The Fell Pony Museum: 17th century
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The Galloway as Racehorse and Endurance breed

"The Sporting Magazine; or Monthly Calendar of the Transactions of the Turf," 1839, refers to the Oglethorpe Arabian (c. 1680) ...

This horse apparently covered but very few mares: we are only aware of three of his produce: one, a Scotch galloway, pedigree of dam unknown, who was brought to Newmarket and matched for a large sum, carrying a feather weight, against the Duke of Devonshire's Dimple, who at that time held "the Whip", or Championship - the latter carrying 7st 7lb only. The distance they ran is not related, but the Scotch galloway, to the great surprise of the Southrons, was the victor.

In "The history of Newmarket: and the annals of the turf", Volume 2 - Page 371, John Philip Hore, 1886 notes a race at Newmarket that included "Bellingham's Scotch Galloway, for £500 a horse, 7 stone and a half a piece, the Beacon course the last of April : no more as yet till October next." Reported in "Smith's Currant Intelligence" April 10, 1680, No 18, this could well be the original account of the same event. NOTE: Although the winner was at least a half bred Arab it was still called a Scotch Galloway!

Racing Advertisements:

The Newcastle Courant

The "Courant" was the nearest thing to a Cumbrian local paper in the 18th C.

PENRITH RACES in Cumberland, 1736.

ON Wednesday the 16th Day of June next, will be run for on the usual Course on Maidenhill, a Purse of 15 Guineas, by any Horse, &c. not exceeding five Years old this Grass, to be certify'd for; three Heats, each Heat 3 Miles; five Year olds to carry 9 Stone, four year olds 8 Stone; One Guinea and a half Entrance.

On Thursday the 17th Day of June, will be run for a Purse of 8 Guineas by Galloways, 14 Hands to carry 9 Stone, all under to have the usual Abatement; three Heats, each Heat 4 Miles; Fifteen Shillings Entrance.

On Friday the 18th Day of June, will be run for a Purse of 12 Guineas by any Horse, &c. 14 Hands to carry 9 Stone, all above or under to carry more or less, as is usual in give and take; three Heats, each Heat 4 Miles; Twenty Five Shillings Entrance.

BRAMPTON RACES In the County of Cumberland, 1736.

ON Wednesday the 9th Day of June, will be run for by Galloways, a Plate Value 5 Guineas, given by the Right Honourable the Earl of Carlisle; 14 Hands carrying 10 Stone, and all under that Size to have Allowance of Weight for Inches, as is usual in Galloway Plates; three Heats, each Heat 4 Miles, carrying 10 Stone, and so in Proportion. Entrance one Guinea.

On Friday the 11th Day of June, a Plate Value 5 Guineas, will be run for by Hunters, that can be proved to be Hunters last Season; each Horse, &c. carrying 10 Stone, three Heats, each Heat 4 Miles; And that no Horse, &c. shall run for the said Plate that has won the Value of 10£ at one Time; Entrance 7s 6d.

APPLEBY, 12 June, 1736

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, being the First, Second, and Third Days of July, will be run for on Brampton Moor near Appleby in Westmoreland, three Purses of Gold of Ten, Five, and Twelve Guineas, raised by Subscription, and run in Manner following.

THE first Ten Guineas given by Walter Plummer and John Ramsden, Esqrs. Members for the said Borough, on Thursday the First of July, by Galloways, 14 Hands carrying 10 Stone, and Weight for Inches over and under, 4 miles to a Heat.

On Friday Five Guineas, by Ponies, 13 Hands carrying 9 Stone, Weight for Inches under, 4 Miles to a Heat.

On Saturday Twelve Guineas, give and take, 14 Hands carrying 10 Stone, weight for Inches over and under, 4 Miles to a Heat.

In 1740 an Act was passed to end "racing with poneys", which aimed to stamp out "a vile and paltry breed of horse, and remove temptation from the lower class of people who constantly attend these races - to the great loss of time and hindrance of labour". It also prohibited prizes or plates of less value than £50. (13 Geo. II. cap. 10), hence the increased prize money seen in the following advertisements. A new local newspaper, the Cumberland Chronicle, advertises races to be held in West Cumberland, in 1777:


"a Match of FIFTY POUNDS, and a Purse of FIVE POUNDS, by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding, that never won Fifty Pounds, Matches excepted". 4-year-olds to carry 7.5 Stone; 5-year-olds 8.5 Stone; older horses 9 Stone. Best of 3 heats (4 miles each)- "Three to run, or no Race."

5 July, 1777

"a Match of Fifty Pounds, and a Purse of Five Pounds, by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding"; 14 Hands to carry 8 Stone; "higher or lower, Weight in Proportion". Best of 3 heats (4 miles each) - 3 to run or no race.

"All Horses, &c. to appear, and enter" before 4pm on 3 July "at JOHN DALE'S, of Lamplugh-Cross, or at JOHN ASKEW'S, of Millgill-Head, where proper Attendance will be given and Care taken of all Horses, &c. and be Subject to Articles then produced."

"No Person to have either Tent, or Booth, &c. without Consent of the Stewards of the Course." Horses to be on the ground, ready for starting, at 1pm on race days.

Both days - "a SADDLE will be Run for"; "A HAT, of Ten Shillings and Six-pence, for Footmen".

The race "for footmen" was for servants of the local gentry, run on foot.

Notice that the terms of the races vary - in 1777 the race on 4 July is weight-for-age, and on 5 July is weight-for-height, where 14 hands is the mean. The term "Galloway race" later became the term for a weight-for-height race - which is not the case in the 1736 races at Penrith, where the Thursday race was distinctly "for" Galloways, yet the races for Galloways and the races for horses were both weight-for-height.


The distances were quite usual for the time: three heats of 4 miles. The much shorter distances of today were introduced as tests or "futurities" to determine the ability of horses younger than four years and their suitability for longer races in adult life. Fast single races between 5 furlongs and 2 miles have now become the norm due to economic pressures (over shorter distances, horses can compete earlier in life). Hence the young age of the modern racing Thoroughbred and the high wastage of animals, when compared with mountain and moorland breeds of pony.


Horses vs. Galloways

The races listed above distinguish between horses (14 hands), Galloways (14 hands), ponies (13 hands) and hunters. Since horses and Galloways are of the same height and set to carry the same range of weight it is interesting to speculate as to the difference between them. Was it simply one of pedigree, or was it the gait at which they were raced? Were horses expected to gallop and Galloways to trot or pace?


A modern endurance pony

In 2008 a Fell mare, Southolme Blossom, achieved 100 miles in less than 18 hours in the Caledonia Challenge.

The real feature in all these tales is the remarkable endurance of ponies covering long distances without much rest. Partly this can be explained by the animals working long days in their normal job and being fit and conditioned to such stresses; but more than one writer has commented on the toughness of ponies, and the ease with which they enable people to travel, when compared with larger types of horse.

Galloways as racehorse ancestors

It is sometimes forgotten, when discussing the foundation sires of the TB, that the Darley Arabian, Byerley Turk and Godolphin Arabian could not reproduce themselves in a vacuum! They were crossed onto British mares, the "royal mares" being imported, but the "Galloways" surely, came originally from the same source as our present native breeds. Modern research seems to support this hypothesis. (NCBI Biology Letters, 2011: "The cosmopolitan maternal heritage of the Thoroughbred racehorse breed shows a significant contribution from British and Irish native mares.")

The Curwen family of West Cumbria (see below) were breeders of horses for similar races to those in the advertisements shown here; their animals were still known by the name of "Galloways" but are quite unlikely to have been of native type any longer, as the remarks on the race at Newmarket above show.

Galloway descendants...

Treatises on livestock improvement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries mention the tradition of the Scotch Galloway cattle being traded across the Scottish border and as far south as Norfolk: "the great connection that has long subsisted between the Scotch Galloway drovers of cattle and the Suffolk and Norfolk feeders or graziers." (Culley.)

In Volume VIII of the Polo Pony Stud Book (1901), an introductory section "The Taproot of Polo Pony Breeding" quotes Mr S Burke who approves several ponies in history that were "not over pony size": the grey Bald Galloway (by St Victor's Barb), who was not only a sire of several top racehorses of his time, but a noted sire of mares in the Thoroughbred stud book; his daughter the Warlock Galloway; the Shield Galloway; and the Mixbury Galloway (Polo Pony Stud Book). The Mixbury Galloway was said to be a pony of 13-2 by the Curwen Barb (from a German magazine of 1825, "Zeitung fur Pferdeliebhaber" 1825 Heft 18) owned by the Curwen family from West Cumbria.

The Curwen Family and racing Galloways

The Curwen family of Workington Hall bred racehorses from animals such as the Curwen Galloway. As he was an ancestor of the great stallion Eclipse from whom many great racing sires descended, such as Shergar and Mill Reef, this is a forgotten debt owed to the Galloway stock -

Although the ancestors of our modern Fell ponies did include Galloways, the well-bred racing "Galloways" were derived from the native "Scotch" pony by several generations of maternal descent; making our Fells distant cousins-many-times-removed of today's racing Thoroughbreds.

References for these readings are on the Thanks page.



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Last updated 30 May, 2021 .
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