The story of a disease : a social history of African horsesickness c.1850-1920
African horsesickness is a disease endemic in Sub Saharan Africa affecting horses, a non-native species, which are extremely susceptible to this disease. Both the ‘dunkop’ form (with its dramatic high fever, laboured breathing, frothy nasal discharge and sudden death) and the ‘dikkop’ form (with its swollen head and eyes and bleeding in the membranes of the mouth and eyes) have been visited upon equine populations and their human owners in successive epidemics through the earliest colonial settlement until recent times. This thesis traces the development of veterinary science in South Africa and the effect it had on the changing ideas surrounding African horsesickness. It explores not only the veterinary progress in the country but also the impact of the progress on African horsesickness as other diseases received attention. The discussion traces the disease from one of the major epidemics ever encountered in the country, in the mid nineteenth century, to the beginning of the development of veterinary services in South Africa when little was known about African horsesickness. It illustrates the implications of a country's struggle with animal disease, the reasons for a lack of knowledge and the ramifications of the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute’s interventions. This thesis shows that African horsesickness not only had an impact on the veterinary developments of the country but was also indirectly involved in the South African War, 1899-1902. It demonstrates the impact of disease during wartime while illustrating the importance of horses during such difficult times. Thus, this thesis draws on works on animal diseases and on social history to explore not only the effect African horsesickness had historically on equines, but the effects it had more broadly on southern African society. This study is intended to bring insight into the social history of the disease itself: how it was experienced by livestock owners and also how settler and indigenous efforts were turned towards combating this dramatic disease.