Derbies and Gatling Guns

...and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.

Continuing to read about horse trivia, the facts are always very interesting.

Horse racing can be exciting, and there are many named events around the world.

The greatest of all classic British horse races, the Derby, is also a type of hat known as a Bowler.

Bowler hats had a rounded crown on top and a narrowly curled-up brim. They were named after William and Thomas Beaulieu, or Bowler, who were feltmakers from Southwark, England. (1)

The hats became regulatory for gentlemen to wear in the city, but had originally been designed to wear out in the country.

William Coke, a 19th century Norfolk Squire, asked hatters James Lock & Company to fashion a headpiece that wouldn’t catch on tree branches when riding on a horse for hunting or shooting. The Bowler hat became a center piece of a man’s wardrobe in the 1860's, continuing on well after WWI; no fashionable businessman of the day would be caught without one. (2)

Saddleseat riders of today sport bowler-style derbies in the show ring, as a part of their attire.

The hats are described as derbies in some catalogs.

The English people love horses and horseracing.

The sporting event for horses that became the rock of English horseracing is run every year in June. The 12th Earl of Derby, Edward Smith (1752-1834) founded two important contests for race lovers.

The Oaks race began in 1779 and was named after his house in Epsom, Surrey. The following year, the first Derby was run in 1780. A mile and half in distance, the Derby is run by both colts and fillies, with the colts usually winning. (3)

The famous horse “Shergar” won the Derby with a record breaking 10-lengths, in 1981.

Other horse races have attached the name Derby to their respective events, most notable the Kentucky Derby, run each April in Kentucky, USA.

The 12th Earl of Derby created quite a scandal in his day when he got married to a famous actress only 2 months after his first wife’s death. His grandson later became a prime minister in the Conservative party. (4)

Derbies seem synonymous with all types of racing now, including soapbox and cross-country cars races.

The Gatling Gun seems to be synonymous with machine guns of all sorts. The most reliable of all early-made machine guns, was created by gunsmith and inventor, Richard Jordan Gatling. (1818-1903) (5)

He wanted to capitalize on the North’s superior technological capabilities, so he moved from North Carolina to Indiana in 1844. Banks up North had a greater capability for lending money and this suited Gatling for his inventing ideas.

When the Civil War began, Gatling started work on a new weapon, and acquired the patent for it the following year.

Gatling wrote to Abraham Lincoln, promoting his product “as a means in crushing this rebellion.”

Meanwhile, Gatling was very active in a secret group of Confederate rebels. (6)

His product did not sell well during the years of the Civil War.

However, after the war ended, orders began coming in, even from as far away as Spain, Russia, Turkey and Great Britain, as well as the US.

The Gatling Gun fired by turning a hand crank, which in turn rotated a revolving cylinder that housed 6 gun barrels, with firing capability up to 400 bullets in 1 minutes. Rapid-fire by Gatling Guns made short work of a regiment or a line of soldiers. (7)

Conestoga-style wagons with canvas coverings could hide a Gatling Gun. The canvas would flip open and the gun operators would point, crank and shoot. The guns were also hauled to battlefields mounted on heavy-wheeled caissons, by a two-horse team.

More fun facts:

Did you know that horses have the largest eyes of any land animal, and that they are not color-blind? They also don’t have gall bladders, and baby foals can nurse on their mothers for up to 1 year or longer. Their memories are better than any elephant, and the male equine have 40 teeth, while females have 36. (8)

A “Coltpixie” is an evil spirit horse that lures mortal horses into bogs.

Women actually rode astride until the 1400's, when the era of riding sidesaddle began.

The Celts had been using nail-on horseshoes by the 5th or 6th centuries, BC. (9) The word “farrier,” meaning “one who shoes horses,” comes from the Latin word “Ferririus,” or “iron worker.”

An ancient way to mislead enemies from pursuit was to put a horse’s shoes on backwards- - toe to heel, and ride away. This tactic was used in the 11th century by King Alphonso who was escaping from the Moorish King Ali Maymon, of Toledo, Spain. Also employing this method was Robert the Bruce in 1303, escaping from King Edward, and in 1530, Duke Christopher Wuurtemburg from Emperor Charles V. (10)

Leaving you to enjoy some nice Spring weather to the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”

1-7: “Bloomers, Biros & Wellington Boots,” by Andrew Sholl

8-10: “Horse Trivia: A Hippophile’s Delight,” by Debora Eve Rubin