A Ride on a Jumart

A transcription of Thomas Sedgwick Whalley's description of his journey on a jumart

Mammalian Hybrids

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EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD GENETICS

     
Thomas Sedgwick Whalley Whalley

The English poet and cleric Thomas Sedgwick Whalley (1746-1828) wrote lengthy descriptions of his travels through Europe. In an account of his journey through Savoy from Allezon to Chambéry during June of 1784, he claims he traveled on a jumart, the alleged hybrid of horse and cow (here referred to as a “jumarre”). The following account is taken from Whalley (1863, vol. I, pp. 133-134): “As I had journeyed thither [i.e. Allezon] on my good little Prieur's own mule, and attended by his own servant, both of which were gone back to Belleveaux, the Prieur of Allezon had

his favourite beast caparisoned for me to return to Chamberry, and set me thereon. Now at first I thought it was a sturdy, wicked-looking mule; but on eyeing him again and again, my belief was staggered, and I asked the Prieur's man who followed me what manner of brute it might be. 'C'est un jumarre,* mi Lor.' [It's a jumart, my Lord] 'Et qu'est ce que c'est qu'un jumarre mon ami?' [And what is a jumart, my friend?] 'O my Lor, c'est une béte qui est faite entre un taureau de montagne et une jument.' [Oh my Lord, it is a beast begotten by a bull of the mountains upon a mare.] On I went, then, on my jumarre, examining him from head to foot, and above all things, having an eye to his vile dispositions to break my neck down the rocks, as we descended the rugged and sometimes almost perpendicular paths, that led to Chamberry. Did Vincent's mule dare approach it, a bite and a kick were his sure welcome. Did even the Prieur's man presume to come too near, his malicious posteriors were presently turned in a convenient attitude to have a fling at him. Thus I crept down the mountains, sometimes with bodily fear, and sometimes worked up to spite myself, by the spite of my beast till landed, at length, safely in the vale, I jogged on with less apprehension, and with relaxed reins. All was well till we were crossing a little river, at the end of the town, when my strangely-begotten animal, resolving to avenge himself, with the true spirit of a Catholic beast, on his heretic rider, stopped short, gave himself one rude shake, and in an instant, and without time for prevention or even thought, I found myself in the middle of the river, and the gentle jumarre making repeated efforts to finish all my worldly cares by kicking out my brains. And his kind purpose would doubtless have been fulfilled, had not Vincent leaped into the water, and saved me from his charitable hoofs. Yet I mounted him again, drenched as I was, and ornamented as he was with a large silk net, fringed above and below, together with bells and with tassels—clapped my spurs in his sides, swore and rated, and went dripping and clattering and ringing through Chamberry, in all possible state.

The asterisk in the original text referred to the following footnote:

“* This very remarkable hybrid animal is particularly described in the scarce history of the Vandois Church, settled from time immemorial in three Alpine valleys of Piedmont, published in folio by Jean Leger, the Moderator, in the year 1669. He gives a drawing of the beast and mentions his travelling eighteen leagues through the mountains on one with greater ease than on horseback. The jumarre is a cross between the bull and the horse or the bull and the ass, the head and tail resembling the former, though without horns. As the upper and lower jaws do not meet together, they can only feed where the grass is long enough to be broken off with the tongue. The editor, when he was formerly in the Vaudois valleys, found the animal was still known.”

dog-cow hybrid A dog-cow hybrid?

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By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).


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