History of Animals
service he is called on to render; and horses that are reared in a
private stable live longer than such as are reared in troops. The mare
attains her full length and height at five years old, the stallion
at six; in another six years the animal reaches its full bulk, and
goes on improving until it is twenty years old. The female, then,
reaches maturity more rapidly than the male, but in the womb the
case is reversed, just as is observed in regard to the sexes of the
human species; and the same phenomenon is observed in the case of
all animals that bear several young.
The mare is said to suckle a mule-foal for six months, but not
to allow its approach for any longer on account of the pain it is
put to by the hard tugging of the young; an ordinary foal it allows to
suck for a longer period.
Horse and mule are at their best after the shedding of the
teeth. After they have shed them all, it is not easy to distinguish
their age; hence they are said to carry their mark before the
shedding, but not after. However, even after the shedding their age is
pretty well recognized by the aid of the canines; for in the case of
horses much ridden these teeth are worn away by attrition caused by
the insertion of the bit; in the case of horses not ridden the teeth
are large and detached, and in young horses they are sharp and small.
The male of the horse will breed at all seasons and during its
whole life; the mare can take the horse all its life long, but is
not thus ready to pair at all seasons unless it be held in check by
a halter or some other compulsion be brought to bear. There is no
fixed time at which intercourse of the two sexes cannot take place;
and accordingly intercourse may chance to take place at a time that
may render difficult the rearing of the future progeny. In a stable in
Opus there was a stallion that used to serve mares when forty years
old: his fore legs had to be lifted up for the operation.
Mares first take the horse in the spring-time. After a mare
has foaled she does not get impregnated at once again, but only
after a considerable interval; in fact, the foals will be all the
better if the interval extend over four or five years. It is, at all
events, absolutely necessary to allow an interval of one year, and for
that period to let her lie fallow. A mare, then, breeds at
intervals; a she-ass breeds on and on without intermission. Of mares
some are absolutely sterile, others are capable of conception but
incapable of bringing the foal to full term; it is said to be an
indication of this condition in a mare, that her foal if dissected
is found to have other kidney-shaped substances round about its
kidneys, presenting the appearance of having four kidneys.
After parturition the mare at once swallows the after-birth, and
bites off the growth, called the 'hippomanes', that is found on the
forehead of the foal. This growth is somewhat smaller than a dried
fig; and in shape is broad and round, and in colour black. If any
bystander gets possession of it before the mare, and the mare gets a
smell of it, she goes wild and frantic at the smell. And it is for
this reason that venders of drugs and simples hold the substance in
high request and include it among their stores.
If an ass cover a mare after the mare has been covered by a
horse, the ass will destroy the previously formed embryo.
(Horse-trainers do not appoint a horse as leader to a troop, as
herdsmen appoint a bull as leader to a herd, and for this reason
that the horse is not steady but quick-tempered and skittish.)
The ass of both sexes is capable of breeding, and sheds its
first teeth at the age of two and a half years; it sheds its second
teeth within six months, its third within another six months, and
the fourth after the like interval. These fourth teeth are termed
the gnomons or age-indicators.
A she-ass has been known to conceive when a year old, and the
foal to be reared. After intercourse with the male it will discharge