Ancient Japanese Medical Treatments for Horses

Ancient Japanese Medical Treatments for Horses

Did you ever wonder how horses were cared for in ancient Japan — or more specifically, what ancient Japanese medical treatments for horses entailed? One of the people I follow on Facebook is the equine vet David Ramey, DVM, and he has made researching the history of horses and veterinary medicine an avocation. I read recently about a project that he’s working on that is very interesting, so I’m sharing this post from his blog.

Ancient Japanese book on horse care

I love the horse in history and art. A couple of decades back, I published a reproduction and analysis of the first book on horse anatomy ever printed in English, Andrew Snape’s, “The Anatomy of An Horse” (you can still find copies). For many years, I’ve wanted to do a similar project, but this time about the history of the horse and horse medicine in Asia.

Over the years, I obtained a large number of handwritten manuscripts from China (most are now the property of the German State Library, in Berlin). I used that information to learn about what was done to and for horses in China (and to show that so much of what people have been told is, quite simply, wrong). More recently, I’ve obtained a very rare manuscript on horse medicine from Japan.

Now, I wonder what it says.

I’m interested in how horses were treated in Japan centuries ago, not because I think that there are some hidden treasures of horse medicine that we can use today, but because the thoughts and practices of historical societies give a lot of lessons for how things are today.  For example, I’m pretty confident that the people who wrote these manuscripts were sincere, and that they were trying to help horses get better from whatever condition they thought they might have.  What did they do?  Why did they think the horses got better?  Could the fact that horses got better then, using treatments that may not have had any effect at all have any implications for things that are being done today?  I find such questions fascinating.

The book would not just be about horse medicine, it would also be about history.  It would be art, too – you can see for yourself, from some of the scans.  This book will be a coffee table book and it will help shine some light on some little-known practices in horse care from a fascinating part of the world.

Dr. Dan Sherer, of the University of Jerusalem, a professor of Japanese history will do the translation.  Kaoru Tomoyoshi, with a BS in International Studies from Kobe City University, is translating original source material and adding information about horses and horse medicine in Japan.  Peter Wacks, of EGZ publishing in Denver, CO, will bring the book to fruition.  And the book will be made – nearly 400 people from around the world – veterinarians, trainers, farriers, and horse lovers – have committed to a copy (as of June 2020).

Ancient Japanese horse care

As of the end of July, the book is in production:

Dan Sherer, in Jerusalem, is working on the translation. To say that the book is unique would be quite an understatement.

Kaoru Tomoyoshi, in Kobe, has been in contact with several museums in Japan regarding horse care, and has been getting permission from museums in Japan to use period images for illustrations.

Peter Wacks, our publisher, is working on book design.

I’m writing; trying to synthesize an engaging narrative. All this, and taking care of horses, too.

If you’re interested in backing the project, you can order your copy using Paypal.

This looks like a fascinating project. I’ll be sure to order a copy for myself.

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