Questions

British cavalry horses 18th and 19th century

Posted by Flambeau on 14 Jan 2022, 11:55

I recently started expanding my collection with the new Strelets range of WoSS figures and when I started painting the cavalry came across an interesting question:
What color did the horses of the British cavalry regiments have?
Now for the Napoleonic Wars we know that the Horse Guards had blacks, the 2nd Dragoons greys, the Inniskillings chestnuts and the Dragoon Guards blacks (all of them?).
However, I have little information regarding the War of Spanish Succession. The paintings by David Morier for the period around 1750 show almost all regiments (including dragoons) on blacks (except the Scots Greys, of course), with VERY short docked tails, so this may still have been the standard during the Seven Years War.
(example: https://www.rct.uk/collection/405600/pr ... goons-1751)
But when did this practise start? Was this already the case during the War of Spanish Succession?
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Posted by Kekso on 14 Jan 2022, 14:22

I have one theory but I might be wrong. Maybe at the beginning of war one can take care of uniform colors, horse colors etc. But when lack of resources appears stuff like horse colors are least of concern.

That doesn't mean you should stop researching and ignore historical accuracy.
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Posted by Flambeau on 14 Jan 2022, 17:27

Kekso wrote:I have one theory but I might be wrong. Maybe at the beginning of war one can take care of uniform colors, horse colors etc. But when lack of resources appears stuff like horse colors are least of concern.


That is of course very true, especially when we are looking at a prolonged campaign. During the campaign in Russia in 1812 so many horses died (mostly of malnutrition and disease) that many units had to make do with whatever mounts they could find (if they could find any).
Early in 1705 the Hanoverian Bothmer dragoons ...lost most of its remaining horses to glanders, a disease that the French horses captured at Blenheim on the previous year had disseminated among the cavalry. All saddlery had to be burnt and the men returned and the men walked back home and be supplied with new horses." (http://kronoskaf.com/wss/index.php?titl ... r_Dragoons)

However my question is as to regulation outfit. At Waterloo the British cavalry was in a splendid state where mounts were concerned, being mostly fresh out of their barracks. And even the French would have been in a somewhat better condition than in 1814. Almost the same would probably apply for the state of the British cavalry before Blenheim,
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Posted by Minuteman on 15 Jan 2022, 13:15

Hi Flambeau,

Interesting question, and probably impossible to answer definitively. However, you as a student of the British artist John Wootton will recognise that quite a lot of his portraits of individual horses (civilian, often racehorses) from as early as c. 1715 show these animals with docked or at least cut-back tails; these are not cut back as severely as the David Morier SYW British cavalry paintings show, but this does nonetheless indicate that this very British practice probably dates from the tail-end (excuse the pun) of the WoSS.

So far as colours of horses are concerned: I think it entirely likely that colonels of cavalry regiments in the English/Scots/Irish - and then after 1707 British - service would attempt to mount individual squadrons on similarly-coloured horses. Whether this would stretch to mounting an entire regiment on the 'same' coloured horse is another matter, saving (probably) the Horse Guards, which were almost certainly mounted on blacks or very dark browns.

I'd suggest that, for modelling and painting purposes anyway, units up to squadron-size mounted on similarly-coloured horses would look 'right' for British cavalry, all the way through to the Napoleonic era.
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Posted by Kekso on 15 Jan 2022, 13:22

Flambeau wrote:However my question is as to regulation outfit.


Of course. I said it just because of conversation purpose. Not that I wanted to prove anything. :)
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Posted by Flambeau on 15 Jan 2022, 14:02

@ Minutenman

I came across this piece of information yesterday, a comment on a picture of the 7th Dragoon Guards in 1742 from

https://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/ ... dg1742.htm

"The first good indication of uniform worn by the soldiers of the British Army is to be found in The Cloathing Book of 1742. By this time the regiment was numbered as the 8th Horse but generally called the Black Horse because of the unique black facings worn by the men. The horses were also black but so were the horses of all the cavalry regiments [sic]. At this time the tails of the horses were docked. The reasoning behind this unsightly practice was that when a horse's tail became wet and muddy it would flick dirt onto the riders."

This is not entirely true, as the 2nd Dragoons obviously had Greys and there is at least one picture by Morier (of the 15th Dragoons) in the Royal Collection showing them mounted on Bays, as are most of the Light Dragoons depicted by him (which of course did not yet exist at the time of the WoSS). But most of the Dragoon Regiments are on Blacks.

Wootton's painting of Blenheim is splendid, yet somewhat enigmatic (and dates from 1743 so it's closer to Morier's works than the actual battle). The cavalry in red coats with cuirasses is probably British - because of the docked tails - but they would not have been armoured at the time of the battle.

There's an interesting discussion on the habit of docking horses tails in the British cavalry over at
http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=264947
for anyone interested.

How we paint our squadrons is of course a matter of personal taste. A diorama builder will perhaps lean towards more realism while a wargamer might prefer to give his units a more distinct appearance. But I think the topic is interesting for both. Artillery teams in many nation used horses of the same color for different teams. Some if not mst nations had horses of different colors for the different squadrons or regiments.

I'll probably mount most of my WoSS British cavalry on blacks, there's no proof to the contrary and I think it will look cool 8), just have to experiment a bit with cutting the horses tails ...
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Posted by Graeme on 15 Jan 2022, 14:44

I couldn't find anything specifically about the WoSS but Peter Harringtons Osprey title on Culloden 1746 says that the cavalry were 'made up of volunteers who were not to exceed 5 feet 8 inches in height, most had barely progressed beyond basic training... The horses were not to be older than four years nor over 15 hands high. Occasionally small lighter horses were bought "keeping however, still to the black Cullour". Things to note here are that it sounds to me that the information comes from official regulations and that it refers to standard dragoon regiments not elite or Household cavalry.

See also Seneffe's post in this TMP thread which says that with a few exceptions British cavalry regiments in the mid 1740s rode black horses:

http://www.theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=312438

As I said no information specific to the WoSS but I think this tradition of British cavalry blacks may have been in place for some time so you might not go far wrong by painting them that way. One proviso though, it might be possible that dark brown horses were classified as 'blacks'.

Supply of horses during a long campaign may have been an issue for some armies but, I think, not for the British; I read somewhere that during the Napoleonic Wars, the British cavalry had an inexhaustible supply of good horses from Ireland; I imagine it was much the same in earlier periods so no problem unless there were difficulties in shipping them over the channel. (and surely, that could never be the case, could it. :mrgreen: )
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Posted by Minuteman on 15 Jan 2022, 15:23

Graeme wrote:
As I said no information specific to the WoSS but I think this tradition of British cavalry blacks may have been in place for some time so you might not go far wrong by painting them that way. One proviso though, it might be possible that dark brown horses were classified as 'blacks'.

Supply of horses during a long campaign may have been an issue for some armies but, I think, not for the British; I read somewhere that during the Napoleonic Wars, the British cavalry had an inexhaustible supply of good horses from Ireland; I imagine it was much the same in earlier periods so no problem unless there were difficulties in shipping them over the channel. (and surely, that could never be the case, could it. :mrgreen: )


I think I agree with the theory that 'black' horses might well have included dark browns (Bays).

I also suspect that the breed of Irish horse being referred to here is the 'Irish Draught' (not beer, horse!), as per the picture in this article:

https://horseyhooves.com/irish-horse-breeds/
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Posted by Flambeau on 15 Jan 2022, 17:44

Graeme, Minuteman

Thanks, that's interesting information. I too suspect that the practice of mounting the cavalry on black or very dark brown horses dates back to a period earlier than Morier's paintings. After all, they could not have appeared from nowhere and considering the amount of horses needed, breeding must have been in progress for a good while by the mid 18th century. Would be nice to see when this actually started though.

Also it's interesting to see that generals and officers horses rarely show docked tails. In paintings many officers are mounted on horses with long tails.

By the way, the "like" button seems to be missing in this sub-forum (it's present in others).
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Posted by Peter on 15 Jan 2022, 17:57

Flambeau wrote:By the way, the "like" button seems to be missing in this sub-forum (it's present in others).

Moderator: Just gave you a like. Are there other members who can't see the like button?
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Posted by Flambeau on 15 Jan 2022, 18:42

Strange, I can see the button in most other sub-forums, but not in the "questions" sub-forum.
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Posted by Rich W on 16 Jan 2022, 23:18

Very interesting topic. I probably should have considered this when painting my cavalry....I just went for the colours that I find easier to use with horses-browns. I tried a couple of black and grey horses and they looked utter garbage. Any suggestions on the best way of painting a black or grey horse?
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Posted by Rich W on 16 Jan 2022, 23:19

Peter wrote:Moderator: Just gave you a like. Are there other members who can't see the like button?


No, the 'like' option doesn't show for me either.
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Posted by Flambeau on 17 Jan 2022, 11:58

I'm struggeling with greys, tbh. I usually mix white with some grey and then give them a slight dark grey washing, which looks more or less decent from afar, but I know that there are folks out there (and here :-) ) who can do much better.
For blacks I either use, well black, or a very dark grey and then highlight certain parts with a darker grey (mane and tails) and use dark or medium brown for reins (even if that's not correct), just to make them discernible.
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Posted by Flambeau on 17 Jan 2022, 12:43

Some more information on horse colors in the Napoleonic era:

French army:

"During peacetime the regiments of light and line cavalry had color of horses according to squadron :

I Squadron : 1st 'elite' company rode on blacks, 5th company on browns and blacks
II Squadron : 2nd company rode on bays, 6th company on bays
III Squadron : 3rd company on chestnuts, 7th company on chestnuts
IV Squadron : 4th and 8th company on grays and whites
But already after the first campaign (1805) only some colonels insisted on keeping up these peacetime practicies. The heavy cavalry rode on black horses. (Prussian king Frederick the Great insisted that the black horses should go to the cuirassiers. He considered the black of the coat as a sign of quality.)"

From:
https://www.napolun.com/mirror/web2.air ... oleon.html

This is a very good site with lots of information on most nations armies of the period.

There is also some information on the British cavalry horses in Bryan Fosten's "Wellington's heavy cavalry" (Osprey):

Life Guards and Blues on blacks with long [sic] tails, King's Draggon Guards and 1st Dragoons on blacks, 5th Dragoon Guards on a mixture of blacks, bays and browns, 7th Dragoon Guards bays and browns (ca. 1800), all regiments except for the Guards on nag-tailed horses.
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