87 (1) pp 47

Origin of tail docking in the Belgian draft horse: a fashion introduced in the last decades of the nineteenth century

Tail docking became a current practice in Belgian draft horses during the last decades of thenineteenth century. In this paper, a number of paintings and drawings by famous ‘animaliers’, in thiscase horse painters, are reproduced which convincingly demonstrate that heavy horses with intact tailswere in high esteem until about a century and a half ago. Amputation combined with partial resectionof the tail flexor muscles, fashionable in riding and cart horses of the upper class, became popular in thelate nineteenth century among leading draft horse breeders and owners. The trickle-down effect of thisfashion was the leading cause of change. This coincided with a triumphant period in the history of thishorse type. Later on, fashion changed to very short, nearly invisible tails. Resection of the tail flexormuscles became obsolete. Although forbidden by law, amputations are still carried out under medicalpretext: as a way to remediate badly healing tail wounds and sores.

Full text: 
pp 47-52
Veterinary past