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Dr.Richard Bulliet

Professor of History at Columbia University and the author of a unique study on the effects on horses in the post-domestic world.

1 - What is the single greatest change you have witnessed in the equestrian world during your life time?

The disappearance of draft horses in everyday life. I remember farm wagons from my childhood in Illinois, but I never encountered a passenger vehicle in ordinary use until I went to Turkey in 1965.


2 -Do you ride?



3 - Do you own a horse?



4 - Who is your favourite horse in history?



5 - Who do you think was the most influential equestrian human in history and why?

The first man or woman to sit astride a wild horse and discover that it could be ridden.


6 - What was your greatest equestrian influence from books or cinema when you were young?



7 - What equestrian book would you recommend today and why?

David W. Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. This is a truly eye-opening archaeological and linguistic investigation of the origins of horsemanship.


8 - How did you initially become interested in your specific equestrian specialty?

I began to study the role of camels in the world transport economy in 1967. Eventually, that led to a broad examination of the history of domestic animals. This included horses primarily at draft animals.


9 - What prompted you to enter that field?

The perception that wheeled transported largely disappeared from the Middle East in late antiquity raised the question of why an advanced society would abandon a key technology. Pursuing an answer to that question led to a number of related questions that still intrigue me more than forty years later.


10 - Did someone encourage your decision or inspire you?

An administrator warned me not to write a book on camels because it would ruin my career. Being told not to do something can be very inspiring in the opposite direction.


11 - When did you begin your research, investigation, work?



12 - What do you think is your most important discovery, achievement or insight regarding your equestrian work?

Though my initial work focused on wheeled transport, including horse-drawn vehicles, my later conclusion that human relations with animals have changed profoundly over the past several generations as some segments of society, particularly in Anglophone countries, have entered a stage of what I call postdomesticity has greater implications for assessing the current status of the horse.

Postdomesticity emerges, I believe, when people lose everyday contact with the domestic animals they continue to rely on for food, fiber, and leather and subsequently develop feelings of guilt and shame when they become aware of the exploitative character of human relations with those animals. This contributes to the animal rights movement, among other things, but it also leads to the emergence of a privileged status for companion animals, primarily pets, but also recreational riding horses. The ontological continuum between humans and other animals that vitalizes the rights community contributes to a pronounced humanization of companion animals that shows up particularly in their becoming characters in novels, movies, and cartoons.


13 - What modern technology, techniques and media have you found most helpful?



14 - What part of your work do you find most fulfilling?

Inventing historical riddles and solving them.


15 – What’s been your biggest disappointment in your work?

My failure to disseminate my ideas effectively.


16 - How do you explain the gulf between academic equestrian investigation and the average horse owner?



17 - What equestrian subjects are in need of more research and investigation?

The history of wheeled transport.


18 - Which part of the equestrian world would you like to see reformed and why?



19 - How do you traditionally deliver your findings or message and how would you ideally like to do so?

I write books. Ideally, I would write better books.


20 - What intellectual, technical or ethical advances would you like to see in the horse world?



21 - Do you foresee any difficulties for the horse world in the immediate future?



22 - What is the greatest challenge facing the horse world in the long term?

World population growth is going to put pressure on all aspects of animal utilization.


23 - What books, magazines, websites, etc. can people read and review to learn more about your work?

My book Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers: The Past and Future of Human-Animal Relationships (Columbia University Press).


24 - Any final thoughts?

As important as horses are both historically and at the present day, I think we can gain a good deal from looking at them in the context of other domestic animals.

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