abe frank, ai, artificial insemination, breeding history, breeding practices in thoroughbreds, dwyer brothers, elmendorf farm, great racehorses as sires, great sires, hanover, jb haggin, milton young, salvator
Most breeders today think of artificial insemination as a modern approach to breeding, although one also forbidden by the Jockey Clubs of the world for Thoroughbreds.
Then imagine my surprise at the following comments from the noted turf scribe Salvator about the use of AI more than a century ago.
In reference to the great sire Hanover, Salvator mentioned that the horse was horribly overbred, and in those days without veterinary helps to maximize the number of mares that could be covered, the aggressive breeder had to use AI.
The introduction of artificial impregnation is something that I well recall — nowadays it is has a somewhat more hifalutin handle, being called by veterinarians “insemination.” Like other efforts to achieve natural results by unnatural means, about all that has resulted from it has been the short-circuiting of the breed, rather than its improvement. So far as I am aware, Milton Young, the owner of Hanover (at stud; the Dwyer Brothers raced him), was the first “big” breeder who practiced it extensively. But the lack of success that attended his operations after the death of Hanover hardly argued in its favor. According to my information, however, no breeder ever used it so largely, with Thoroughbreds, as the late J B Haggin, at Elmendorf — and one of his most trusted employees, a man of the highest authority in the matters of which he spoke, who was intimately acquainted with the facts, told me positively that the artificially-begotten foals bred at Elmendorf were, colt for colt, much inferior to the naturally-begotten ones.
From the tone of Salvator’s commentary, he is not an advocate of the practice, and in fact comes out sharply against AI because the “artificial Hanovers were the sprinters; the real ones, the high-class ones.”
Then the famous commentator of the turf went on to give specifics about the horses bred with AI.
He wrote: The Hanover colt “Abe Frank was a case in point. He was known to have been the result of an artificial impregnation of his dam, the English mare Cheesestraw, by Muncaster.”
One of Salvator’s acquaintances from Kentucky told him the story this: “He’s an artificially-bred colt. Hanover did not cover his dam. She was impregnated, not mated. Foals begotten in that way are inferior to those begotten in the natural way. They are less sturdy, more washy and do not train on so well, nor can they go so far. Abe Frank will not be a Derby winner next season.”
Although the latter prediction proved correct, I would not use AI to justify the result. With most any colt age 2, you can predict he will not “win a Derby” and be quite comfortable. Very few do.
Of greater interest is the subtext to Salvator’s commentary. There were a few breeders who used AI to breed large books of mares to popular stallions, and this was considered a bad thing. Whether it is a negative or not, AI was considered something that harmed the horses resulting from it. Is this then the circumstance that brought about the JC’s ruling that all registered Thoroughbreds must result from live covers? Such a rule would put those inclined to overuse very popular stallions in an untenable position (until quite recently) because the offspring from AI could not be registered, and the JCs of the world would have the high moral ground because it was generally believed that AI was deleterious to the horse and therefore to racing and those who sent their mares to stallions.
Furthermore, Salvator noted also that “almost invariably owners of outside mares … adopted the habit of sending a trusted representative with her, when she was bred, to see that she was actually mated with the living horse himself.”
That, I believe, seals the case that knowledgeable breeders disliked the practice and refused to participate in using AI.