Although the legendary horses of flat racing are generally more well known to the population at large, there are horses within the steeplechasing community that enjoy the same level of fame as any flat racer. One such hero was a bay gelding called Saluter, who would rise from inauspicious beginnings to win the Virginia Gold Cup six years in a row.

Saluter. National Steeplechase Association, American Steeplechasing 1995, page 274, photo by Doug Lees.

Saluter was born in 1989 on Rose Estes’s farm in Virginia. He was purchased as a yearling by Richard Small who tried him at both flat races and hurdle races with disappointing results. In 1993 Small sold the horse to steeplechase jockey and trainer Jack Fisher for $2500. Soon after Henry and Ann Stern of Richmond, Virginia purchased a half interest in the horse. Fisher trained Saluter as a timber racer and the longer races suited the horse well. That fall Saluter won in upstate New York and again at Montpelier for the Virginia Hunt Cup. The following spring he would win the first of six consecutive (1994-1999) Virginia Gold Cup races at Great Meadow in The Plains, Virginia.

Saluter
Saluter (left) in action. Photo from The Sahuarita Sun.

During his career he would also win the International Gold Cup and the Radnor Hunt Cup twice, and the Virginia Hunt Cup four times. In 1997 he followed up a Virginia Gold Cup win with a trip to England where he won the Marlborough Cup. Winning both races in the same year earned him the title World Timber Champion and a $100,000 bonus. By the end of his racing career Saluter would win a record 21 timber races, and rake in $429,489 in timber earnings.

Saluter and Jack Fisher. Peter Winants, Steeplechasing: A Complete History of the Sport in North America (2000), page 236.

Jack Fisher, Saluter’s regular rider as well as his trainer, has commented that the horse’s strength was his ability to accelerate from a gallop to a sprint. Longer races allowed the horse to build up his momentum and then kick in the afterburners to run down the competition late in the race. This racing style led to exciting victories where the crowd could see Saluter come from behind and win over the last few jumps. His dramatic style combined with his winning streak at the Virginia Gold Cup caused Saluter’s popularity to soar and in turn brought crowds to the racecourse. Creating new steeplechase fans may be his longest lasting legacy to the sport even if his Gold Cup record is never broken.

Saluter and Jack Fisher. Peter Winants, Steeplechasing: A Complete History of the Sport in North America (2000), page 240.

Following the 2000 season, at 12 years of age, Saluter retired to Jack Fisher’s farm in Monkton, Maryland. In 2001 he was honored with a farewell lap at the Virginia Gold Cup at Great Meadow. A crowd of 53,000 cheered him on as he galloped around the course he had dominated for over half a decade, and William Allison, the President of the Gold Cup’s Board of Directors presented him with a bushel of carrots and apples. In retirement Saluter took up foxhunting. He would return to Great Meadow and the Gold Cup once again in 2008 to view the bronze statue of himself by sculptor Alexa King. Commemorating his six win streak, the statue was installed at the racecourse in 2007. Saluter died in 2017. He was 28 years old. Earlier this year Joe Clancy created a touching tribute to Saluter that was originally aired on the National Steeplechase Association’s live stream show covering 2020 Gold Cup races. Click through for some wonderful photos of the great horse.

Bronze statue of Saluter by Alexa King at Great Meadow. Photo by Peter Fynmere.

The Library holds many books and periodicals about steeplechasing, its great racecourses, and the colorful people and horses, both past and present, that participate in the sport. To delve into any of these resources contact the Library to make an appointment. Appointments are available Tuesday through Friday. Also consider booking a visit to see the Museum’s newest exhibit, The Thrill of the ‘Chase, which showcases the history of steeplechasing and its depiction in art. Museum tickets are available on Fridays and Saturdays and must be booked ahead of time on our website.


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 450 years of the history of equestrian sport, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

As someone who, prior to 2012, had very limited knowledge of sporting art and artists, culture, etc., I had absolutely no idea who Mr. Jorrocks was. In March 2020, right before the pandemic stopped the world, we received a generous bequest from Mrs. Katrina Becker, a faithful friend of the museum for many years. Included in this gift was a portrait of a man with a cheery expression on his face. He made me laugh and I asked our George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Curator Claudia Pfeiffer, “who is THAT?!” She enlightened me that it was, in fact, the illustrious Mr. Jorrocks, a popular fictional character from 19th-century England.

Created by Robert Smith Surtees in the early 1830s, Mr. Jorrocks was featured in serials in the New Sporting Magazine and then in 1838, he was promoted to book form, beginning with Jorrocks’ Jaunts and Jollities; or, The Hunting, Shooting, Racing, Driving, Sailing, Eating, Eccentric and Extravagant Exploits of That Renowned Sporting Citizen, Mr. John Jorrocks, of St. Botolph Lane and Great Coram Street. Quite the teaser.

The titular character, Mr. Jorrocks, is a grocer from the city, with a sharp Cockney accent, who enjoys the sporting life. Depictions of him often show a corpulent man with a red face, generally (but not always, as seen below) in his scarlet hunt coat. He appeared in several books and was illustrated by such well-known sporting artists as Cecil Aldin (English, 1870–1935) and Henry Thomas Alken (English, 1785–1851).

R.S. Surtees’ Jorrocks’s Jaunts and Jollities, with illustrations by
Henry Alken; Longmans, Green & Co.,
Edward Arnold & Co., 1924, National Sporting Library & Museum

R.S. Surtees’ Jorrocks on ‘Unting, with illustrations by Cecil Aldin, E.P. Dutton, NY, 1909,
National Sporting Library & Museum

The writing is wonderfully colorful and descriptive. Listen to this: “He has lost his wig, his hat hangs to his back, and one side of his person and face is completely japanned with black odoriferous mixture. “My vig!” exclaims he, spitting and spluttering, “but that’s the nastiest hole I ever was in—Fleet Ditch is lavender-water compared to it! Hooi yonder!” hailing a lad, “Catch my ‘oss, boouy!” Tom Hills has him; and Jorrocks, pocketing his wig, remounts, rams his spurs into the nag, and again tackles with the pack, which had come to a momentary check on the Eden Bridge road.”

Isn’t this a beautiful cover? R.S. Surtee, Mr. Jorrocks’s Thoughts on Hunting and Other Matters, William Blackwood & Sons, Ltd. Charles Scriber’s Sons, 1925, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels Collection

Surtees has been compared to Charles Dickens for his social critique (Surtees and Dickens actually used the same illustrator, Hablot Knight Browne. Browne, known as “Phiz,” illustrated Hawbuck Grange for Surtees and several Dickens’ novels including Pickwick Papers and David Copperfield). Encyclopedia Britannica describes Surtees as “a mordant satirist. The snobbery, envy, greed, and ignorance that consume many of his characters are set down without geniality. His portrayal of provincial England just leaving the coaching for the railway era exposes its boredom, ill manners, discomfort, and coarse food, and its matter-of-factness makes admirable social history. Yet the descriptions of fast runs with hounds over open country leave the most lasting impression.” I’ve only read Jaunts and Jollities, so please do correct me if I’m wrong: but it seems like an interesting viewpoint – at times we seem to laugh along with Mr. Jorrocks and others, laughing at him.

The small painting of our favorite grocer within the NSLM collection is by artist and sportsman Raoul H. Millais (English, 1901–1999). Millais undertook commissions by several familiar names, such as King George VI and Winston Churchill. Classmates with John Skeaping (English, 1901–1980) and friends with Alfred Munnings (English, 1878-1959), he, perhaps not surprisingly, disapproved of Modernist art, calling it “the Picasso lark.” Our charming piece shows Mr. Jorrocks standing in front of his horse, which is almost as big as he is, with a jolly smile and holding a pint. He is wearing his customary scarlet coat and hunt cap as the hounds mill about behind him. They take up the entire canvas. Mr. Jorrocks looks directly as us, as if he is inviting us to join him.

Raoul H. Millais, Mr. Jorrocks, 20th c., oil on canvas,
9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Katrina Hickox Becker, 2020.

Does “Millais” ring other bells? Raoul Millais is the grandson of Pre-Raphaelite John Everett Millais (English, 1829–1896). He produced the famous painting of Ophelia (1851–52) and one of my favorites, Christ in the House of his Parents (1849–50). The details in that are extraordinary, and honestly, I could discuss the symbolism for hours (maybe another time).  

Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, Ophelia, 1851-52, oil on canvas, 30 x 44 inches, Tate Britain, London
Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01506
Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, Christ in the House of His Parents (The Carpenter’s Shop), oil on canvas, 1849-50, 34 x 55 inches. Tate Britain, London

In the town of Croydon, south of London, is a life-size sculpture of the famed literary foxhunter. Artist John Mills (English, b. 1933) was commissioned to create a sculpture for a Waites Construction site and, whilst discussing possibilities with the patron, the latter expressed his affinity for the fictional character. It was decided that a statue depicting a specific scene of Mr. Jorrocks would be erected: the “Surrey subscription hounds gathering for their hunt at Croydon and the chaotic ride that John Jorrocks made from Covent Garden to join the hunt.” We see a very animated Mr. Jorrocks on horseback, barely holding on, crashing through a real hedge.



Our painting will make an appearance soon. In the meantime, the Library has several of Mr. Jorrocks’ adventures in its holdings. Feel free to reach out to read them for yourself!

Sources:

Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Robert-Smith-Surtees#ref226264

Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hablot-Knight-Browne

Footprints in London: http://footprintsoflondon.com/2015/07/what-is-this-statue-of-a-huntsman-doing-in-croydon/

Isle of Dogs Life: https://isleofdogslife.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/jorrocks-and-the-isle-of-doggians-1835/

Raoul Millais obituary in the Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituary-raoul-millais-1128046.html


Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

Endurance riding pits the skills of a horse and rider against the clock as they travel a cross-country trail of up to 100 miles in length in a single day. Although it is likely that similar contests have been held since man and horse teamed up, modern day endurance riding has its origins in the military’s cavalry. In the early 20th century potential cavalry mounts had their endurance tested on a five day ride, covering 300 miles, while carrying at least 200 pounds. By the 1950’s this test had been adopted as a civilian sport. Over time the sport has evolved and is now governed internationally by The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) and nationally in the United States by The American Endurance Ride Converence (AERC). These governing bodies provide regulations to protect the welfare of the equine athletes that participate in this sport. The current FEI rulebook runs to 75 pages. Horses must be a minimum of five years old and are inspected for fitness prior to being permitted to participate in a ride. During the ride itself periodic vet checks are required in which the horse’s pulse must return to a specific rate within 15 minutes. Horses are checked thoroughly for injury and their intake of food and water is monitored. Horses that fail any of these exams are pulled from the ride.

One of the most well known endurance rides in the United States is the Western States Trail Ride, often referred to as the Tevis Cup, for the trophy given to the winner. The ride came about in August 1955 when Wendell Robie (1895-1984) and five of his friends set out to prove that modern horses could still cover the 100 mile trail from Tahoe City to Auburn, California in a day as the pony express mounts had done in the past. Robie and his companions were successful and the race has been held annually ever since, barring the occasional cancellation or rescheduling due to wildfires, snow, and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to organizing the Ride, Robie also established the Western States Trail Foundation to preserve the 100 mile trail and the Ride.

Wendell Robie watering his horse during a Tevis Cup ride. From Western States Endurance Run.

The map below shows both the route and the dramatic changes in elevation that the horses and riders must endure during the ride. The ride begins at 6,230 feet in Squaw Valley and climbs the steep eastern face of Squaw Peak, crossing the crest of the Sierra near the Watson Monument Emigrant Pass Marker at 8,760 feet. There the trail passes briefly through the Granite Chief Wilderness and descends to the Forest Hill Divide. The trail follows the ridge of the divide for 8 miles before turning south toward French Meadows Reservoir and looping back north to Robinson Flat. After a short climb out of Robinson Flat to the flank of Duncan Peak the trail begins a long descent to a crossing of the Middle Fork of the American River, dropping more than 4,000 feet in 16 miles. Then the trail follows the Foresthill Road into Foresthill. From there the trail winds south and begins a 2,000-foot descent into the canyon of the Middle Fork of the American River again. After 5 miles along the north side of the river, the route crosses to the south side and follows the rim of the canyon. About 25 miles from Foresthill the trail turns back into the American River Canyon for a third time, climbs out again near the town of Cool, and then returns for a forth time at the confluence of the middle and north forks. A bridge crossing leads to the final climb to the town of Auburn and the ride completes at the Auburn Fairgrounds.

Map of the route from The Sacramento Bee.

The number of riders is limited to 220 and each rider must have either already completed the Western States Trail Ride in the past or have accumulated at least 300 miles of riding in sanctioned rides of 50 miles or more in length. The horses must be at least six years of age. Despite lengthy training for both horse and rider, the completion rate for the ride is generally only around 50%. Many riders are forced to withdraw due to bad luck, injury, or the failure of a vet check. Jim Steere is the oldest person to complete the ride which he did in 2005 at the age of 80. The oldest equine competitor to complete the ride is a 14-hand grey Arabian gelding named PL Mercury or “Merc” who broke his own record for the oldest finisher at the age of 27 in 2018. The minimum age for riders is 12 but Gail Gilmer completed the ride at the age of 11 in 1964. Her true age wasn’t known until after the ride.

Trophies. Haggin Cup (left), Tevis Cup (center), Josephine Stedem Scripps Foundation Cup (right). From the Tevis Cup website.

There are several awards associated with the ride. Each rider who completes course within the 24 hour limit and whose mount is judged “fit to continue” is awarded the silver Completion Award Buckle. The horse and rider that complete the ride in the shortest time are awarded the Tevis Cup. The winner of the Haggin Cup is chosen from the first ten horses to cross the finish line. The one among them judged to be in the best physical condition wins the prize. Finally, the Josephine Stedem Scripps Foundation Cup recognizes the accomplishments of all Junior riders who complete the ride.

The ride is only made possible through the efforts of over 800 volunteers that support the event annually in all manner of roles, from communications and trail maintenance, to manning vet checkpoints and riding sweep along the trail looking for riders in distress.

In closing I’d like to share a few interesting things that I ran across while researching this post. The first is a fun fact. Due to the fact that a portion of the ride will take place at night, in the dark, some riders suffer from motion sickness. The swaying of the horse without visual cues to frame the motion can result in queasiness. All of the videos I watched regarding training stressed the need to practice riding in the dark in order to acclimate to the experience. The second thing I’d like to share is a pair of photos from a book in the Library’s collection, The Tevis Cup by Verne R. Albright (1969). The book features a large number of photos of the competitors. Not one of them wears protective gear. The woman in the first photo has perfectly coiffed hair as she and her horse take on Cougar Rock. Not a helmet in sight!

Images from The Tevis Cup by Verne R. Albright, photos by Charles Barieau (1969). National Sporting Library & Museum.

While Count Frederick Von Lederbur shown below, disdains even a shirt!

Images from The Tevis Cup by Verne R. Albright, photos by Charles Barieau (1969). National Sporting Library & Museum.

The Library holds numerous volumes on endurance riding as well as the memoirs of people that have made long journeys on horseback. If you would like to explore the topic further please contact me to make an appointment. The Library is currently open by appointment only on Tuesday-Friday.


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, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

I am an avid reader and always have been, my parents have joked that I was born with a book in my hand. I consume books, from science fiction to historical biographies and everything in between. I have to admit though, I find no greater reading pleasure than diving into the world of children’s books. Board books, picture books, beginner reader books, and chapter books; I can not get enough of them.

What makes children’s books so great? 

Besides the obvious – that they are incredibly fun to read – I see children’s books as these tangible portals into imagination and playfulness for their readers. As an educator, I value their work as facilitators of knowledge-making and cultivators of curiosity, imagination, and self-esteem for their young readers. Often times, adults do not always catch on to the subtilties and the beauty within these books as children do. So, I make it a point to read children’s books and enjoy them from a child’s perspective and, honestly, it is so much fun. You can really get lost in the impish nature of children’s books and the remarkable illustrations that accompany the text.


C. Gifford Ambler, Ten Little FoxHounds, 1951.
C. Gifford Ambler, Ten Little FoxHounds, 1951.

Naturally, when I came to the National Sporting Library & Museum last June, one of the very first things that I looked at were the children’s books in our Main Reading Room. As a national research library that supports academic pursuits through our John H. Daniels Fellowship, I was delightfully surprised to find that the NSLM also contains a fantastic, albeit small, collection of children’s books.

People do not always recognize this part of our collection so I wanted to share with you a few highlights from our Main Reading Room and I hope that it encourages you to make an appointment to visit the Library and read them for yourself.

Caution, there are book ending spoiler alerts here!

An all-time favorite is Welcome Home! by Ludwig Bemelmans, the author of the popular Madeline series.


Ludwig Bemelmans, Welcome Home!, 1959, Gift of Ludwig Bemelmans, 1959.

Based off a poem by Beverley Bogort, the reader follows the Gallant Hunt and a clever fox through seventeen brilliant illustrations as the fox evades the Holiday Hounds using his cunning skill. The story ends with the fox safely snuggled up at home with his family as his yearly tradition has been successful.

Ludwig Bemelmans, Welcome Home!, 1959, Gift of Ludwig Bemelmans, 1959.

Not only does this picture book fit within our mission, but it also holds a more personal space in the heart of the NSLM staff. If you look carefully, you can see that the fox is reading The Chronicle of the Horse in bed with his tea and sandwiches (on a side note – check out the fox hunting scene on his tea cup!).

The NSLM has had a long standing relationship with the Chronicle of the Horse. One of our founders, Alexander Mackay-Smith, was editor of the magazine from 1952 to 1976, and they are our neighbors on campus. Glued inside the front cover is a handwritten letter from the author’s daughter, Barbara, thanking Mr. Mackay-Smith for allowing her father to use an image from The Chronicle of the Horse in his book.


Letter from Barbara Bemelmans inside, Ludwig Bemelmans, Welcome Home!, 1959, Gift of Ludwig Bemelmans, 1959.

This very copy was gifted to Mr. MacKay-Smith and, in turn, gifted to the Library that he enjoyed so much. This children’s book is not only entertaining, but is a piece of NSLM history!

Another favorite of mine is a pair of books by Walter Farley that he wrote for the Dr. Seuss Beginner Books series. I am sure many of us can remember seeing that Beginner Books logo with the familiar face of Cat in the Hat and reading these at home or school.


Walter Farley, Little Black, A Pony, 1961, Gift of Annie Weeden, 2008.

Walter Farley, Little Black Goes to the Circus!, 1963, Gift of the Estate of Patricia Meadows, 2010.

I did not read the Little Black books growing up, but have thoroughly enjoyed them as an adult (despite the horrifying clown imagery). Both books chronicle the story of Little Black, a small yet precocious pony, his young boy rider, and their activities together. What I found intriguing, beyond the stories themselves, were the differences in color throughout the books by the same illustrator, James Schucker. In the first book, Little Black, A Pony, the pages are filled with black and white imagery accented by pops of saturated color.

Walter Farley, Little Black, A Pony, 1961, Gift of Annie Weeden, 2008.

It tells the story of how Little Black downtrodden when his rider began regularly riding Big Red, a much larger and stronger horse than himself, finds confidence in himself after saving his rider from a perilous situation using his own bravery.

Walter Farley, Little Black, A Pony, 1961, Gift of Annie Weeden, 2008.
Walter Farley, Little Black, A Pony, 1961, Gift of Annie Weeden, 2008.

The second book, unlike the first has no dangerous icy water, but instead tells of how Little Black proved himself at the circus. The illustrations, while similar in design, are vastly different in color with bright and vibrant full color pages throughout the book.

Walter Farley, Little Black Goes to the Circus!, 1963, Gift of the Estate of Patricia Meadows, 2010.

Little Black attempts to recreate a trick he sees a circus horse performing, but with no such luck. The ringleader laughs at Little Black who becomes a very sad pony (poor Little Black!). His rider decides to cheer him up and encourages him to learn a different type of trick – walking the plank. Our little pony is excellent at this new trick and races to the circus to show off his skill on the highest of all planks and impresses everyone. His rider is sad because he believes his horse has run off to join the circus (as we all have dreamed of doing at one point), but is delighted to see Little Black running towards him and away from the circus. As all sweet books end, they ride off into the sunset together as a happy pair.

Walter Farley, Little Black Goes to the Circus!, 1963, Gift of the Estate of Patricia Meadows, 2010.

We have many more amazing finds in the Library, from picture books to the famous Blaze series by C.W. Anderson, and more contemporary works like our Dr. Seuss’s A Horse Museum. I could go on forever about the children’s books that we have in the Library. I hope that this little teaser will encourage you to not only view our stacks for their amazing academic research properties, but also for the playfulness of our children’s collection.

Want to see these books and more?

The Library is opening up with limited hours and appointments on July 17th, 2020. You can make an appointment to come in and read the children’s books, have a little story time as a family, or enjoy reading them yourself!

Click here to learn more about our visitor requirements for visiting the Library and Museum and how to book an appointment.  

As always, the Library is free and open to the public.

Thanks!

The lures used by fly-fisherman fall into two general categories, dry flies and wet flies.  Both are meant to trick fish into biting on the hook by imitating the look and behavior of the insects that fish feed on.  Dry flies imitate insects that land upon the water’s surface, while wet flies imitate those which live beneath the water’s surface.  In either case, success hinges on the angler’s ability to mimic both the look and behavior of an insect the fish is interested in eating.

Traditional Stimulator dry fly. Photo by Mike Cline / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0). Wikimedia Commons.

The use of dry flies is challenging.  The fisher must cast with pinpoint accuracy and be able to land the fly gently on the surface of the water.  A splash-landing is likely to frighten off the very fish being targeted.  The selection of fly is also critical.  Surface insects represent the final stage of development and matching the fly to the specific type of insect maturing at any given time is required in order to offer the fish what it expects to find.  Choosing a fly that is not currently hatching will result in the fish taking every other insect off the surface while disregarding the angler’s fly.  However, the fisher that chooses the correct fly and manages a cast that closely imitates the behavior of a live insect may be rewarded by seeing the fish surge out of the water as it strikes at the fly.

Frederic Halford. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Known today as the “Father of Modern Dry Fly Fishing,” Frederic Halford (1844-1914) was an avid fly fisherman and prolific author on the subject.  He felt that pursuing fish striking at the surface was the purist form of angling and developed a full range of floating flies to mimic the downstream drifting of real insects floating on the surface of the water.  He would become the recognized authority on the tying and use of dry-flies on the chalk streams of southern England.  He also enjoyed a good argument and frequently participated in debates with other anglers in which he insisted that the dry-fly technique was superior to any other form of fly fishing.

Dry Fly Entomology, Frederic Halford (1897). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The Library holds all of Halford’s books on dry-fly fishing and fly tying.  The volume seen here is the second volume of the deluxe edition of Dry Fly Entomology. The first volume contains the text and the second comprises boards displaying actual specimens of the artificial flies described in the first volume. NSLM’s copy is signed by Frederic Halford.

A Grizzly King wet fly. Image By Jimmy1shot , CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Fishing with a wet fly is generally more forgiving for beginners than fishing with a dry fly.  In this technique the targeted fish are feeding underwater, not at the surface.  Fish feed on submerged insects much more frequently than on those at the surface, providing more opportunities for the angler to catch a fish.  The heavier wet flies are easier to cast and a sloppy cast is less likely the scare off the targeted fish which are deeper in the water.  However the fisher must still imitate the kind of insect the fish expects and be able to land his fly at the correct depth in the water column in order to succeed.  It can also be difficult for the angler to know when a fish has taken the bait.  The strike takes place out of sight, under the water, and the pull of the current can easily be mistaken for that of a fish.

G. E. M. Skues. Image from Fly Fishing Devon.

George Edward MacKenzie Skues, usually known as G. E. M. Skues (1858–1949), was a British lawyer, author and fly-fisherman.  He developed the method of wet fly fishing known today as nymph fishing. Rather than tempting trout with imitations of flying insects at the water’s surface, he advocated for imitating nymphs, the earlier developmental stages of the same insects.  Most of the insect’s life occurs underwater and Skues felt that limiting fly fishing to imitating only the final adult stage at the surface caused anglers to miss out on many opportunities for success below the surface.

As Skues perfected his technique and others began to adopt it, tension grew between the nymph, or wet-fly fisherman and the dry-fly fisherman.  Although the wet-fly technique that Skues used was successful, the school of dry-fly fishing described it as, unethical and bad for the chalk streams.  The debate would continue for many years but in the end both techniques have survived and are widely used today.

The Way of a Trout with a Fly, G.E.M. Skues (1921). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The Library holds several books by and about G. E. M. Skues including his, The Way of a Trout with a Fly (1921) which is considered the seminal work on nymph fishing. This deluxe two-volume set contains 20 nymphs that were tied to the stringent specifications of G.E.M. Skues by famed English fly dresser, Jim Nice. Only 150 sets of the deluxe edition were made. In total, 3,000 nymphs were tied for the 150 sets. The NSLM owns set number 75.

To see either Dry Fly Entomology or The Way of a Trout with a Fly plan to visit the Library before the end of August.  Both books are included in our Angling in Special Collections exhibition which features a number of rare books on angling, a large collection of mounted flies from the George Chapman Collection, and angling related artwork from the Museum’s permanent collection.  If you can’t make it to the Library, the exhibition may be viewed online.


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, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

This week I’d like to share Oriental Field Sports: being a complete, detailed, and accurate description of the wild sports of the East by Captain Thomas Williamson.  Published in 1807, this folio sized book is aptly described by its full subtitle:

being a complete, detailed, and accurate description of the wild sports of the East and exhibiting, in a novel and interesting manner, the natural history of the elephant, the rhinoceros, the tiger, the leopard, the bear, the deer, the buffalo, the wolf, the wild hog, the jackall, the wild dog, the civet, and other undomesticated animals: as likewise the different species of feathered game, fishes, and serpents. The whole interspersed with a variety of original, authentic, and curious anecdotes which render the work replete with information and amusement. The scenery gives a faithful representation of that picturesque country together with the manners and customs of both the native and European inhabitants. The narrative is divided into forty heads, forming collectively a complete work, but so arranged that each part is a detail of one of the forty coloured engravings with which the publication is embellished.

The text of the book is supplied by Captain Thomas Williamson who spent twenty years serving in India.  The striking accompanying illustrations were made from Williamson’s drawings by the English illustrator, Samuel Howitt.  The overall result is a large and engaging book.  But before we delve too deeply into the book, let’s look at the story of how Captain Williamson came to create it.

Thomas Williamson left England for India on May 27, 1778 at the age of 19.  At that time there were two military organizations operating in India under British control.  The first was the British Military known as the Queen’s army and the second was the East India Company army.  The Queen’s army was made up of British soldiers serving tours of duty in India under the same regulations as British troops elsewhere in the empire. The East India Company army was composed of what amount to mercenaries. The Company recruited an assortment of European soldiers specifically for service in India and also organized native companies made up of indigenous men under the command of British officers.  The differences in background, culture, pay, and status between the two armies resulted in hostility and tension which would ultimately lead to the Crown assuming control of the East India Company’s army and absorbing its units in 1858. 

Williamson began his career as a Lieutenant in the East India Company army’s 2nd Battalion, 3rd European Regiment.  His career would culminate with his appointment to Captain in the 2nd Battalion of the 13th Native Infantry and very briefly in the 17th Native Infantry in 1798.

As early as the 1790’s the problems resulting from having two armies operating in the same region but under differing regulations had become apparent.  Discussions on how to deal with the situation were underway on both sides of the issue and on May 15, 1797 the Calcutta Telegraph published a letter from Lord Cornwallis which outlined his solution to incorporate the East India Company units into the British military proper and subject them to the same rules and requirements.  Captain Williamson, during an illness in February and March of 1798, responded to these plans in a vehement letter to the Telegraph attacking Cornwallis. It is described as, “Seething with at first barely controlled anger he throws common sense to the winds as he covers page after page, and his manner of address develops from restrained hectoring to outright insult” (Edwards, 678).  

Although he signed the letter “Mentor,” it did not take long for an investigation to identify Captain Williamson as the author and a trial ensued.  As his defense Williamson claimed the delirium of illness, and that he had no recollection of writing to the paper.  His doctor testified to Williamson’s condition at the time and the course of his treatment but ultimately the defense was not allowed.  In the end he was suspended from service by the East India Company Board and sent back to England.  Three years later he was permitted to retire on half pay.

Thus Williamson was left scrambling for a means to support himself and his family.  He would prove resourceful in this endeavor, opening a shop selling musical instruments, sheet music, drawings, and prints.  In addition to publishing his own musical works, he was among the first to publish transcriptions of Indian music.  He also wrote a number of books on a range of topics, some drawn from his experiences in India.  One such volume is Oriental Field Sports (1807).

The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

I’ve written before about how accounts of hunting expeditions often double as interesting travelogues or amateur works of anthropology but Captain Williamson’s work intentionally set out to incorporate these elements.  He cleverly paired experiences familiar to his intended audience such as riding to hounds, wingshooting, and hunting, with detailed descriptions of “What Life is Like in India.” This framework resulted in a fascinating book.  Each color engraving is accompanied by a detailed description.

Hunters Going out in the Morning

The first plate in the book is titled, Hunters Going out in the Morning and depicts a scene packed with activity.  It shows the camp, the hunters, horses, elephants, hounds, and the native staff.  Williamson spends a full page describing the accommodations.  Not simply a general description, but one that includes the layout of the tents, what materials they are built from, how they are constructed, and how each feature is adapted for the Indian climate.

Description of tents.

He covers the necessary retinue for European parties, describes the foods they will encounter and the methods used to cook it, what the environment is like, and some information about the local people.  Finally he gets to a description of leaving for the hunt.  He reports that most hunters will travel to and from the field via elephant in order to spare their horse, as they usually only have a single mount.  He describes the various sorts of elephants employed, and details about their equipment and their training, before commenting on the horses involved. 

Description of hunter horses in India.

In the next plate, Beating Sugar Canes for a Hog, he delivers not only a full recounting of one of his own experiences hunting hogs, but also a great deal of information about the lifestyle of the animal. 

Description of wild hogs.

He uses the hunting framework to describe the agricultural setting, the surrounding landscape, the method of yoking oxen, and even the well and irrigation pump shown in the plate.

Beating Sugar Canes for a Hog

Below are images of several other plates found in Oriental Field Sports.  As with the first two, each of these is accompanied by Williamson’s fascinating descriptions and anecdotes.

He gives the reader the Indian version of wingshooting in the plate titled Peacock Shooting. Note the details: monkeys in the near tree, additional peacocks in the far tree, cranes or ibises in the water, and a boar lurking in the reeds at the edge of the pool.

Peacock Shooting

In Hunting a Hog Deer and Hunting Jackalls we get riding to hounds.

Hunting a Hog Deer
Hunting Jackalls.

And no book about India would be complete without tigers. Williamson gives us several tiger scenes.

A Tiger Prowling Through a Village.
A Tiger Seizing a Bullock in a Pass.
Driving a Tiger out of a Jungle.
The Tiger at Bay.

Sadly for Thomas Williamson he never recovered from his rash decision to publicly air his opinions on the military situation in India.  Despite vigorously transforming his experiences into marketable commodities he was ultimately unsuccessful economically and he died in 1817 leaving his wife and seven children destitute.


Edwards, Owain. “Captain Thomas Williamson of India.” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 14, no. 4, 1980, pp. 673-682. JSTOR accessed 16 Mar. 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, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

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.