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Equine flu once brought US to its knees

A Boston fire wagon without its horses.

September 26, 2007

It was called the Great Epizootic. The explosive spread of equine flu across the United States in 1872 rates as one of the great equine disasters.

The Australian equine flu outbreak may have crippled the nation's racing industry, but the 1872 US outbreak brought the US economy to its knees.

The countless millions of horses that powered the US were brought to their knees - literally. Many were unable to stand in their stalls.

Transport came to a standstill. Ships were left unloaded through a lack of horse power, and even trains came to a halt as coal was unable to be delivered to fire their boilers.

Manpower was brought in to haul the fire tenders, which costs critical minutes as a massive fire engulfed the heart of Boston's industrial district.

Long Riders Guild founder CuChullaine O'Reilly said the Great Epizootic was the worst equestrian catastrophe in the history of the United States - and perhaps the world.

The guild's academic foundation has recently completed extensive research into the outbreak, which even reduced the US cavalry to fighting on foot.

Its research has detailed the path of the disease from Toronto in to the US, and the hardship caused when a nation was stripped of its work horses.



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