Tales of the Turf, Part 1
I have pleasant recollections of Buenos Ayres, because when engaged in training race-horses there, I cured an Edward the Confessor horse, named Egbert, whose tendons had been badly sprung. I got him all right for his owner, who won a big classic race with him subsequently. This gentleman was ever so delighted, and to mark his appreciation, gave me over and above my fee (the odds to 50 dollars) a pup by Shropshire Joe out of Lancashire Witch. He had paid £100 for the sire, a second prize winner at the Crystal Palace, and £60 for the dam, also a successful competitor.
The Witch had a litter of beautiful puppies, all of which were easily disposed of—the dogs at £20 apiece and the bitches at £15—all, that is to say, except the one I received, and another which was given to Brett. I named the dog Sloper after the immortal Ally. Those readers who may feel curious as to what became of him, will find mention of him in my Racing reminiscences in connection with Never Mind, one of the gamest bits of horseflesh that ever looked through a bridle.
Talking of dogs recalls to mind a curious incident. Several Peruvian families claim to be lineal descendants of the Incas. A member of one of these, Señora Hernandez, lived in an old quinta about three miles outside Lima, on the road leading to Pisco. We became acquainted as follows. My horses had been doing fast work, and were being rubbed down, preparatory to having their white sheets put on them, when a half-breed came up to me. He had a beautiful dog with him, the size of a poodle. It was “cobby” made, and covered with lovely long, curly, cream-coloured hair, fine as silk. It had large black eyes. Its muzzle, and the edges of its ears, were also of dusky hue.
The Indian addressed me.
“You are a lover of horses, sir?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“You love dogs, too?”
Again I answered in the affirmative.
“I have a dog to sell. Will you buy it? I want 40 sols for him.”
I recognized the animal, at once, as being an Inca poodle, a breed that was almost extinct. A specimen figures in the painting of Atahualpa and his wives on their way to Caxamarca, which hung in Zervallo’s picture gallery. The dog the Indian offered me I knew must be worth £40 at least, so I came to the conclusion that he had stolen it. I told him as much, and added, “I will give you 15 sols—no more, no less. You can take that and walk off; or I’ll blow my whistle to summon the police, and have you detained until the ownership of the dog is cleared up.” The man asked me to make it £2, but I said, “Not me, not a cent more than 15 sols.” Finding me obdurate, he gave in, handed over the dog, and scuttled off.
I took my purchase home, and later on that day consulted my friend the Chief of Police. He told me that by the laws of Peru I was entitled to keep the dog until it was claimed. If, at the end of six months, no one had lodged a valid claim, then the animal belonged to me absolutely. In the event of the rightful owner’s turning up, he would have to pay me such out-of-pocket expenses as the Chief of Police considered reasonable, plus the sum I had given the Indian. This law also holds good in regard to stolen horses and cattle, practically all over South America.
Once when engaged on construction work on the Bassavilvaso and Gualeguaychu line, I was offered a black four-year-old galloway, standing about fifteen hands, for the sum of £4. As there was a lot of Arab blood about the animal, I jumped at the chance. To protect myself, in case it had been stolen, I rode into Gualeguaychu, a distance of eighteen miles, and notified the Chief of Police. Subsequently, when I took up my residence in Buenos Ayres, I followed the same course. The galloway came in very useful as a hack.