Although it was against the rules, a previous boarder at LA's facility used to bring her lab/hound mix with her to the barn (why is it that some people don't think rules apply to them?). Chubby had a few favourite horses that she would sit in front of and then wait for the grooming to begin. It was so interesting to watch. The horse would go up and down Chubby's back mouthing and gently nibbling. Gem had an opportunity once to groom Chubby. He has actually groomed the barn cats, too.
I am fascinated by the relationship between a "predator" and "prey". Their lives have been intertwined for centuries. It got me thinking about what dog breeds have an affinity to horses.
Great Danes and mastiff-type dogs have long been coupled with horses. Great Danes are probably one of the oldest breeds. Dogs looking like the Great Dane appeared on Greek money 2,000 years ago! These powerful dogs were used for hunting bear and boar and for attacking opposing warriors during fighting. They were greatly admired and a status symbol. Can't you just picture them running along side horses?
The Wolfhound, Deerhound and Greyhound are also ancient breeds and were bred as hunting dogs in addition to guarding livestock and property. Their speed and agility was prized for running down prey.
Who has thought of a horse drawn carriage or a fire truck and not pictured a Dalmatian? These dogs were used to guard the coach when the owner was doing errands. Their great stamina allowed them to keep up with horses. When horse-drawn fire engines were in use, Dalmatians would run ahead barking to warn pedestrians and other vehicles - they were the sirens before sirens were invented!
Hounds, of course, were used with horses to chase down prey and that tradition exists today. More progressive countries and areas are now using a scent trail instead of chasing a live animal. A scent trail guarantees a good run, where depending on a live animal to chase/kill can be hit and miss, unless you are in an area that stocks animals for this purpose (don't get me started!).
The relationship between dogs and horse is not just confined to hunting and war activities. Having a good barn dog was worth his weight in gold. He was used to herd and guard barn animals and control vermin. Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Corgies, and Jack Russells are amongst the more popular breeds when it comes to farm life.
Australian Shepherds and Border Collies have endless energy and endurance coupled with great herding instincts. Although small in stature, the Corgi is still a favourite of horse folk in Britain. They are a cattle dog and ratter and were highly prized by Welsh farmers over the centuries. The Jack Russell's tenacity and energy makes him an excellent vermin exterminator around the barn.
So, what makes this work? How is it that horses and dogs have this relationship? How can a horse discern that a dog is not a threat? How can two animals who, in the wild would be prey and predator, learn to work together? Human intervention. In my opinion, man needed both of these animals to work together for his ultimate gain. The necessity of keeping the rodent population down in stables and barns was important. Man became the leader of both of these animals and forced them to work as a team. I believe that over time, each horse/dog passed down its tolerance of each other to their offspring and centuries later we continue to see dogs and horses living together in relative harmony. What do you think?
Life Lesson: It is your responsibility to make sure you are safe. Do not depend on anyone else for your safety and if you are uncomfortable in a situation, leave (this is where that $20 bill tucked in your wallet comes in handy!).