to the general impression, it is not white.  A young porcupine about half-grown is really a delicacy.” (p. 262).

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Porcupine.  Image via The Animal Rescue Site

Really?  Porcupine meat was so commonly consumed that it could be used as a reference to describe hare?  I suppose the porcupine, trundling along through the woods, would be a lot easier to catch than the speedy hare but even so it seems like the porcupine would be the exotic meal, not the hare.

On to the cookbooks for further research!  NSLM has quite a few modern day, game cookbooks which I perused looking for porcupine recipes.

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Pennsylvania Game Cookbook edited by Bob Bell (1979) ; The Derrydale Game Cook Book by Louis Pullig De Gouy (c1934, 1950) ; Wild fare & wise words : recipes and writing from the great outdoors edited by Jim and Ann Casada (2005) ; The NAHC Wild Game Cookbook edited by Bill Miller et. al. (1991)

Next to the expected recipes for pheasant and venison, I did indeed find quite a few recipes for porcupine!  I also found preparations for a whole host of other critters that I didn’t realize people ate outside of survival situations.  Items on the menu include, crow, fox, groundhog, muskrat, opossum, and raccoon.  Recipes are generally preceded by tips on the appropriate dressing and handling of game.  This is especially critical to those of us who have only cooked with prepared, packaged meat from the grocery store.  The recipes themselves cover a wide range of preparations and, for the most part, sound pretty tasty.  It’s interesting to consider the culturally determined rules governing what is considered food and what isn’t.

Just as I was turning away from the cookbook shelf, I noticed a bright green cover and made the mistake of pulling it out for a look.  In my hands was, The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director by Richard Bradley, originally published in 1736.

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The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director by Richard Bradley, c1736, 1980.

Of course I couldn’t resist checking out what cooks were up to in 1736.  On a positive note, they were very thrifty and what we would call “green.”  They used EVERYTHING.  However, here’s a short list of some less savory tidbits from back in the day:  Recipes for “Viper-Soup from Mr. Ganeau” (p. 149-150), for “Calf’s-Head Pie” (p. 158-159),  how “To Prepare the Caviar, or Spawn of the Sturgeon” (p. 23),  and “The Manner of Pickling and Drying of Sheeps Tongues, or Hogs Tongues, which they call Stags Tongues, from a celebrated practioner of forty years standing in London” (p. 27).

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Badger, a nice sweet meat! Image via The Animal Rescue Site

I also found out that, “The badger is one of the cleanest creatures, in its food, of any in the world, and one may suppose that the flesh of this creature is not unwholesome.  It eats like the finest pork, and is much sweeter than pork” (p. 145).

Ugh, maybe I’ll stick with the porcupine.

If you would like some fresh ideas on cooking game I’d be happy to show you our cookbooks any time.  They contain many ideas for preparing game fowl, as well as both large, and small game.  Alternatively, if you’d like to challenge Anthony Bourdain and his Parts Unknown show to a time traveling episode, I have a cookbook that’ll be just the thing!


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Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

Many readers may not realize it, but the vast majority of the books at the National Sporting Library have been donated to us.  We rarely purchase titles.  In 1954, two of our founders, Alexander Mackay-Smith and George L. Ohrstrom Sr., pooled their personal libraries to create the National Sporting Library.  Since then the collection has grown and evolved through donations both large and small from the community.

The library today is a reflection of the interests of the sporting community.  We have books, both scholarly and for the layperson, on a large variety of equine topics, as well as on art, angling, hunting, wingshooting, hounds, firearms, biography, and general sporting.  The sporting community has a long tradition of poking fun at itself and as such, you will also find humorous books on our shelves.

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John Tickner, Horse & Hound Magazine, 6 March 1997, pg. 12

John Tickner (1913-1997) was a prolific writer and cartoonist.  He is probably best known for his weekly cartoon in Horse & Hound magazine where he worked for twenty years.  In addition, he also wrote and illustrated numerous lighthearted books on horses, riding, and country life.

Here at NSLM we have ten volumes by Tickner and one compilation of his Horse & Hound cartoons.

tickner-booksTickner’s Dog Licence (1957), Tickner’s Light Horse (1958), Tickner’s Show Piece (1958), Tickner’s Horse Encyclopaedia (1960), To Hounds with John Tickner (1962), Tickner’s Pub (1965), Tickner’s Rural Guide (1967), Tickner’s Hunting Field (1970), Tickner’s Terriers (1977), Tickner’s Ponies (1991, c1966), and Tickner’s Horse & Hound (1997).

Here’s a closer look at Tickner’s Horse Encyclopaedia (1960).

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John Tickner, 1960.

Under A…

Accident: “An accident is an awful thing when it is happening to you but, if you happen to survive it – and quite a few horse persons do – it gives you a wonderful opportunity to bore everyone you meet for weeks, months and even years.”

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Tickner’s Horse Encyclopaedia, by John Tickner, 1960, pg. 7.

Under C…

Colour: “The colour of horses is one of the most useful topics of conversation if you wish to trap people who pretend to know about horses into revealing that they don’t.  All horses are a colour and some horses are several.  The essential thing to know is that a horse is hardly ever the colour it appears to be.”

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Tickner’s Horse Encyclopaedia by John Tickner, 1960, pg. 29

And under M…

Mount: “The most spectacular way of mounting (see films and television) is to leap from a balcony.  This is frightfully spectacular and is most spectacular when the horse moves off just as the mounting person is in the middle of leaping from the balcony.”

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Tickner’s Horse Encyclopaedia by John Tickner, 1960, pgs. 68-69.

All of Tickner’s books are light, comical, and quick reads.  If you’re looking for a way to spend a cold winter afternoon, I encourage you to drop by the main reading room and settle into one of our comfy couches or chairs and have a laugh or two with John Tickner.


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Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

In the past week or so my cataloging project has reached the hunting section of our collection.  While the bulk of the books in this section are about fox hunting, there is a subset on… beagling.  Beagling?  At this point it will be obvious to those in the know, that I don’t have a background in sporting pursuits.  However, since I joined the NSLM staff last spring I’ve been learning quite a lot, much of it through skimming the books as I work with them and from my coworkers, but also a great deal from visitors to the library.  It turns out beagling is hare hunting using a pack of beagles with the field following behind on foot.

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Thoughts on Beagling (1938)

For more information I pulled Peter Wood’s, Thoughts on Beagling (1938), off the shelf.  He discusses the ideal conformation for beagles.  In his opinion, “Anyone who wishes to go steady should hunt with a 14-inch pack, at which size the pace of the hounds should generally be compatible with the capabilities of the followers.  Those who feel fit, energetic, and full of running should hunt with a 15- or 16-inch pack, which will give them, if there is a scent, all the exercise they can wish for.”  He describes the hunting year for beagling which includes rest and showing in the spring, increasing levels of exercise and training over the summer, and hunting September through March.  The staff of the hunt is introduced.  The roles of the Master, the Huntsman, and the Whippers-In are explained.  He also offers general guidance on appropriate behavior for members of the field following the pack.

Wood’s book stands out for me because of its lovely illustrations by Thomas Ivester Lloyd, a lifelong hunter and one time Master of the Sherington Foot Beagles.  His drawings clearly transmit a love of the sport.  Looking at his pictures, it is easy to imagine tramping along with the rest of the field, chasing after the hounds on a crisp, cold day.

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Thoughts on Beagling (1938)

 

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Thoughts on Beagling (1938)

 

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Thoughts on Beagling (1938)

 

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Thoughts on Beagling (1938)

I have been enjoying learning about sporting and equestrian topics as I work with NSLM’s collection.  If you’d like to learn more too, please drop in and see me in the main reading room.  The collection includes volumes on equestrian sports, hunting, wing shooting, and angling.  We have books on sporting art and a large selection of biographies detailing the life and times of sporting personalities past and present.


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Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail