Nimrods German Tour
[August] 22d.  We all mounted our horses as
soon as breakfast was over, and proceeded to Avenack,
the magnificent seat of count Plessen, distant from
Basedow about eighteen English miles. Of this family I
have already spoken, the late Count having died
about six weeks previous to my arrival in Germany,
and which circumstance was a great drawback from the
sport at Dobberan, his sons having eight horses in
training, which of course did not start. The third and
youngest son also is one of the best gentleman jockeys in
Germany; and, by all that I could learn, I should have
found him a formidable opponent in the race for the
Of the late Count I must say a word, although I had not the pleasure to of seeing him previously to his beeing called to his last home. From all I heard from him, he was one of the liberal, open-hearted, old-fashioned sort of country gentlemen, of which all Europe was once proud, but whom the over-refinement and hypocritical canting of the present day have endeavored to supplant by a cantious, stiff-necked, cold-blooded, game-preserving exquisite, whose appearance is all but suspicious, and who thinks of little else but himself. This much respected Nobleman lived on an advanced age, having kept a pack of fox-hounds for upwards of fifty years, and - as I shall shew - was one of the most extensive breeders of horses in Germany.
The name of this Noble family is Maltzahn of whom there are three brothers. The elder, the present Count, was not at home; but the two Barons Maltzahn received us with the greatest kindness, and evinced much pleasure in shewing us all the stud. The youngest of the brothers was for some years the Minister of the Court of Prussia in England, which situation he relinquished only a few years since. It is unnecessary then to add that he was able to converse to us in English.
We where much pleased with the approach to this grand seat, which was through a noble avenue of oaks; and - the first I had seen in Germany - a deer park adorned the domain. Whether it be that we are accustomed to it in England, but the seat of a Nobleman appears to want this noble appendage; and when we reflect on the name bestowed upon it by antiquity, it can scarcely be purchased at too high a price. The timber in this park is particularly fine; there is a piece of water, four miles round; and - as far I could judge by merely driving though it - a good herd of party-coloured fallow deer.
To us the grand sight was now to come - of course I mean the stud. Reader, do not stare; neither imagine I am writing with a travellers licence, when I state, that in the two first stables we entered we saw one hundred horses in condition -;that is to say, with sleek coats and in body clothes! These were exclusive of race-horses, hacks, &c. which was dispersed in other stables.
The breeding stud, at the Counts death, consisted of about twenty stallions and one hundred and thirty brood mares, which, with colts of various ages and foals, made the sum total rather more than five hundred. The present Count has selected for himself seven stallions, fifty-four brood mares with some colts, and all the foals of this year, making a total of two hundred and fifty; and the two younger brothers, the Barons Maltzahn possess the rest.
I think I have stated before, that, in a oration spoken in a Court of Justice by the renowned Isocrates, he contented himself with the proof of the nobility of his client, by tracing his pedigree to the first of his countrymen who had won a prize in the chariot-race at the Olympic Games. Horses then were the possessions only of the rich and great, as indeed they in a great measure are at present. The wealth of the principle characters in the Bible also is generally estimated by the amount of their cattle, and some of them were truly rich in this description of property.
If Tacitus is to be credited, the Germans have ever been famous for immense herds of cattle; but I little imagined that in any one mans possession I should find the stock as is kept at Avenack. I have already enumerated the stud of horses, therefore I need not recur to that; but curiosity led me to ascertain the number of sheep on the farms occupied by the Count, when I found it amounted to fifteen thousand! And pray, said I, to Baron Maltzahn, how many cows do you keep here? Why, replied he, in consequence of the great number of horses and our large flock of sheep, we only have thirteen hundred cows!!