Every great conqueror, from Alexander to Napoleon, who went through the conquest of the American West or Africa, owed his victories to the horse. However, this was not the prerogative of the soldiers, knights and aristocracy, but the everyday companion of the workers: farmers, miners, carriers, merchants, policemen or firefighters lived and worked with the horse and its cousins, both on the plains and on the plains. the mountains. He was a companion of itinerant artists and a circus star. The cavalry was the most noble weapon, and any good education flowed from the mastery of the equestrian art.
But the man is ungrateful. After millennia of friendship, the internal combustion engine suddenly destroyed the horse. Everything starts at 14-18. In 1914 armies went to the front and then fought horses, mules and donkeys, the companions of the hairy people. But in the course of the conflict, the locomotive, train and mechanization replace the animal. The Great War is also a hecatomb for animals. The French army lost 1.15 million horses and mules there (almost as many as people) – donkeys, exterminated by the thousands in the trenches, cannot be counted. However, horses continued to be used for military transport until 1940, and cavalry was converted into armored regiments.
In 1940, there were still three million horses in France—for one million cars—because 2.5 million were used in the countryside as draft power. Then comes the big rejection because of the tractor. The Trente Glorieuses reduced France from 3 million horses and mules to less than half a million.
The breeds of draft horses and donkeys, so diverse in this country, are about to disappear. They have been revived in extreme cases. In 1995, 400,000 horses remained in France. But these animals do not have a short lifespan: 25 years for a mule, 25 to 35 years for a horse, 35 to 50 years for a donkey. So what happened?
Young French people don’t feel indebted to this 5,000-year-old satellite. But by clarity or by interest we will find it.
Modern society, science and the spirit of capitalism have decided to turn these cattle into meat for slaughter. In the 1950s and 1960s, horse slaughter became the terminus of a millennial satellite of humanity that is said to have democratized meat among workers. The Chinese are now relentlessly hunting donkeys all over the planet, especially in Africa, where poaching is wild, for meat and especially skin, the gelatin of which is turned into a cure for anemia. “Man is a dirty animal,” said de Gaulle.
The horse, which for millennia during the seal of kings was the prerogative of masculinity and the warrior, and the knight and hussars were at the top of society, was rejected by the male sex. Without crossing, the men rushed at the mechanics, mounting and rearing their motorcycles, making their engines roar. In the equestrian clubs of France, most horses are ridden by young girls and women. As a result, the number of horses increased to a million.
Racing, turf, racehorse breeding, like the National Guard perpetuating the warhorse, remain masculine, but these activities are reserved for narrow social strata.
The young Frenchman does not feel indebted to this 5,000-year-old comrade. He rejected all her attributes. Ready-to-wear reflected this rejection. Women are on the rise these days; and other young women, who by the thousands, when winter comes, are buckled up by our fashion designers, like Amazons, all dressed in leather, boots and culottes, like cavalry officers without sabers and caps. Thus ends an adventure of five millennia. Unless, out of clarity or interest, we one day find in our old comrade the means to serve the ecological transition that is so loudly called for.