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"Horses with docked/trimmed tails?" Topic

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4,480 hits since 18 Apr 2012
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Comments or corrections?

Porkmann18 Apr 2012 12:19 p.m. PST

I found a few of these in the "bits pile" earlier today.

They look like Foundry beasties to me cast without saddle. From what period and nation deployed cavalry mounts with shortened tails?

Thanks in advance.

22ndFoot18 Apr 2012 12:34 p.m. PST

Brits – throughout the eighteenth century and Napoleonic wars.

Grizzlymc18 Apr 2012 12:52 p.m. PST

NOW we know who were the traitors in 1815!

Porkmann18 Apr 2012 2:25 p.m. PST

Aha! I had my suspicions that it was the British – thanks for confirming.

Seems odd that you would make a cavalry mount look like a carthorse but then again…

I may build a replacement, a plaited tail may be fun as it's for an ImagiNation…

1234567818 Apr 2012 2:32 p.m. PST

A docked tail is healthier as it does not get covered in that stuff that comes out of the back end of a horse which attracts flies and causes all sorts of diseases. It also allows the Duke of Wellington to tell the difference between a British cavalryman and a Froggie at a distance.

22ndFoot18 Apr 2012 2:48 p.m. PST

What colinjallen said, although the horses are not quite so good at wafting away flies.

Don't know what Grizzlymc is talking about.

Lion in the Stars18 Apr 2012 6:27 p.m. PST

When the horseflies carry diseases, anything that makes it *harder* to swat the vermin can hardly be called "healthier".

Garde de Paris18 Apr 2012 6:49 p.m. PST

The docked tails may have derived from taking horses from civilian sources, already docked for carriage work. The unit might then have docked the tails of all those with full tails to look uniform. It was a sad practice.

It is common on hot days to see two horses standing side by side, but facing in opposite directions, so each can brush the stinging flies off the fact of the other.

I recall reading in a Peninsular War book years ago the Wellington disliked the practice, because flies and stinging insects were weakening too many of the cavalry mounts, taking them out of service.


RedSaber18 Apr 2012 10:25 p.m. PST

Just an after thought really….You ever been hit by a swishing horse's tail? I have…it's an unpleasant surprise.

Porkmann19 Apr 2012 6:37 a.m. PST

I may have another dig in the bits heap as the tail looks horrible to me!

I am not sure that König Ferdinand II was such an Anglophile as to ape the process.

SJDonovan19 Apr 2012 6:46 a.m. PST

"Just an after thought really….You ever been hit by a swishing horse's tail? I have…it's an unpleasant surprise."

I have too. I was at a party at Max Mosley's house. When did it happen to you?

Porkmann19 Apr 2012 11:33 a.m. PST

I steer clear of the creatures.

A nasty childhood experience turned me off.

Greystreak19 Apr 2012 12:43 p.m. PST

Some odd myths being trotted out above . . . Certainly from 10th August 1799, British heavy cavalry in the field--Dragoons and Dragoon Guards--were specifically ordered by Horse Guards to ride 'nag-tailed' mounts. Nag-tails are *not* docked, as were the tails of common transport and 'hackney' carriage horses.

SJDonovan19 Apr 2012 1:11 p.m. PST

I'm not sure they are myths (except maybe the bit about me being at a party at Max Mosley's house). Charles Hamilton Smith's contemporary paintings of the British Army show almost all British cavalry mounts with docked tails. The exceptions are the Life Guards and the Royal Horse Guards, where the tails appear to have been left in their natural state.






Greystreak19 Apr 2012 2:40 p.m. PST

Quote below, taken from General Charles P. Ainslie's The Royal Regiment of Dragoons – The Historical Record of the First or The Royal Regiment of Dragoons; Chapman & Hall: London, 1887. pp. 106-107:


The heavy cavalry, with the exception of the two regiments of Life Guards and Royal Regiment of Horse Guards, are to be mounted on nag-tailed horses.

The First, or King's Regiment of Dragoon Guards; the First, or Royal Regiment of Dragoons; the Third, or King's Own Regiment of Dragoons, are to be mounted on black nag-tailed horses.

The Second, or Queen's Regiment of Dragoon Guards, are to be mounted on nag-tailed horses of the colours of bay and brown.

The Second, or Royal North British Regiment of Dragoons, are to be mounted on nag-tailed grey horses.

All other regiments of heavy cavalry on the British establishment are to be mounted on nag-tailed horses of the colours of bay, brown, and chestnut.

The custom of mounting trumpeters on grey horses is to be discontinued, and they are in future to be mounted on horses of the colour or colours prescribed for the regiments to which they belong.

Harvey Calvert,
Horse Guards
10th August, 1799."

SJDonovan19 Apr 2012 2:47 p.m. PST

Hi Greystreak,

I think I may have misunderstood. What is the difference between 'docked' and 'nag-tailed'? I thought the tails of the horses in the bottom three pictures I posted were docked. Is this wrong?

AICUSV19 Apr 2012 4:36 p.m. PST

The rumor I heard is that the Brits cut the horses' tails and sold the hair for wigs to pay for grain. Just trying to make both ends meet.

Odins Warrior19 Apr 2012 5:45 p.m. PST

Docked is what happens to your pay check. Nag-tailed is when your wife follows you around the house complaining that you should be doing something else other than painting miniatures!

1234567820 Apr 2012 5:04 a.m. PST

Docking tails involves the amputation of some vertebrae of the horses' tail bones (there is probably a proper name for them!), followed by cauterisation with hot irons.

Nag tailing involves cutting the tail hairs back but not amputating the bones.

The lower three pictures are nag tailed, not docked.

1234567820 Apr 2012 5:05 a.m. PST


SJDonovan20 Apr 2012 5:07 a.m. PST

Thanks Colin. I didn't realise that docking involved amputation (but then if I am honest it had never occurred to me that there were any bones in a horse's tail in the first place)

1234567820 Apr 2012 5:21 a.m. PST

What a horse looks like inside (well, the bones anyway); docking involves removing the dock…ouch!


SJDonovan20 Apr 2012 5:50 a.m. PST

Ouch, indeed. It's news to me that horses have got elbows as well.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2012 6:29 p.m. PST

A horse has a tail to brush biting, blood sucking insects off of where they can't get at them with their head.

Mother nature has a better grasp of survival of a horse then someone who has never worked with working horses. Getting hit with a horse tail hurts a little. Getting hit with a Bleeped textty horsetail is unpleasant. The stuff dries and drops off the horsetail in a little time.

It's cruel to dock the tail.

Hugh Johns20 Apr 2012 8:08 p.m. PST

Horses raise their tails when they excrete.

spontoon21 Apr 2012 6:45 a.m. PST

My old Minifigs horses used to arrive about half of them missing their tails. So, they all became British cavalry mounts.

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