Inventing the Wild Horse: the Manmade History of the Takhi and Tarpan from 3500BCE–1828

I’ve just published a chapter called “Inventing the Wild Horse: the Manmade History of the Takhi and Tarpan from 1828–2018” in Horse Breeds and Human Society: Purity, Identity and the Making of the Modern Horse, edited by Kristen Guest and Monica Mattfeld (Routledge, 2020). I went overboard writing this and outstripped my word count so …

Tragedy, Bravery, Royal Weddings and Queer Riders – why I can’t stop researching the nineteenth-century circus

Following on from essays for the Paris Review Daily about Selika Lazevski (here, with research notes here) and Sarah l’Africaine (here, with research notes here), I’ve written a third essay about my obsession with the horsewomen of the nineteenth-century Parisian circus who “lived at the center of public attention while simultaneously being marginal”. You can …

The Story of the “Black Gazelle” of the Paris Hippodrome: Sarah L’Africaine

A new essay on an equestrian stuntwoman who set Second Empire Paris alight: Sarah l’Africaine, following on from an earlier piece about the mystery horsewoman Selika Lazevski. Here’s some information about my sources: Most of the firsthand material is combed from Gallica, the incredible, searchable digital collection of the French national library. The quotations in …

Got Mare’s Milk?

While the idea of sipping mare’s milk might sound unusual to Western readers, it’s been a traditional staple in Central Asia, where it is often fermented into “koumiss,” a mildly alcoholic drink that was adopted by Russian doctors in the mid-19th century as a treatment for tuberculosis. Patients no less illustrious than the writers Anton …

From Anarchy to Mare’s Milk: a year in horse stories

I didn’t publish any articles between 2014 and 2017 because I was busy working on The Age of the Horse, so I set myself a challenge to get pieces out there to new audiences for a twelve-month surge. I’ve now reached the end and am about to sequester myself in the Stabi to work on …

Horse-Race Politics, The Palio August 2016

I looked up from the center of the small courtyard, above the hexagonal pillars, the Gothic arches and then higher, to the crenellations that framed a rectangle of deep-blue sky where a single planet or star shone. The building was made of stone and brick and the yard sealed by a thick, studded door, but …

The Beautiful Irony – An Afterword for The Age of the Horse, February 2018

On 23 February 2018 an international group of paleogeneticists and zooarchaeologists studying horse domestication published a report in the journal Science. They had recovered and sequenced DNA from the remains of horses found at the Botai site, hoping, as team-member Ludovico Orlando put it, “to catch evolution red-handed, when domestication first started.” Instead, they turned …