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That odd term in the statute


Ew ew ew…

The things you learn reading old statute books.


So it’s off to the Pacific Northwest today and the Northwest Genealogy Conference 2015 in Arlington, Washington.

warszawianka-Prancing-horse-outline-smAnd in preparation for this three-day conference, The Legal Genealogist was poking around in old statute books.

And found “An Act to Prevent Stud Horses, Jackasses and Ridglings from Running at Large,” adopted by the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Washington.1

It provides, in part, that it was “not … lawfull for any person owning or keeping a stud horse, jackass or ridgling to suffer the same to run at large within the limits of any of the white settlements within this territory.”2

So… what’s a ridgling?

It’s a sure bet this 21st century city slicker didn’t have a clue.

And I actually found it in the law dictionaries.

A ridgling, Black’s Law Dictionary solemnly informs us, is “a half-castrated horse.”3

Say what?

Do I even want to know how one has a “a half-castrated horse”????

Going to the ordinary dictionaries, it turns out that a ridgeling, or ridgling, is either “a partially castrated male animal” or “a male animal in which one or both testes have not descended into the scrotum.”4


More information can be found at Wikipedia, which explains that:

A ridgling or rig is a male animal with an undescended testicle. An undescended testicle is not a serious or life-threatening condition, though it may cause the animal discomfort at times. This condition can be corrected by either surgery to place the testicle in the correct position or by castration to remove the testicle altogether.

Horses that are ridglings are usually gelded, though owners of a prized animal may opt for surgery to preserve the value as a breeding stallion.5

Or at the Paulick Report, a publication out of Lexington, Kentucky, about the thoroughbred horse industry:

a small minority of male horses have one testicle that fails to descend at puberty, making them cryptorchids or ridglings. Many suspect that the condition may have a genetic link, although that has not been proven. Several horses in the Seattle Slew line have come up with the condition….

The reason for cryptorchidism is unknown, but the condition is usually apparent by the time the horse is around 16 months of age. In normal colts, testicles travel from the abdomen down the inguinal canal to the scrotum. In the case of a ridgling, the undescended testicle may stay in the horse’s abdominal cavity, or drop partially down the inguinal canal and become caught behind a structure called the external inguinal ring, which surrounds the exit of the canal.6


The things you learn from old statute books.



Image: OpenClipArt, image by warszawianka

  1. “An Act to Prevent Stud Horses, Jackasses and Ridglings from Running at Large,” Laws of Washington Territory, 1854-5 (Olympia : J.W. Wiley, Public Printer, 1855), 43; digital images, Washington State Legislature, Office of the Code Reviser, Session Laws ( : accessed 11 Aug 2015).
  2. Ibid., §1.
  3. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 1043, “ridgling.”
  4. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary ( : accessed 11 Aug 2015), “ridgeling.”
  5. Wikipedia (, “Ridgling,” rev. 11 June 2015.
  6. Natalie Voss, “Something’s Missing Here: Explaining Ridglings,” The Paulick Report, posted 6 Dec 2013 ( : accessed 11 Aug 2015).
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