The restraint of horses as described by ancient Greek and Roman authors, from first to fourth century AD

François VALLAT

Dr vétérinaire, Dr en Histoire, email.

The study of texts by Columella (Ist century) and by hippiaters of the late Roman Empire (IVth century) reveals characteristics of ancient restraint methods used in performing surgery on large domestic species. Because of its large size, Columella’s travis (machina) could not be used as is done nowadays, but as a cage in which animals were strapped in a surgical position. Moreover, an original method of steadying the animal’s head reminds one of the present-day self-locking feed barrier. The travis also made it possible to suspend (suspendere, statuere) horses that could not remain standing on their own, for the duration of the recovery period. And a rustic version of machina was used as a mating corridor for horses. Rather than resort to a machina, a fixed piece of equipment found on large estates, ancient veterinaries preferred casting horses (deponere, exponere, elidere), which was faster but required real expertise. In this context, the use of a pit (fossa) is analyzed.


Ref. :éd.sci.vét., 2014, 14 : 7-17