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The motor car is so much part of life for most people you tend to forget the fastest means available to most people before the advent of trains was the horse.

Even trains were hardly the answer for local transport and the horse could still hold sway for many years. Have a look at some 'old' photographs of your own locality to see just how often horses will appear as the choice of transport for so many.

The harnessing of horse power really was a great step forward for civilisation. Hardly surprising really built in anti-lock braking, traction control, intelligent four-wheel drive capabilities, almost limitless options and with its very own highly sophisticated sensors it could get the occupants out of many a tight squeeze with its own real-intelligence systems.

It almost takes your breath away really.

Obviously there are some drawbacks to this arrangement or we would all be trotting about on horses and they would not be the preserve of little girls and people chasing small animals about the countryside.

Details from Card
Young England
Let a healthy boy home for the holidays have a pony to ride, and in nine cases of ten he will be perfectly happy. A boy on a good pony will often be able to keep up with 'the best' while hounds are running. Such a pair are able to get through, or over, or under obstacles which stop many of the field, and a boy will learn on horseback that confidence and self-reliance which will be so useful to him in after life.

So there you go, things were different in 1905, little boys rode horses. I am not sure what little girls were doing at the time, looking pretty I suppose. There seems to be some suggestion little boys will be riding about on celestial horses in the after life. I wonder what statistical base was used for the nine out of ten line.

There are still areas of the world where the motive power of choice is still the horse. Indeed some areas of the world are only accessible by horsepower.

In 1905 Players produced a set called Riders of the World. Mighty high quality art work it comes in two varieties, the thicker 'grey' coloured card and the thinner 'white' card.

The reverse of these cards are quite ornate with the bottom quarter being devoted solely to the fact these were 50 pictures, 'Riders of the World issued by John Player & Sons, branch of The Imperial Tobacco Co. (of Great Britain & Ireland) Ltd. Nottingham.'

Well given all that blurb you can see why it took up so much room.

There is also a border about the text which means the text area is quite limited.

This can be partially explained by the early date of the cards. Text was not something which originally was part of the cigarette cards armoury with many of the early issues just having an ornate back design or simple advertising messages. This is certainly true of Players other 1905 offering Life on Board a Man-o-War which was so 'simple' it does not even have a numbering system.

1905 is a year in which you could write, 'The settlers of Australia number about 3,000,000 and yet so vast is the country that there is ample room for the enterprising emigrant.' I know you could, because it is on the back one of the cards in this set.

This meant the entire population of Australia was only three times the population of London at the turn of the century. The idea of 'ample room' hardly conjuers up the vast landmass which is the Australian continent. Interestingly 3 million people could enjoy almost a square mile of land each which is enough to be getting along with. A good idea to be riding about on a horse therefore.

One of the real treats of the cards is the 'other-wordly' nature of the descriptions. 1905, Britain rules the World, the western lifestyle is the only lifestyle and lots of cards are dedicated to the way Johnny-foreigner has had their lives enriched by the experience of whitey rushing in and trashing their culture.

If you are of sensitive nature with a perchant for revisionist history strained through the minds of the politically correct it is time to jump from this page to any other. This one maybe

Right, now that lot are reading about billiard cards (and it serves them right, although I do not remember if I made a crack about the slaughter of elephants for the sake of a few billiard balls, oh well the e-mail will tell me.) We can get on.

The rest of you strap yourself in for a glimpse at just how superior white man Englander thought he was.

A knight in armour that almost shines.
So superior...

Card 11: Bengal Lancer: 'In many things as horsemen the Indian Cavalry can give points to our British Troopers, but in actual fighting they cannot stand so well the shock of combat.'

I suppose we should be fortunate these cards did not get into the hands of too many Indian military types as they died in their thousands to protect our Queen and Empire during World War One.

Card 13 describes the Spanish Muleteer as trudging behind his mule train. Typical Johnny - foreigner behaviour that. John Bull would not doubt be striding (if he was ever likely to be caught at the rear end of a mule).

Card 14: Gives a quick mention of the Boer War, just enough to say the Boers swore allegience to Great Britain. So much for the Dutch and their pale efforts at Empire then.

Card 16 manages to poke the Spanish in the eye by reminding them they managed to lose control of Mexico.

Card 21: The Somali turn out to be under the rule of the Mad Mullah. That's them done then.

Card 22: The ancient Chinese civilisation is quickly dispensed with when it turns out the Manadrin is appointed to his post not by merit at all. Oh well then, end of the most long-standing civilisation on the planet.

Can you imagine a Britain that was riddled with class with the old school tie opening more doors than qualifications? No, nor me.

Card 47: The Turks get a lambasting as warlike but in everything else indolent. One in the eye for another ancient Empire then.

Special scorn is kept for the Red Indian. The card does suggest this basically war-like population spent their time hunting buffalo and then turned their attention to giving whitey some hell as the settlers encroached on the tribal hunting grounds. However 'the march of civilisation was too much for them and now they live indolently on the 'reservations' granted them.'

It almost takes your breath away really. In 1905 we would probably have all been nodding our heads wisely. Makes you cringe, I imagine the Red Indian was 'indolent'. For thousands of years they had been living happily enough and then in we come with all the trappings of civilisation, basically disease and an ability to kill in bulk and before you know it they are complaining when we 'grant' them some of their own land we stole. Think of the fuss we all made when the Conservative Government gave us the chance to pay for our Nationalised industries. Mind you lets think ourselves lucky, the Labour Government could have made us pay to give them back. Just imagine if the Government had swiped all our lands and dropped us all into the Isle of Wight and told us to be grateful. Indolent might be one word, but not the first, to spring to mind.

Blood & Guts

Enough Brit-bashing for the time being lets give some small animals grief.

Details from Card
No more picturesque sight is to be seen in the United Kingdom than a 'Meet' at one of our famous Country Mansions.
The sport of Fox Hunting draws all lovers of riding and horses to its ranks; and there are few sports which offer such excitement and variation as a fast run with the hounds.
On the huntsman's knowledge and judgement a successful run very often depends.

I have already mentioned fox-hunting, card two deals with this sport. I am going to sit on the fence over the issue of fox-hunting. Sitting on the fence is not the easy option, you get belted from both sides, you please nobody. Mind you it seems the compilor of the card has a view, which is probably fortunate. No doubt this is a country pursuit (I am not going to call it sport) which will eventually be exterminated as an activity which belongs to another age.

Give that little piggy some sticky.

Still it all seems pretty civilised when it stacks up against card 36 which is devoted to the sport of pig sticking. The card actually suggests that sticking a pig whilst on horseback is not as easy as it sounds. So just imagine how difficult it is going to be therefore. Apparantly the pig is not gifted with any great turn of speed but is adept at the art of dodging. Given the fact the alternative is being speared by a chap on horseback, dodging seems like a good option. The card also notes the rider is taking some terrible risks himself. If the chap happens to drop off his horse the pig can put on quite a fight. Well I'm convinced, aren't you?

There has been a general assumption so far that people are riding about on horses. In fact everyone but the little boy (he was riding about on a baby horse) and the trudging Spaniard have been doing just that.

As if riding a horse is not tricky enough the Egyptians decided Camel riding was the way ahead. The illustration shows the fellow grinning so things seem to be going well enough for him. The card notes the Camel is perfectly adapated to its environment and makes the interesting statement that its ability to go a few days without water means it is only surpassed in value by the Railway on long journeys. Interesting when you think just how far a steam train would get without water.

Changing feet now it is illuminating to note just how many of the horses were used for purposes which were less than peaceful. The idea of a warhorse is an old one. Indeed during the First World War many many horses were sent to the front lines and plenty failed to return.

Cavalry in whatever form were a much more potent force to be reckoned with than the average foot soldier. The horse in battle is easily forgotten nowadays given the technical nature of battle but in the good old days if you wanted to kill your enemy you pretty much had to get within an arms length of them. No such thing as a laser guided sword I am afraid, you just waded in there, reeking smoking vengence, blood steaming off cold steel in the heat of battle.

Partly this is a function of the series. An Australian riding about on a horse is pretty much the same as an Englishman riding about on a horse.

Moving slightly away from the military angle I would like to bring the set right up to date. Police today are always going on about how the bad guys can afford better cars than the Police forces. This is usually in an attempt to get one of those big cars themselves or an attempt to ban fast cars from the road. The 1960's were probably the heyday of the car chases with criminals and police fighting it out in Jaguars. Go back to the 17th and 18th century and you have Highwayman (card 7) leaping onto their horses and escaping the forces of good. No doubt the police force were moaning about how the bad guys could always afford the fastest horses.

I suppose the police might have a point, I have not seen a desperado making good his escape on horseback lately but I do see mounted police on the odd occassion. For the most part these are for crowd control, rather in the same principle as the mounted cavalry of yore. This set is littered with the policing nature of the Riders of the World.

Well there we have it a set more politically incorrect than most, what a joy. One last thought though before we go. It might be a good idea to ban fox hunting on the grounds it is cruel to the horse.