Have you ever seen a horseshoe nailed above a door for good luck?  This superstition is widespread, although with some regional variations.  I’ve always heard that the open end of the horseshoe should be pointed up to hold the luck in, but I recently found out that there’s another school of thought on the matter.  The open end is pointed down to shower luck upon all who enter.  Regardless of its orientation, I wondered about the origin of idea of the lucky horseshoe.  Fortunately I work in a library devoted to all things equine and as luck would have it, we have a book on the subject. 

The Magic Horse-Shoe with Other Folk-Lore Notes (1898) by Robert Means Lawrence.

The Magic Horse-Shoe with Other Folk-Lore Notes by Robert Means Lawrence was published in 1898. As the title suggests the book covers more than just the horseshoe, but about half the volume is devoted to the topic.  Lawrence states in his preface that, “It has been the writer’s aim to make the chapter on the Horse-Shoe as exhaustive as possible, as this attractive symbol of superstition does not appear to have received hiterhto the attention which it merits.  This chapter is the outgrowth of a paper read at the seventh annual meeting of the America Folk-Lore Society, at Philadelphia, December 28, 1895, an abstract of which appeared in the Society’s Journal for December, 1896.”  By the end of the section on horseshoes, he has described no less than 16 sources for the belief in the magical properties of the horseshoe.  Because today is May 19th, I’d like to focus on one origin story specifically, the tale of St. Dunstan and the Devil.

Monastic Chapel 1920, Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, New York. This is the Christian saint Dunstan in stained glass form.   Wikimedia commons

May 19th is the feast day of Saint Dunstan.  He was born in 909 and would begin his life with the church as a young boy, studying with the monks at Glastonbury Abbey.  He excelled in artistic craftsmanship, in particular smithing and illustration, and was devoted to scholarship.  He also became a skilled politician and was able to successfully navigate the turbulent social and political environment.  Over the course of his career he would become successively, Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, Bishop of Worcester, Bishop of London, and Archbishop of Canterbury.  He died in 988 and would be canonized in 1029. For 200 years he was the most popular saint in England, largely due to impressive tales of his deeds, especially those in which he personally outfoxed the Devil himself.  It is one such tale that brings us to the lucky horseshoe.

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Dunstan shoes the Devil’s hoof. Illustration by George Cruikshank, from The Horse Shoe: The True Legend of St Dunstan and the Devil (1871) by Edward G. Flight.
Wikimedia Commons

Dunstan is said to have been working at his forge when the Devil appeared disguised as a traveler.  The devil asks to have a horseshoe replaced on his horse.  Dunstan sees through the Devil’s disguise and manages to trick him and nail the horseshoe tightly to the Devil’s hoof rather than the horse’s.  This causes the Devil great pain.  Dunstan forces the Devil to agree not to enter any building with a horseshoe mounted above the door in exchange for the removal of the horseshoe from his foot.

The Devil agrees to Dunstan’s terms. Illustration by George Cruikshank, from The Horse Shoe: The True Legend of St Dunstan and the Devil (1871) by Edward G. Flight.
Wikimedia Commons

The details of this story vary widely, as it’s been told and retold for 1000 years.  Sometimes the Devil appears as a woman to tempt Dunstan but he sees her cloven hooves.  Sometimes the horseshoe is hot and burns the Devil’s foot until he agrees to Dunstan’s terms.  There is a popular related tale in which Dunstan grabs the Devil by the nose with hot tongs.  A relatively recent version of the tale was published in 1871 as a lyric poem called, The Horse Shoe: The True Legend of St Dunstan and the Devil, by Edward G. Flight.  The poem was illustrated by the famous English illustrator, George Cruikshank, two of whose illustrations I’ve shared here.

The Library is currently closed but when we reopen I’d be happy to show you Lawrence’s book in which you may read about an additional 15 sources of the belief in lucky horseshoes.  He also covers some other interesting superstitions such as, the omens of sneezing, the folk-lore of common salt, and superstitious dealings with animals.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services 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.

Occasionally while working with a book or object I have the chance to find out a great deal about the person that created it. This happened again recently during my work on our upcoming Angling in Special Collections exhibit. One element of the exhibition is a hand-made bamboo fly rod made by Henry Woolman, III. Mr. Woolman lived and worked in the area around the NSLM for many years and it was suggested to me that I reach out to his widow, Marcia Woolman, for information about him to use on the label that will accompany his fly rod in our exhibition. I did so and discovered that Hank was not only a rod maker, fly tier, and fisherman, but also enjoyed foxhunting, hound judging, and art. There was far too much information to include on the exhibit label so I offered Marcia the opportunity to talk about her late husband and their life together here on the NSLM’s blog. She took me up on that offer and what follows is her description of Hank.


Hank Woolman. Image from his obituary in The Fauquier Times, July 29, 2019.

Henry N. Woolman III, 11/21/1931 to 7/27/2019 by Marcia Woolman

Hank Woolman, a man with many talents and interests. Hank taught himself to do many of the things that filled his life. He was a country gentleman, and all his complex hobbies related to the outdoors and country life. Hank was a master of the skills he focused on in pursuit of a full life. He made cane (bamboo) rods for over 40 years, which he learned to do from reading a book by Garrison, and by trial and error he became a Master craftsman. A self-taught fly fisherman and fly tier which he eventually turned into a business in Middleburg called “The Outdoorsman.” This eventually led to having a Flyfishing School and guiding, both in Virginia and Montana where he and fellow angler, wife, Marcia had a summer home.

Hank in the early stages of rod making. Splitting the culm of cane for a bamboo rod. Photo courtesy of John Ross.

Hank’s complete submersion in his craft took him into the world of beautiful rods, tying the perfect fly to find and catch native fish, and becoming part of the rarified group of bamboo rod makers. He was selected to be one of the Makers when he attended a Cane Rod Makers symposium each summer in Grayling, MI, along the famous Au Sable River in the town where Trout Unlimited was founded over 60 years ago. In the late 1990’s, this group of rod builders, decided to do a fund raiser called “The Makers Rod.” Several selected rod builders were invited to make one strip for “The Makers Rod” and the pieces were sent to be assembled into one cane rod to be chanced off at the Symposium the following summer. What a great honor to be one of the chosen in this exceptional group of talented men.

Hank at work creating a rod. Photo courtesy of John Ross.

Hank possessed another talent that comes to some effortlessly, like a natural gift, and to the rest of us it may never come. Defining this talent; it is that inner communication with the natural word, especially that of the fox and hound relationship. At a young age of about 40 he was asked to be Master of the Orange County Hounds (OCH). He had the gift of always knowing where he was, where a fox could be found, and when the chase began, he knew where it would probably go. As an MFH, he needed that gift. He remained MFH at OCH until 1971 when a farming accident took his right hand. But as you can tell from the bamboo rod making, he was determined not to change his outdoor life as he mastered all aspects of fishing and hunting hounds with only his left hand.  Hank went on to fox hunt as the Huntsman for Eve Fout’s MOC Beagles, to teach the local children to safely fox hunt and learn all the protocols required. All the while he trained both the hounds and his horses. Last, but not least Hank worked endlessly to do it all well.

The silver platter pictured here is the Julian M. Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award. Mr. Marshall served as President of the Bryn Marw Hound Show Association from 1983 to 1987 and as Honorary Chair from 1988 to 1999. After Mr. Marshall’s death the family inaugurated the award, which is presented by a member of the Marshall family, to a living individual who is selected for their outstanding contribution to hounds and hunting. Hank was awarded the Julian M. Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. Photo courtesy of Marcia Woolman.

But there is more…. Shortly after leaving Johns Hopkins with no fingers, with just, what he referred to, as his “paw,” he began using pencil drawing to develop and fine tune his ability to use his left hand so he could return to his fishing hobbies. Let’s look at each of these endeavors as he salvaged each by determination that never diminished the rest of his life. At the time of his accident he was starting into cane rod making. After he mastered the fundamentals, he started experimenting with creating his own tapers which eventually grew into stiffer rods, rather than the traditional softer early cane rods. He preferred to finish his rods by flaming them slightly with a blow torch rather than leave them the natural light blond color. Hank had rods in both finishes.

Before he took up rod making, he was an accomplished fly tier and fisherman, even identifying a unique sub species of mayfly that used his Woolman name in its identity. After losing his hand he continued tying beautiful dry flies and other aquatic life like nymphs, crustaceans and small fish imitations. It was interesting to see how he managed to tie one of these small imitations onto his fly line. He stuck the pointed end of the fly into the cork on the rod handle which held it still, while he maneuvered his fingers to tie the required knot for that task, as well as all other fishing knots on leaders so thin the fish could see only the fly.

As years passed and more time to be an artist became possible, Hank took some lessons locally, and moved from pencils, charcoal, and watercolors to oil painting. He especially found time and enjoyment in his later years in Yellowstone where landscapes became his favorite. Many were near his Montana summer home were there were endless choices of geological features, wildlife, and vast views of nearby mountains. His life was like a kaleidoscope in its variety of ways to use his many talents. As his dear friend, Eve Fout, once said, “Hank can do more with one hand than most of us can do with two.” She was sure right about that!


Bamboo fly rod made by Hank Woolman. The gift of Mrs. Jacqueline B. Mars.

If you would like to see NSLM’s Woolman rod please plan to visit the Angling in Special Collections exhibition in the Library’s Forrest E. Mars, Sr. Exhibit Hall located in the Library’s lower level. The exhibit features rare books on angling topics, including our first edition of The Compleat Angler, more than 50 tied flies from our George Chapman collection, angling themed artwork from the Museum’s collection, and photos of best catches submitted from the public especially for this exhibition. Angling in Special Collections will run through August 2020.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services 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.

The “killer fish,” “X-Files Fish”, “frankenfish,” “fish from hell” or, as some Korean anglers have dubbed it, the “fresh water tyrant” is actually called a channa argus – the Northern Snakehead.

U.S.G.S. “Drawing of Channa Argus, 1933, Wikipedia, https://ca.wikipedia.org/wiki/Channa_argus#Subesp%C3%A8cies. Accessed 27 March, 2020.

If you look up images of the Northern Snakehead you will quickly see why it has the nickname the “fish from hell”. It is ugly, some species can walk over land, it can breathe air for up to three days, it has a set of dagger-like teeth, and it isn’t native to our waters – which makes it extra scary.

So, why would the NSLM be interested in this non-native species? There are a few good reasons why we would want to talk about this fish and it isn’t just for the great X-Files references. Northern Snakeheads are considered to be an invasive species with possible negative effects on local waterways. These waterways are where the game fish that we love, like the beautiful rainbow trout, thrive and more competition for them could negatively impact their population. For these reasons the NSLM, which promotes and supports angling, finds it important to discuss any potential threats and it is just a fascinating fish!

“Editorial cartoon on dangers of exotic snakehead (Channa), in Burnaby Pond,” Arnould, The Georgia Straight, 2012. Fishes in the News, https://www.zoology.ubc.ca/~etaylor/fishinnews.htm. Accessed 27 March, 2020. 

Originally John Odenkirk, the Virginia Department of Inland Game and Fisheries (VDIGF) District Biologist and all-around Northern Snakehead expert, was going to give a presentation about the Snakehead population in Virginia and a demonstration on the proper way to clean and prepare the fish for consumption at the NSLM on April 23rd. He is an advocate for not only catching the fish but for consuming it as well. He has informed me that, despite their appearance, Northern Snakeheads are actually tasty. But, as we all know, times have been different with the affects of COVID-19 being seen globally. Educational programs, including Odenkirk’s talk, have been canceled to help flatten the curve of the virus. While the program is no longer taking place, I still wanted to provide some interesting facts about this creature and hopefully ignite a curiosity to cook the fish as well.   If you want to hear from the expert himself about Northern Snakeheads check out John Odenkirk’s work HERE.

Walker , Lee. John Odenkirk Studying Northern Snakeheads. Courtesy of the VDIGF . 
 

Snakeheads have been compared to the “monster from the black lagoon” and other terrifying science fiction references that conjure up images of a monster fish walking on land and eating everything in sight. Since they were first discovered on U.S. soil back in 2002 at a pond in Crofton, Maryland, there have been a lot of myths, horror stories, and interesting facts spread about the Northern Snakehead. The first place that I looked for information on the species was, of course, our Library. Out of 20,000 volumes only one book had any information on the fish! I even poured through our cooking books searching for any signs of the fish, but with no luck (though I did find a porcupine stew recipe). The sole book found was Snakehead: A Fish out of Water by Eric Jay Dolin and I highly suggest you come to the Library when we open back up to hang out and read about the media frenzied 2002 summer of the Snakehead.

Dolin,Eric Jay. Snakehead: A Fish out of Water. Smithsonian Books, 2003. National Sporting Library & Museum, Main Reading Room.

Snakeheads: A Fish out of Water along with the online resources listed at the end of this post, helped me compile a short list of facts on the species. This is in no way an exhaustive list of all the unusual aspects of the Northern Snakehead, but just some of the more interesting ones to me. If you like fun lists of facts then you will like the rest of this blog post!

  1. Snakeheads get their name from the distinctive snake-like shape of their body, their large scaled head, and from the location of their eyes near the top and forward part of their head.
  2. There are 28 species of Snakeheads.
  3. Some species of Snakeheads can “walk” for short distances over land, but the Northern Snakehead (thankfully) is not one of those.
  4. If their skin is kept moist they can survive out of water by breathing air for up to three days.
  5. They are native to China, southern Siberia, South Korea, and North Korea.
  6. They can grow up to three feet and weigh up to 19 pounds.
  7. Their bottom jaw is full of sharp teeth
  8. Insects, small amphibians, and other fish are their favorite foods.
  9. They protect their young.
  10. The Potomac River drainage of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed is home to the largest Northern Snakehead population in Virginia.
U.S.G.S. “Caught by Live Bait in Panama City Beach.” Northern Snakehead, Wikipedia, 28 Dec. 2019,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_snakehead#/media/File:Northern_snakehead.jpg. Accessed 27, March 2020.  
“Baby Northern Snakehead.” Northern Snakehead, Animal Spot, https://www.animalspot.net/northern-snakehead.html. Accessed 29, March 2020.  

So, what should anglers be prepared to do if they catch a Northern Snakehead?

The VDIGF recommends that you kill the fish, but you can release the fish back into the water if you wish. You are required though, no matter your decision, to call the Snakehead Hotline in Virginia to report the fish at (804)-367-2925. All anglers should remember that it is illegal to have a live Snakehead in your possession. Since 2002, some anglers have sought to purposely catch the fish to help both with population control and for good sport. In Korea, Snakeheads, known as Sogarli, are a native game fish and are highly prized. This makes for a interesting discussion on Northern Snakeheads as a new game fish in our area because, lets face it, they are established here and are not leaving anytime soon so we might as well make good sport of it!

Hagerty , Ryan. “NAS – Nonindigenious Aquatic Spcies .” NAS – Nonindigenious Aquatic Spcies , USGS, 21 Mar. 2020, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?speciesid=2265. Accessed 31, 2020. 

How do you catch one?

For catching a Northern Snakehead, Odenkirk suggests that tidal rivers are best, but there are several lakes that have the invasive population near us including, Lake Brittle near Warrenton and Pelham Lake in Culpeper. Try fishing for Northern Snakeheads as you would for a Large-Mouth Bass, but fish a bit shallower, near vegetation, and be sure to use weedless artificial baits.

You caught one – so now what?

First, you must report the catch to the Snakehead Hotline and then you have a few options of what to do next. You can release the fish back into the water, you can kill the fish and remove it from the waters, or kill the fish and bring it home for a very tasty dinner.

There are several ways you can cook a Northern Snakehead and, according to Odenkirk, there is no wrong way to prepare the fish. The meat of the fish is a firm, mild, and dense white meat that is very similar to several saltwater species such as grouper or a swordfish steak.

Perillo, Joseph. “Image of Northern Snakehead.” Northern Snakehead, Sea Grant: University of Wisconsin, https://www.seagrant.wisc.edu/our-work/focus-areas/ais/invasive-species/invasive-species-fact-sheets/fish/northern-snakehead/. Accessed: 31, March 2020. 

Once life returns to normalcy, I want to try my hand at Northern Snakehead wrangling, cooking, and consuming. Until then, I asked Odenkirk for two of his favorite recipes that we could share with everyone.

The first recipe is devilishly simple and sounds divine. All you need is a filet of fish, your favorite dry seafood seasoning, and olive oil.

The second recipe incorporates some Asian flair with freshly shaved ginger, soy sauce, Thai chili flakes, scallions, and a filet of fish.

Research on the impact of the Northern Snakehead on local waterways and native fish continues. Odenkirk has written many papers on the topic and hopefully we will be able to reschedule his visit to the NSLM at some point in the future. The more research that comes out, the more informed anglers can be. Whether you are actively luring a big Northern Snakehead or accidentally catch one on your line, be sure to call the hotline and consider taking it home to make a nice meal for the family.

Send us your pictures, recipes, and what you thought of the Northern Snakehead when you tasted it! We love to hear good angling stories!

Formal veterinarian training, delivered in an institutional setting, didn’t begin until 1761 when Claude Bourgelat founded the first veterinary school in Lyon, France, but since the domestication animals, people have been accumulating knowledge on how to care for them. The earliest record of what we would call a veterinarian is from Mesopotamia circa 3000 BC where Urlugaledinna was known as an “expert in healing animals.” Works on animal care can be found in China dating back to at least 2500 BC. In Babylonia the Eshuna Code describes methods to control rabies, and the Code of Hammurabi specifies veterinary fees. In India, Shalihotra authored the Shalihotra Samhita, a large treatise on the care and management of horses in the 3rd century BC. The Greek and Roman knowledge of horse care was compiled in The Hippiatrika during the 10th century AD and it would continue to function as the mainstay of veterinary education through the 16th century. At that point Carlo Ruini’s book, L’Anatomia del Cavallo, Infermita, et suoi Rimedii, would kick off a burst of equine veterinary scholarship that would culminate in the foundation of modern veterinary science. 

The NSLM’s copy of Ruini’s L’Anatomia de Cavallo Infermita et suoi Rimedii dates to 1618 and was the gift of the Arundel Foundation.

Carlo Ruini was a member of a wealthy family in Bologna, Italy and received the private education that was usual for men of his class. He did not attend the University in Bologna and there is no record of him receiving medical training. His book, L’Anatomia del Cavallo, Infermita, et suoi Rimedii, which translates as The Anatomy of the Horse, Diseases and their Treatments, was not written until late in his life and was published in 1598, two months after his death.  It is comprised of two sections, the first describes the anatomy of the horse, and the second deals with the diseases of the horse and their treatment.  It is the anatomical section that is most significant.  It is organized in five separate parts:

The Animal Parts, which deals with the head and brain,

L’Anatomia de Cavallo Infermita et suoi Rimedii, Carlo Ruini (1618). The gift of the Arundel Foundation.

The Spiritual Parts focusing on the neck and chest,

L’Anatomia de Cavallo Infermita et suoi Rimedii, Carlo Ruini (1618). The gift of the Arundel Foundation.

The Nutritive Parts dealing with the abdomen,

L’Anatomia de Cavallo Infermita et suoi Rimedii, Carlo Ruini (1618). The gift of the Arundel Foundation.

The Generative Parts describing the reproductive organs,

L’Anatomia de Cavallo Infermita et suoi Rimedii, Carlo Ruini (1618). The gift of the Arundel Foundation.

And finally the Muscles and Skeleton.

Ruini’s illustrations were very likely influenced by those found in human anatomical works published earlier in the 16th century, especially Andreas Vesalius’ De Humani Corporis Fabrica (1543). 

L’Anatomia del Cavallo, Infermita, et suoi Rimedii set a standard for equine anatomical description that would not be surpassed for more than two hundred years.  Numerous editions were published, it was translated into several languages, and it served as inspiration for many other similar works.  One such work is The Anatomy of an Horse (1683) by Andrew Snape (1644-1708) who was a sergeant farrier to King Charles II.  Published 85 years after Ruini’s, Snape’s book closely follows the example laid out by the earlier work, breaking down the anatomical description into five similar sections and including beautiful illustrations throughout.  Some of the images are direct copies of those in Ruini’s book.  Snape’s book is significant in that it was the first such anatomy published in English.

The Anatomy of an Horse, Andrew Snape (1683). The gift of the Arundel Foundation.

It is during the 16th and 17th centuries that structured scientific thought developed and these early monographs on horse care show the application of the budding field of scientific description to equine subjects.

It is fascinating to me how beautiful the images in these works are despite being derived from what must have been fairly gruesome models in reality. Both of these books, along with some other interesting anatomical works, are on view through the end of March in the cases in the lobby of Library. I encourage you to drop by and have a look.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services 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.

Books serve to preserve and transmit information both geographically and temporally but almost from the very beginning they have often also been objects d’art.  From the earliest illuminated manuscripts to today’s deluxe editions, scribes, printers, and bookbinders have enhanced the value of manuscripts and books by adding elaborate decoration to the information contained within them.

Manuscripts have decorative illuminations that range from simple enhanced capitals or rubrics, to intricate and colorful capitals, borders, and full illustrations.

A page from the Book of Kells (c. 800 AD) showing illuminated capitals. From Wikimedia Commons.

Decorations have been applied to every surface and aspect of the book. The endpapers have been colored, marbled, bordered with gilt tooling, and featured pictorial decorations. Special paperstock, color plates, and original illustrations often appear in modern limited editions. Some books have elaborate book clasps, slipcases, or clam shell boxes. The edges of the page block have been gilded, colored, marbled, and even enhanced with full paintings known as fore-edge paintings.

Fore-edge painting of a polo scene on Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott (1873). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The outside of the book has also been used for decoration.  Vellum, leather and cloth covers have been produced in many different colors. Sometimes covers feature designs made with inlaid elements, gilt tooling, or embossing.  Gilt lettering appears on the boards as well as the spine, as do pictorial decorations. To get a closer look at a wide variety of book bindings I highly recommend visiting the Folger Shakespeare Library’s special digital collection of bindings here.

The Library’s collection contains many examples of decorative bindings. Recently I was working with our rare books on dogs and hounds for another project and noticed a profusion of decorative covers that I’d like to share.  

Some of the designs, although detailed, are small, such as this fox terrier which appears in the bottom corner of the front cover of its book and is only about two inches across.

A History and Description, with Reminiscences, of the Fox Terrier by Rawdon B. Lee (1890). The gift of Harry T. Peters, Jr.

Many of the covers feature portraits such as these noble looking hounds…

Upper left: Dogs of the British Islands by J.H. Walsh (1878). The gift of Dorothy Wagstaff Ripley. Upper right: Scotch Deer-Hounds and their Masters by George Cupples (1894). The gift of Dr. Timothy Greenan. Lower left: Spaniels by H.W. Carlton (1931). The gift of Jacqueline B. Mars. Lower right: The Dog by William Youatt (1858).

Others depict full body images such as this training manual featuring what appears to be some sort of pointer, although one with an oddly shaped head.

Dog Breaking by W.N. Hutchinson (1848)

Some of the covers incorporate the title of the book into the decorative image.

Left: Training and Handling of the Dog by B. Waters (1894). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels. Right: The Spaniel and its Training by F.H.F. Mercer (1890).

I especially like the unusual cover for Dogs and Their Doings. This book is a collection of anecdotes describing the surprising and often heroic actions of specific dogs.

Dogs and Their Doings by Rev. F.O. Morris (1872). The gift of Mrs. Eva C. Stewart.

Although most of the images were gilt, which is eye-catching and would have been especially so when the volumes were new, there were a few decorated in either color images or black images

Left: British Dogs at Work by A. Croxton Smith (1906). The gift of Joseph B. Thomas IV. Right: Hunting Dogs by Oliver Hartley (1909).

If you’d like to explore books as objects d’art or to read about the history of bookbinding, you’re welcome to come browse the Main Reading Room.  If you’d like to get a look at some of our more elaborate bindings or editions, you’ll need to schedule a visit to the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.  Contact me for an appointment, I’d love to share some of our treasures with you.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services 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 sportsmen have been inspired by country life to put brush to canvas.  So too have many whose talents have a more literary cast.  The canon of fiction, prose, verse, and song generated by the lovers of country sports and the lifestyle in which they are set fill many shelves at the NSLM.  The poems and songs of William H. Ogilvie are among them.

Will Ogilvie in 1901.  Kerry & Co. of Sydney, from the collection of The State Library of Queensland
Wikimedia Commons.

William, or more commonly Will, Ogilvie was born into a large family based in the Scottish border town of Kelso during the summer of 1869.  He was educated at Kelso High School before attending  Fettes College in Edinburgh where he was a good athlete, participating in rugby and running, and an excellent student, winning a prize for Latin verse.

At the age of twenty, Will emigrated to Australia.  He arrived with a letter of introduction to Robert Scott’s family which eventually landed him the first of a series of jobs at sheep stations.  Friends of the Scotts needed help on their ranch called Belalie located in New South Wales.  Here Will mastered the skills of drover, station hand, horseman, and horse breaker.  Here he also began to record his experiences in poems.  His love of the Australian bush country, horses, dogs, and fair ladies, forms the subject of his ballads.  He published most of his work in newspapers and periodicals and gradually became recognized as one of the great bush poets of Australia.

Will Ogilvie around 1937.  From
Wikimedia Commons.

After twelve years in Australia, Will returned to Scotland.  He would continue to create poems featuring horses, riding, and country life, throughout his long life.  Many of his works would be printed in magazines such as Punch and The Spectator in England, as well as The Bulletin in Australia.  In addition, there were numerous collections of his work published.  Below I’ve shared three of his poems.  I especially enjoy the nostalgic mood of “The Huntsman’s Horse.”

Illustration by Lionel Edwards from his Seen from the Saddle (1937).  The gift of A. Mackay-Smith.

The Huntsman’s Horse
by Will Ogilvie

The galloping seasons have slackened his pace,
And stone wall and timber have battered his knees
It is many a year since he gave up his place
To live out his life in comparative ease.

No more does he stand with his scarlet and white
Like a statue of marble girth deep in the gorse;
No more does he carry the Horn of Delight
That called us to follow the huntsman’s old horse.

How many will pass him and not understand,
As he trots down the road going cramped in his stride,
That he once set the pace to the best in the land
Ere they tightened his curb for a lady to ride!

When the music begins and a right one’s away,
When hoof-strokes are thudding like drums on the ground,
The old spirit wakes in the worn-looking grey
And the pride of his youth comes to life at a bound.

He leans on the bit and he lays to his speed,
To the winds of the open his stiffness he throws,
And if spirit were all he’d be up with the lead
Where the horse that supplants him so easily goes.

No double can daunt him, no ditch can deceive,
No bank can beguile him to set a foot wrong,
But the years that have passed him no power can retrieve —
To the swift is their swiftness, their strength to the strong!

To the best of us all comes a day and a day
When the pace of the leaders shall leave us forlorn,
So we’ll give him a cheer – the old galloping grey –
As he labours along to the lure of the Horn.

From Scattered Scarlet (1923).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Illustration by Lionel Edwards from his My Irish Sketch Book (1938).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The White Hound
by Will Ogilvie

The white hound runs at the head of the pack,
And mute as a mouse is he,
And never a note he flings us back
While the others voice their glee.
With nose to the ground he holds his line
Be it over the plough or grass;
He sets a pace for the twenty-nine
And won’t let one of them pass.

The white hound comes from a home in Wales,
Where they like them pale in hue
And can pick them up when the daylight fails
And the first gold stars look through.
They can see them running on dark hill-sides
If they speak to the scent or no,
And the snow-white hounds are welcome guides
Where the wild Welsh foxes go.

The white hound runs with our dappled pack
Far out behind him strung;
He shows the way to the tan-and-black
But he never throws his tongue.
At times he leads by a hundred yards,
But he’s always sure and sound;
All packs, of course, have their picture cards,
And ours is the old white hound.

The Master says he is far too fast
For our stout, determined strain,
And the huntsman curses him – ‘D—n and blast
He’s away by himself again!’
But the Field is glad when it sees him there,
For we know when a fox is found
The pace will be hot and the riding rare
In the track of the old white hound.

From The Collected Sporting Verse of Will H. Ogilvie (1932). The gift of Edmund S. Twining III.

Illustration by Lionel Edwards from A Handful of Leather (1928). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

A Wish
by Will Ogilvie

O, Fame is a fading story
And gold a glitter of lies,
But speed is an endless glory
And health is a lasting prize;
And the swing of a blood horse striding
On turf elastic and sound
Is joy secure and abiding
And kingship sceptered and crowned.

So give me the brave wind blowing,
The open fields and free,
The tide of the scarlet flowing,
And a good horse under me;
And give me that best of bounties:
A gleam of November sun,
The far-spread English counties,
And a stout red fox to run.

From A Handful of Leather (1928). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The Library holds many of Ogilvie’s books as well as those of numerous other sporting poets in our Main Reading Room.  Please consider dropping by and spending an afternoon exploring them!


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services 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 as the nation recognizes and honors the service and sacrifices of the members of its armed forces we should also honor the many animals that have accompanied our soldiers into war. For as long as people have gone to war they have brought animals with them. Specially trained animals have filled the roles of transportation of both soldiers and equipment, communication, detection, fighter, sentry, mascots, and sadly sometimes as the carriers of explosives – becoming weapons themselves. The list of the types of animals that have filled these roles is long, and each used its special abilities and characteristics to help their human counterparts by doing something the humans couldn’t or by enhancing the skill or effectiveness of the people they worked alongside.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Blake Soller, a Military Working Dog (MWD) handler pets the head of his MWD Rico, at the War Dog Cemetery located on Naval Base Guam. From Wikimedia Commons.

They have lent us their strength, their speed, their agility, their sense of smell, their ability to intimidate and fight, and often their companionship. Some of these animals are familiar such as the horse, mule, and dog. Other animals that have served include, oxen, elephants, camels, birds, reindeer, dolphins, sea lions, pigs, and cats. The Library holds many books describing the roles and heroics of animals in war and I thought I’d share the story of a little mare from Korea that would eventually become a staff sergeant in the US Marine Corps.

A M-20 75 mm recoilless rifle being fired during the Korean War. Wikimedia Commons.

During the Korean War the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Anti-Tank Company, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division put its large recoilless rifles to good use. Although they were highly effective, the guns were six feet long, weighed over 100 pounds, and fired shells weighing 24 pounds each, making them difficult to move and supply. The platoon leader, Lt. Eric Pedersen had the idea of getting a pack horse to assist his men. The idea was approved and he bought a small chestnut filly with $250 of his own money. The little horse was only 14 hands high and weighed about 900 pounds but she would prove to have a huge impact despite her small stature.

Reckless with her main caretaker, US Marine Sergeant Joseph Latham. Wikimedia Commons.

Once she arrived back at camp several marines, who were also experienced horsemen, were tasked with her training. PFC Monroe Coleman and Sgt. Joe Latham drew the duty. She was dubbed Reckless which was also a nickname for the recoilless gun that the platoon used. PFC Reckless’s “hoof-camp” training began the next morning. She learned to carry the gun and its heavy ammunition, became accustomed to the sounds of the firing of the gun, and learned to ride in a little trailer attached to a jeep.

Hoof-Camp training. From Reckless Pride of the Marines by Andrew Geer (1955). The gift of Mrs. Howard Linn.

She also mastered lying down when under fire, and running for cover to a bunker when “incoming” was yelled. Her training was so effective that she was able to make trips from the ammo supply up to the gun emplacements by herself after being shown the route only a few times. In addition to supplying the guns with ammunition, Reckless assisted with other tasks. She was especially useful stringing out telephone wire from spools carried on her pack. She was able to string more telephone line in a day than 10 men on foot. She also carried wounded soldiers from the front lines back to medical assistance.

Sergeant Reckless pictured with a reel of communication wire. Wikimedia Commons.

The highlight of Reckless’s military career would come in 1953 when she participated in the Battle for Outpost Vegas. During a single day of the battle Reckless traveled back and forth to the front lines 50 times. She traveled 35 miles, carrying nearly 9000 pounds of ammunition, and brought wounded marines back to the supply point. During the battle she was wounded twice, once in the flank and once above her eye, but she continued to make the trek back and forth to the front. Her efforts earned her a promotion to corporal.

Sergeant Reckless under fire during the Korean War. From Reckless Pride of the Marines by Andrew Geer (1955). The gift of Mrs. Howard Linn.

Reckless became a true member of her platoon and was able to wander about camp and into tents freely. She frequently insisted on being the center of attention, and must have had a bit of goat in her as she was known to eat anything and everything. She especially liked scrambled eggs and coffee, and would enjoy a beer with her compatriots. She also ate items such has her blanket, hats, and even poker chips!

Reckless hanging out with her platoon-mates. From Horse Stars Hall of Fame.

In April 1954, Reckless received a battlefield promotion to sergeant from Randolph Pate, the commander of the 1st Marine Division. Later that year she rotated out of Korea and made the journey to her new home at Camp Pendleton in California.  Here she received her final promotion to staff sergeant on August 31, 1959. The ceremony included a 19-gun salute and a 1,700-man parade of Marines from her unit. Her military decorations include, two Purple Hearts, the Dickin Medal, the Navy Presidential Unit Citation, the Navy Unit Commendation, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, the United Nations Korea Medal, and the French Fourragere.

Reckless’s life in retirement was good. Thanks to a pair of Saturday Evening Post articles she was well known before she arrived stateside and she made several public appearances. She was also the guest of honor at the Marine Birthday Ball where she is reported to have eaten both cake and the centerpieces. While at Camp Pendleton she was bred several times and had four foals. In 1957, 1959, and 1964 she had the colts Fearless, Dautnless, and Chesty. She also had a filly in 1965 or 1966 that died only a month after her birth and was never named.

Sampling the centerpieces. From The Camp Pendleton Historical Society.

Reckless died on May 13, 1968, while under sedation to treat injuries from a fall into barbed wire. She was reported to be either 19 or 20 years old. Her resolute determination under fire inspired the love and loyalty of those that knew her and many who had only heard of her. She has been memorialized in a sculpture by Jocelyn Russell at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, a similar sculpture by Russell at Camp Pendleton, and most recently at the Kentucky Horse Park which installed the same bronze sculpture by Russell.

Hundreds of veterans, servicemembers, and civilians gather to view the full-size bronze statue at the close of the dedication ceremony of Korean War Horse Veteran Staff Sgt. Reckless at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Triangle, Va., July 26, 2013. SSgt Reckless is listed as a National hero and served as a Marine in Korea from 1952-1953. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Micheal P. Barrett, were in attendance. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kathy Reesey/Released) Unit: MCB Quantico Combat Camera. Wikimedia Commons.

If you are interested in learning more about Reckless or about other animals that have served in war, drop in to the Main Reading Room and I’d be happy to show you some of our books on the subject.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services 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.