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Episode 5

George Stubbs took the horse apart in order to paint it accurately. But the horse has had its revenge, getting under the collective cultural skin of humankind, haunting our dreams.

The alliance between man and horse lasted 6,000 years, shaping life in town and country. Ulrich Raulff's engaging, brilliantly written and moving discussion of what horses once meant to human civilisation.

The relationship between horses and humans is a profound and complex one. For millennia, horses provided the strength and speed that humans lacked. How we travelled, farmed and fought was dictated by the needs of this extraordinary animal. And then suddenly, in the 20th century, the links were broken and the millions of horses that shared our existence almost vanished, eking out a marginal existence on race-tracks and pony clubs.

Cities, farmland and entire industries were once shaped as much by the needs of horses as humans. The intervention of horses was fundamental in countless historical events. They were sculpted, painted, cherished, admired. They were thrashed, abused and exposed to terrible danger.

From the Roman Empire to the Napoleonic Empire, every world-conqueror needed to be shown on a horse. Tolstoy once reckoned that he had cumulatively spent some nine years of his life on horseback.

Ulrich Raulff's book, a bestseller in Germany, is a superb monument to the endlessly various creature who has so often shared and shaped our fate.

Written by Ulrich Raulff
Translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
Read by Iain Glen
Abridged and Produced by Jill Waters
A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

15 minutes

Last on

Sat 3 Jun 2017 00:30

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Role Contributor
Reader Iain Glen
Author Ulrich Raulff
Translation Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
Abridger Jill Waters
Producer Jill Waters


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