Friday, July 1, 2016

Protective Coloration for White Horses

Protective coloration
Above (apologies for posting this drawing again, but it is so good it deserves to be repeated) World War I-era cartoon by George Morrow, published in Punch magazine, April 7, 1915, p. 280. The caption reads: REMARKABLE CASE OF PROTECTIVE COLORING. Owing, it is believed, to the fears of a German invasion, a zebra at the zoo assumes a neutral aspect.•

• Protectively colored in "stars and stripes" from a British point of view, presumably because the US was still neutral in the war.


In earlier posts, we have talked about the practice during World War I (apparently not uncommon) of reducing the conspicuousness of white horses by painting them with darkened pigments. We've found yet another reference to that in the memoirs of the granddaughter of President U.S. Grant: Princess Cantacuzeine, Countess Spéransky, née Grant, Revolutionary Days: Recollections of Romanoffs and Bolsheviki 1914-1917. Small, Maynard and Company 1919, p. 23. In this passage, she recalls the resulting commotion when newly-painted horses (formerly white) were loaded onto railroad cars—

A most curious sight was the horses belonging to the regimental band. It was a tradition that though the other soldiers were all mounted on bay horses, the band should ride pure white steeds. With the news ideas of warfare, these animals became a danger to their unit, and they had been dyed for safety with olive-brown. This was their first appearance in their disguise; and their comrades of the four squadrons did not recognize them. There was a dreadful fuss, and such desire to avoid the poor, painted creatures that the latter felt insulted; and regarding themselves as victims of a ridiculous mistake, they lost no opportunity of protesting. Their humiliation turned them timid and fractious, and it took time and persuasion to get them into their cars. Everyone rushed to help; and officers as well as soldiers were amused at the result of this first essay at "camouflage," which came as a diversion to our strained feelings.