Underground Horses At An Indian Colliery
Following the paper by Mr. F. 0. Solomon on “ The Feeding of Horses, with Special Reference to Colliery Studs,” and the discussion thereon, and that on “ Underground Stables ” by Mr. W. C. Blackett, it may interest the members to have a few notes on the underground horses at the East Indian Railway collieries, Bengal, India.
Horses.—Horses were introduced into these mines in 1890 by Dr. Walter Saise, colliery-superintendent; and since then the number of horses and ponies has steadily increased, until now there are 140, of which 90 are in constant work, the rest being mares (kept mostly for breeding purposes) and foals under 4 years of age. Dr. Saise has given a great deal of personal attention to the breeding and feeding of the horses, and it is from the experience gained in the experiments conducted by him that the writer is able to compile the following notes.
The animals are, with the exception of three Burmese stallions, all country-bred and cross-bred, and in height range from 10 to 14.5 hands. The Burmese ponies are sturdy animals, in build very like Shetland ponies. The Burmese stallions were imported for the purpose of improving the stock, as the country-bred ponies (compared with English ponies of the same height) are much lighter in build. The experiment in breeding, with Burmese stallions and country-bred mares, has been very successful, the stock raised being superior to the smaIl country-bred animals. Bigger animals, country-bred, have been introduced of late, but no attempt to breed from these bigger ones has yet been made.
For comparison with horses in British mines, the writer appends Table I., showing the heights and girth-measurements of Indian and Burmese horses: the girth being taken round the chest.
Half the number of horses in work have been bred on the colliery.
The young stock is allowed plenty of exercise, being allowed to run all over the Gujiadih estate. At night-time, the animals sleep in a large shed, and all lie together like a lot of dogs. They are not put to work until they are four years of age.
Feeding.—The rations have varied from time to time, according to the price of food-stuff, and according as experience has taught the management what is the best food for the stud.
Sometimes, the horses have been fed solely on gram (a pulse like the bean or pea); oats; maize or indian corn; a mixture of gram and oats; oats and maize; gram and maize; and gram, oats and maize. Wheaten bran, when cheap, is added; also unhusked rice, grown on the East Indian Railway colliery-farm, has been used. The food is crushed by passing it between iron rollers.
The food that has given the best results contained the following proportions: — 28 per cent of maize, 14 per cent of gram, and 58 per cent of oats, well mixed together.
A pony, from 10 to 12 hands high, is given 6 pounds of crushed food and 3 pounds of hay; and the bigger horses, 8 pounds of crushed food and 4 pounds of hay, daily. They are fed three times a day:—(1) In the morning before work; (2) inbye, during the shift; and (3) at the end of the shift.
The horses work about 8 hours per day, and as they are in very good condition, the diet may be said to be satisfactory.
Cost of Horse-keep.—Gram, January, 1905, costs £3 17s. 1.5d. per ton; oats, £3 Is. 3d. per ton; and maize, £3 8s. per ton.
Grass is cut and brought in by the villagers and sold at 2d (2 annas) per maund or 4s. 6.5d. per ton. The grass is dried and stacked, and used as required. The grass in drying loses 80 per cent, of its weight, so that when it is ready for use, as hay, its cost is £1 2s. 8.5d. per ton. Grass can only be procured in the rainy season (July 1st to October 31st), and enough is stacked then for use through the year.
Seven varieties of grass are used as fodder at the East Indian Railway collieries, as follows:—
- Dub or doob (Cynodon dactylon) grows all the year round. It is a common fodder-grass, and has a creeping stem which throws out roots.
- Dub-dul (Panicum stagvinum) grows in tanks in cold and hot weather. Horses eat it without relish, but cattle will not eat it. It looks like coarse doob, as it has a long creeping (floating) stem.
- Makra ghas (Eleusine wgyptiaca), called suntubokoe by the Santals, grows in Indian corn baris. It consists of isolated plants, with erect leaves and stems. It is very like mandua in appearance. The Santals say that it was the food first given to the first men who appeared on earth. Women bring in great bundles in August, September and October.
- Suma, a road-side grass (Panicum. colonum), only leaves and erect stems, each plant separate, grows well in the rains, and horses eat it with great zest. It is practically the meadow- grass of the rains.
- Churant (Andropogum), the seeds stick to one’s clothes. It is a cold-weather grass.
- Phulhar (Eragrostis tenaUa), called ic koe by the Santals, is a feathery grass, with large panicles of the everlasting grass style. It is a cold-weather grass.
- Marndi-grass (Isehaenum rugosum) is so like rice as to be undistinguishable until it flowers. It is available in December.
All these grasses are bought for the horses, and in hot weather dub-dul is chiefly eaten. In cold weather, dub-dul, maradi, churant and phulhar; and in the rainy season, sama, makra and dub form their food.
The cost of feeding the stud for the years 1902 and 1903 was 6s. 7d. (4 rupees 15 annas) per animal per month. As 36 per cent, of the stud are mares and foals under 4 years of age, not at work, they do not receive as much crushed food as those at work: the actual cost of feeding the animals at work, amounted to 8s. 3d. (6 rupees 12 annas) per animal per month.
The horses work six days a week, and are given a rest on Sundays. Where there are adits or inclined roads into the mines, the horses are brought out every Saturday night, and taken back again on Monday morning: more than half the horses enjoy this boon.
Shoeing.—Ponies under 12 hands are not shod. The rest are shod, which is done by contract costing Is. 4d. (1 rupee) per horse per month.
Drivers.—The drivers are mostly strong young men, 18 years of age and over. They are men who understand horses, and are a sort of horsekeeper and driver combined, as they feed and groom their horses as well as drive them. They work 10 hours a day and are paid 4d. (4 annas) per day, and, compared with that of the coolie or labourer of 2.5d- per day, this is considered a good wage.
Stables.—The stables are built in several places in the mine; from 2 to 12 horses being stabled together. Plenty of room is given to each horse, and they are separated by wooden partitions. The stables are 8 to 10 feet in height, the seam being 16 to 23 feet thick. The floors are made of glazed tiles, and the mangers of brickwork lined with cement. Water-troughs are provided in convenient places, in or near the stables.
The stables are whitewashed from time to time. The ventilation is arranged so that fresh air passes direct from the intake-airway, through the stables, into the main return-airway.
Labour.—Before horses were introduced into these mines, the tubs were taken from the working-face to the shaft by trammers, mostly women. Horses were introduced to take the place of the women, as it was expected that legislation would interfere with female labour underground. At first little, or no advantage was gained, as the trammers would still see their tubs taken to the shaft and put into the cage, for they were afraid that their tickets or tokens would be changed and that their tubs would be booked to another person. This is all altered now, the coal-cutter no longer leaves his working-place during the shift, and women have to some extent been replaced by horses.
Legislation has not yet prohibited female labour in Indian mines. But the prohibition must come sooner or later, and when it docs, the East Indian Railway collieries will be prepared for it.
Horse-sickness.—Sickness is very rare amongst colliery-horses. Three or four horses have died of tetanus. No veterinary surgeon is kept, and the horses’ little ailments are attended to by their drivers, and by the colliery-officials.