What Does Honey Have to do With Horse Racing?

Historical Honeybee Articles - Beekeeping History

The 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby was this weekend. In the olden days of horse racing, jockeys rode bareback, and used honey to glue themselves to the horse.

Image: Horse Racing Salvator and Tenny (lithograph circa. 1890) Currier & Ives, 1890.

Alden Times, December 7, 1883, Alden, Iowa

Old Time Racing

How the Jockeys Were Glued On Their Horses Instead of Using Saddles -The Great Grey Eagle - Wagner Race. in 1838

"I guess I am about the oldest turfman in America," said Henry Farris. The speaker was an old man of 74 years with a frank, open face, and pleasant address.

"I attended the first race that was ran on a regular course in Kentucky. It took place in the fall of the year 1817, on a track near Grab Orchard, Ky., which afterward became famous as the Spring Hill course.

"I remember how the jockeys used to ride in the olden days. They had no saddles, and each man who mounted a horse was required to wear home-made linen pants. A vial of honey was poured on the back of the horse, and the honey coming in contact with the raw linen, formed an adhesion sufficiently strong to keep the rider in his position and enable him to ride with safety."

"I trained the horse which won the stakes in the first exciting race in Kentucky. I speak of the famous horse Josh Bell, who ran three heats in 1:50 over the course in Lexington. This was in 1837. …"

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Historical Honeybee Articles - Beekeeping History