Paging Dr. Chiron: An Analysis of Human-Horse Relations through Veterinary Medicine

Tashi Treadway (Johns Hopkins University)

Horse-human relations are corporeally intertwined. Human society developed alongside and thanks to domesticated horses. One area that showcases this co-dependence is veterinary medicine. Veterinary medicine has been carried out by humans to care for animals and human society has moved forward on the backs of animals, especially horses. According to Greek fragment T71 Suda χ 267 (Hesiod, 206), Chiron wrote the Ἱππιατρικόν (veterinary medicine), a combination of the words hippos and iatros. Chiron, as the mythical centaur and medical professional, represents the corporeal and health links between humans and horses.

To explore this co-dependence of human and equine bodies, this paper will examine Chiron in ancient art and literature, along with an analysis of two ancient veterinary texts. The works of Xenophon and Vegetius Renatus showcase the care of horses and the importance of veterinary medicine to the success of human endeavors such as war and agriculture. I will also examine human-horse relations historically. The hybrid figure of Chiron, as a half-horse, raises the topic of wildness and medicine. Human and veterinary medicine engage with the wildness of a body bringing it under control. Moreover, the human developments of agriculture and domestication have changed the natural world in ways that bring new, wild diseases that similarly invade human and animal bodies (Suzman, 227-228). Medicine, disease, and wildness blur the boundary lines between humans and animals, especially horses.


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