“The horse of these islands has arrived at such a state of degeneration,” concludes a report to the Governor-general of the Philippines in 1883, “that it is useless to think of its rejuvenation, it being much easier and more convenient to create a new breed with the importation of mares and Stallions from Spain” (Raza de Caballeria de Filipinas 1883). The debate over the colonial government's attempt to improve equine bloodlines through a selected breeding program with Arab stallions in the 1880s reveals much about changing Spanish attitudes toward nature in tropical regions. Although colonialism had endured in the Philippines since 1565, it was only in the nineteenth century that Europeans began to see themselves as maladapted to settlement in the islands. The tropics were increasingly regarded as a hostile and deleterious environment, and prolonged exposure to a hot and moist climate was blamed for the poor health of individuals and a progressive degeneration of race. Yet far from having to await the advances in bacteriology and parasitology of a new century (Anderson 1995), Spaniards displayed a growing conviction as to the efficacy of their own ability to control the natural world through an understanding of the processes of acclimatization.

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