A ‘Nag’ isn’t always used as a derogatory term. Definitely not when referring to the ‘Galloway Nag’ – an extinct horse breed, once native to Scotland and northern England. It was a well known type of pony, first noted in English literature when Shakespeare referred to ‘Galloway Nags’ in Henry IV part II.
What makes this particular breed of horse worth mentioning? Let me take you back...
~ From the fifteenth to the early seventeenth century on both sides of the border between England and Scotland, a place where the land had been ravaged continually by marauding armies, there existed people who’d suffered greatly, people who adapted to a time of lawlessness and strife, who turned to raiding to survive and made it a way of life.
They are known as the Border Reivers.
Autumn saw the herds brought down, fat and healthy, from the summer pastures to the inbye fields. Autumn also heralded the beginning of the raiding season. Successful raids carried out by the border reivers depended on - knowledge of the land, the competence of those one rode with and the skill with one’s weapon of choice.
BUT, as Alistair Moffat, historian and author of the masterpiece, ‘The Reivers’, wrote: ‘What delivered a party of reivers to their quarry, what indeed made their whole way of life possible was an animal too little remarked upon by historians, the remarkable pony known as the Galloway Nag.’
The Galloway Nag was said to have good looks, a wide deep chest, of a bright bay or brown color, with black legs, small head and neck and stood almost fourteen hands high. Its qualities were its surefootedness - a necessity, considering the mountainous byways and inhospitable valleys they traveled, often by moonlight on rain-swept November nights. Its speed - a blessing when being pursued, or in pursuit. But perhaps its best quality was its stoutness – strong of character, brave, bold, determined, enduring.
Sadly, due to crossbreeding, the Galloway Nag became extinct in the nineteenth century.
If you ever get the chance to visit Scotland, perhaps pop in to Galashiels to see the superb bronze statue of a rearing Galloway Nag carrying a fully armed border reiver outside the old town hall.
Transportation. Worker. Warrior. Friend.
A four-legged Hero.
Image courtesy Undiscovered Scotland
Leg throbbing, stained blood-red. Tired. Head hurts. Mind cloudy, shades of gray. “Take me home, lad.” Stretch along sturdy neck, coarse brown mane scratching whiskered cheek. Cold, dirty fingers linked, locked. Blessed rest. Steady rock and sway. Night. Day. Blurred. Steady rock and sway. Night. Dawn’s chill blanket. Body aching. Stillness. Lids heavy. Eyes slowly open. Stone croft. Wife running. Heart sighs. Shiver ripples beneath me. Tighten hold. “Thanks, lad.” Whisper words. Mouth curves. Home…
© Allison Butler