Jumarts

Eyewitness testimony

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horse-cow hybrid


In his Cours complet d'agriculture (1788, pp. 3-9), agronomist André Sarcey de Sutières (1720-1789) a resident of the Beaujolais region of France, describes jumarts and relates some of his personal experiences he and his wife had with these animals. In translation, his account reads as follows:

THE JUMART OR HIPPOTAURUS

    THE jumart is produced from the union of a bull with either a mare or a jennet. A jumart is also produced by the mating of a jackass and cow, but they say that those with such parentage often differ from the others. There also exist, so they say, jumarts with cloven hooves, but I have never seen any. I am, however, perfectly familiar with the others.
    These animals are found fairly commonly in the vicinity of Chambéry, in Switzerland, and in the province of Dauphiné. They are bred quite commonly in Leforest, around Saint-Chamond, Saint-Étienne, and in the mountains around Pila, for in those regions their utility is well known.

A Description of the Jumart

    I myself have owned three jumarts, all of whom have rendered me great service. The one I had the longest stood three feet three inches high [at the withers] and his hair was red with a deep red cast; His legs were like those of a donkey, but with knees like those of a cow. His chest was broader and more rounded that a donkey's, and his upper jaw, shorter than the lower. His muzzle and forehead were like those of a cow, and his eyes, too, were exactly like a cow's. But his ears were a little wider and shorter, like those of a donkey. His tail and backbone were like a donkey's, though in the conformation of his flanks he resembled a cow.

The Utility of the Jumarts

    There are few animals from whom one can receive such great service as a jumart. And if the strength of these creatures is considered in proportion to their size, it would seem to be the greatest of any animal in existence. In fact, they can bear even the heaviest baggage and do so for longer than any other beast of burden. And when pulling a wagon, a jumart would sooner break the reins than pause for even a moment.
    By pulling his little tumbrel, my jumart supplied my home with food, even where I live, atop the mountain across from Ance. Every day during the warm seasons he brought home, via steep roads covered with rocks, all the hay gathered in the vineyards. And in the cold seasons, he carried stone from the quarries. In 1770 or 1771, in this part of Beaujolais there was a flood that all the villages around the mountain were submerged, a disaster that caused shocking damage, but which was ignored because it was all so far from Paris. Many trees were uprooted, and vineyards, stones and earth were swept away. A bit of pasture I have along Alix brook at Chatillon, was buried beneath 22 feet of stone and earth. However, level land being precious in this mountainous region, I resolved to clear it and to use my jumart to help me in the work.
    It was necessary to move all those rocks back into the little wood above the pasture, and that was no easy job because the road was steep and eroded.
    This brave animal saw that the roots of the trees, which had been laid bare by the rains, crossed the road, and in climbing, he gripped them with his teeth to catch his breath or to help himself onward. As amusing as this behavior might have been, it is well that I loaded him accordingly. Otherwise, he would have killed himself ripped out all his teeth.
    This brave animal saw that the roots of the trees, which had been laid bare by the rains, crossed the road, and in climbing, he gripped them with his teeth to catch his breath or to help himself onward. As amusing as this behavior might have been, it is well that I loaded him accordingly. Otherwise, he would have killed himself ripped out all his teeth.
    At any rate, he was the best of all my domestic animals, and the one that I could most rely upon.
    This courageous animal was of a most docile nature, whenever his driver asked him to do anything. The other animals weren't so willing. Sometimes they refused to move forward, or, after going forward a certain distance would turn and gallop back to the house, or they would lie down to throw their burden to the ground.
    One year he took care of my wife whose presence was required on a farm of mine six miles away across the mountains where she had to feed the livestock. She had to go there two or three times a week. The jumart, because of the sureness and gentleness of his tread, was chosen to carry her there. Atop a saddle and she carried her baby in her lap, and he was incredibly gentle with her. He stopped only in those places where his rider could dismount most conveniently. He kept to her side in the fear that she might take a misstep and moved forward at the mere prompting of her voice. Whenever he saw that she had the baby, he had no need of his bridal, as if he realized that she needed both hands to carry her child. The paths being very difficult, often in the descents the rocks, rolling underfoot, would make him stumble, but whenever he lost his balance he would crouch so that my wife could slide off, then he would recover and go to a place where he could see that she could easily remount. These actions, so often repeated, convinced us without doubt that he was able to reason. And he quite expected his behavior to be acknowledged; as soon as he arrived, you had to give him a piece of bread dipped in wine, and if you delayed, he'd eat nothing else, never cease with what was his own peculiar species of braying.
    He would let no one mount him except my wife. If someone else tried, he would bite and buck. And if that did not suffice, he would march forward quietly and then suddenly turn and gallop into a wall or tree. And if all that failed, he would simply lie down.
    One might believe that this story is sheer fabrication, or at least exaggeration. But I could relate deeds of this animal that might astonish you, such as his ability to open doors and to undo the most complicated knots, to come to your call and to go back again on command, etc., etc. One sees animals that can do surprising things, but if this one had been trained when he was young, he could have be put on tour in shows. The other two were intelligent, but not like him.
    I am astonished that such useful animals are not produced in great numbers. Who knows whether, if in devoting oneself to the production of various hybrids, one might succeed, with time and the assistance of certain combinations, in replacing the various species of animals known to the ancients, and which have disappeared for lack of circumstances favorable to their continued existence.
    
    
    

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