THE ORIGINS OF THE NARRAGANSETT PACER
In 1677, Captain John Hull wrote to one of his partners in Rhode Island, proposing to build a stone wall across Point Judith Neck at the southwest corner of Narragansett Bay. According to records kept by the family of Thomas Hazard, who during the 18th century bred large numbers of Narragansett Pacers for export, Hull had acquired some Hobbies possessed of extraordinary stamina and pacing speed. They descended from a chance-bred horse named “Old Snip” found in the freerunning herd on Governor Robinson’s land on Point Judith sometime after 1716. They in turn were descended from those imported to Salem in 1629.
Captain Hull intended to confine his herd on the lush pasture of Point Judith Neck “so that no mongrel breed might come among them” and “to raise a breed of large and fair horses and mares” for shipment to the West Indies. His plan was successful and marks the transition from colonists merely perpetuating a valuable European strain
An old name for the Friesian is “Hartdraaver” or “Hard draaver,” which means “hard trotter” and indicates that the horse did not amble or pace. This stallion stands 15 hands high, which would have been considered a little on the big side by the Dutch farmers of the Hudson Valley, who imported Friesians during the 17th century. The Friesian contribution to American horse breeding is subtle but important, as we will see in upcoming installments on the Morgan and American Saddlebred.