Historical Article

A brief history of equine private practice in South Africa

C.H.B. Marlow
Journal of the South African Veterinary Association | Vol 81, No 4 | a147 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v81i4.147 | © 2010 C.H.B. Marlow | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 May 2010 | Published: 21 May 2010

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Horse breeding in South Africa started in 1652, shortly after the 1st European settlement in the Cape. African horsesickness posed a serious problem and after a devastating outbreak of the disease in 1719, horses were largely replaced by oxen for agricultural and transport purposes but remained important from a sporting and military point of view. Examples of the latter are the export of horses for military use to India in the mid-19th century and for use in the Crimean War in 1854, reaching a zenith in the Anglo-Boer war in which an estimated 450 000 horses succumbed. Research and disease control and initially also health services were the responsibility of state veterinary authorities. Private equine practice was pioneered by Jack Boswell in the late 1930s, mainly involving race horses and Thoroughbred studs as part of a general practice. Specialised equine private practices were only initiated 10 years later and developed further during the 2nd half of the 20th century. These developments are described in some detail, including resumés of the veterinarians involved, clinical challenges encountered, scientific advances as well as developments in the equine industry with the emphasis on Thoroughbreds and the racing community. The regulatory environment, especially regarding the import and export of horses, and the role of various organisations and associations are also briefly discussed.


equine specialists; history; horse breeding; private practice; South Africa; Thoroughbreds


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