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#1
Old 12-14-1999, 01:23 PM
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"Bells on bob-tails ring" does sound better than "bells on the harnesses of whacked tail horses ring".


Oh, I don't know...I think it's kind of catchy. And what other opportunity might we have to use the word "whacked" in a Christmas song?
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#2
Old 12-14-1999, 03:07 PM
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"I saw mommy whacking Santa Clause"?
#3
Old 12-14-1999, 03:19 PM
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Actually, the verse is as follows:
"Bells on Bob's tail ring"
Bob is the name of the horse, and there are bells on his tail.

-At least that was the way it was explained to me.

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#4
Old 12-14-1999, 03:24 PM
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I always thought the verse went:

"Bells on Bobtail ring"

and Bobtail was the name of the horse. Seems like I read that somewhere...
#5
Old 12-14-1999, 04:55 PM
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Try this link: cs.ruu.nl/pub/MIDI/SONGS/CHRISTMAS/jingle.html

This page from the Computer Sciences Department at Utrecht University in The Netherlands gives ALL the lyrics to "Jingle Bells," written by John Pierpont in 1859.

From the first stanza: "Bells on bob-tail ring"

From the fourth stanza: "Just bet a bob-tail bay"

A "bay" is a reddish-brown horse. Unfortunately, the lyrics do not say where those bells were affixed.

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>< DARWIN >
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#6
Old 12-14-1999, 04:59 PM
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The explanation:
When our hero asked Miss Fanny Bright to meet him for a sleigh ride, she answered "I'll be there with bells on!" Thus a popular expression and a Christmas carol were simultaneously born.

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Quand les talons claquent, l'esprit se vide.
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#7
Old 12-14-1999, 05:04 PM
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Okay, my understanding, based on what I know of horses, but with no cites to back it up:

"Bob-tails" were and are horses that have had their tails gathered up and tied into a knot, often seen these days in dressage events. The purpose of knotting up the horse's tail (sorta like a bun) is that it keeps the horse from whacking the sleigh or carriage driver in the face with the tail. (In dressage, it allows the judge a better view of the horse's performance and leg-work.)

Bells, as in jingle bells, can be attached to the horse's harness (occasionally bridle as well but not often as many horses don't like belled bridles). The harness passes across the shoulders and/or whithers of the horse (depending on the harness). It doesn't include the tail, which has an obvious lack of pulling power.

Given this, my understanding was always that "bob-tail" referred to the horse, generically, and the line was about how "bells on (a) bob-tail (meaning, sleigh or carriage horse) ring." This seems to jibe with how much fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh.

Here endeth the WAG.



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#8
Old 12-14-1999, 05:23 PM
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As a child I always thought the words were "Bells are 'bout to ring."

Made more sense to me then. Hell, makes more sense to me now!
#9
Old 12-14-1999, 07:04 PM
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In the nineteenth century, a common fashionable practice was to dock, or bob, the tails of carriage horses. Just like docking the tails of puppies, this involved actually cutting throught the bone and flesh, resulting in a permanently stubby tail. Dressage competitors today tie up their horses' tails, but they do not surgically remove them as was done in the past.

In "Black Beauty", a book that described every horrid crime against horses that was common in the victorian era, one of Black Beauty's stablemates was a horse with a docked tail. He complained bitterly about his loss because he could never again swat flies off his flanks. (Another fashionable and cruel victorian custom described in that book was the check-rein, which held the horse's head in an unnaturally high position.)

Most of our elaborate Christmas traditions (Christmas trees, Christmas cards, Christmas shopping. Christmas carols) come from the victorian era when bobtailed horses were a common sight.
#10
Old 12-14-1999, 08:01 PM
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Zee song is written 'bob-tail' not 'bobtail'

'bob' means to go up and down. Thus, the tail of zee horse was going up and down. No way was it 'bobbed,' of docked.
#11
Old 12-15-1999, 12:18 AM
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Hello,
I've been asked to find the meaning of "bobtail" in the Christmas carol Jingle Bells. The prevailing guess is the horses pulling the sleigh have bobtails to which the jingle bells are fastened. The person who wants to know thinks the bells are fastened onto a bobtailed sleigh. I've searched the Web, electric library, Britannica Online, the American Memory section of the Library of Congress On-Line to no avail. Can anyone help?
Thanks in advance,
Harper Wood
#12
Old 12-15-1999, 12:33 AM
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My guess would be that the horse does have a bobbed tail, but that the bells are attached to its harness, not to the tail itself. I've seen harnesses with bells on them in parades.
#13
Old 12-15-1999, 12:38 AM
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You're right, mostly. The "bob-tail" refers to the horse, not the sleigh. The bells were fastened to the harnesses, though, not the horses tail.

"Bells on bob-tails ring" does sound better than "bells on the harnesses of whacked tail horses ring".

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#14
Old 12-15-1999, 12:38 AM
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Cher - Pbbbbbth!
#15
Old 12-15-1999, 12:56 AM
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Robert "Bob" Tail was the sleigh driver.
#16
Old 12-15-1999, 01:20 AM
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I bet my money on a bob-tail nag;
Somebody bet on the bay.
#17
Old 12-15-1999, 06:50 AM
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- - - I also note that the bells that Pierpont heard were considerably more inspiring. The bells you can commonly buy today don't sound like antique sleigh bells atall. Old ones are cast solid from bellmetal with the striking ball trapped inside, not stamped from thin sheet brass or (even cheaper and poorer sounding) steel. - MC
-
- PS:If you're making bells or windchimes, use brass - not steel, aluminum or iron. Brass. See your local hardware store.
#18
Old 12-15-1999, 09:41 AM
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Now the ground is white,
Go it while you're young,
Take the girls along
And sing this sleighing song.
Just bet a bob-tailed bay,
Two-forty as his speed,
Hitch him to an open sleigh
and crack! You'll take the lead.

Ok what the hell is a Two-forty speed?
#19
Old 12-15-1999, 10:14 AM
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Quote:
The purpose of knotting up the horse's tail (sorta like a bun) is that it keeps the horse from whacking the sleigh or carriage driver in the face with the tail. (In dressage, it allows the judge a better view of the horse's performance
I've never heard them called that... So, what exactly does a judge look for in a horse's, um 'performance'?

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#20
Old 12-15-1999, 10:33 AM
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Well, it's only a song. It doesn't have to be scientifically accurate, does it? Not more than, say songs by IceT or whoever.

Anyway, little thingies attached to a horses tail and when it swings it makes a little ring ring sound, is kinda pretty thought.
#21
Old 12-15-1999, 02:43 PM
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After careful thought and trying to picture a "one-horse open sleigh" in my head, I've come to these conclusions:

1) a) The bells are on the harness (the trappings or the traces or the bridle or the reins or perhaps the collar) AND on the horse, perhaps on his tail, at the base, or tied into his mane.

b) Alternatively, the bells are on the harness alone, which are on the horse, so you could say the bells are "on bob-tail". And perhaps Pierpont thought "bells on bob-tail ring" sounded better than "bells on harness ring." (This is what seems most likely to me.)

c) Third possibility is that they're on the horse alone, on the base of the horse's bobbed tail. Only John Pierpont knew for sure and he's not around to ask.

2) The horse's tail is bobbed (either cut or bound up) so it won't be in the driver's face. The driver of a sleigh sits very close to the horse's rear end.

3) A time of two minutes and forty seconds over a mile gives us a speed of twenty-two-and-a-half miles per hour, which I think is pretty darn fast for a horse pulling a sleigh, especially in the 19th Century, when most people didn't go much over twenty miles an hour, unless they were taking a train. A horse can go faster, of course, of course, but for short distances only.

The song was written more more than 140 years ago, when everyone knew what a horse and sleigh looked like and everyone was familiar with the terminology used by equestrians. It never would have occurred to Pierpont to make the distinctions.

But it's a nice song. It definitely stimulates the imagination. And the less-familiar stanzas have some humor. A guy falls flat on his back and the only person who comes along laughs and speeds away.

Some things don't change, do they?

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>< DARWIN >
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#22
Old 12-16-1999, 03:38 PM
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Quote:
So, what exactly does a judge look for in a horse's, um 'performance'?
I'll leave that explanation for Catherine the Great.

As for how a horse is judged in the ring... beyond general appearance (nice coat, well groomed, hooves blacked, mane/tale combed and attractively bound/decorated, ears and muzzle shaved, etc.), and conformation (how nicely the horse is built, proportions, musculature, that sort of thing), the judges want to see that the horse can perform difficult and specific movements that the rider gives it. The horse must understand and follow nearly imperceptible directions given it by the rider, it must know how to take the proper leads (putting the proper front foot forward first - it changes depending on what direction the horse is going in the ring), the horse cannot balk or shy, it must know how to jump, it must make instant allowances for unseen obstacles on the far side of a barrier (jump), and so on.

I'm sure a lot of folks think horses are just big dumb critters, but they really are required to learn a LOT (just like the rider!).




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#23
Old 12-16-1999, 05:06 PM
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city folk! Listen to Dobbin, I mean Dobalina. Bobtail nowadays is any horse with a short cropped tail, not only does it keep the tail out of the drivers face,it keeps the tail clean for show competition. Don't think I need to explain that even to city folk, that's the main reason for keeping the tail out of your face. Most competitions won't allow a real bobbed tail, because of the cruelty aspect,not the actual chop,the flies as Holly sed. ( anybody else unsuprised that someone named Holly is a BlackBeauty fan?) Bobtail is as appropriate name for the horse as Blackie,or Ol'paint.
Real common practice to put bells on harness, summer time too. Fact harness are sold that way.Not a good idea to atach anything to the reins. But for more jingle add bells elsewhere. Bobtailed SLEIGH is a sleigh where the back end of the sleigh doesn't extend past the ends of the rear runner's struts. There used to be sleighs specially made for racing, a sleigh on crusted snow is easier to pull than an equivelent wheeled vehicle. Driver of a sleigh doesn't sit as close to the tail as in a racing surrey. I bet on that bay,but a roan beat him. And as Bob says you can learn a lot looking at the south end of a north bound trotter.As or that Catherine crack, Hmmm, I was gonna say more but that rings my chimes.

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#24
Old 12-17-1999, 07:22 AM
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I thunk it was "Belle on Bob's tail rings" and was a lewd reference to Belle and Bob "ringing" in the hay.

That was why the later reference to the scheduling at the local house of prostitution, and "one whore's open slate."

That Belle, she could make your bells jingle....all the way.
#25
Old 11-20-2010, 02:52 PM
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A Bobtail Nag!

To all of you who do not know what this is! a bobtail is simply where you cut off the log hair of a horses tailn, Thus the bobtail this procedure was done in the 1800's very populer fasion for your horse pulling your sleigh ....Bells On a BobTail Nag is the bells attached to the side of the reighns of the horse! "HAPPY SLEIGH RIDING!"
#26
Old 11-20-2010, 03:04 PM
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Zombie bells
Zombie bells
Zombies all the way
Oh what fun it is to run
and eat some brains todaaaay.....HEY!
#27
Old 11-20-2010, 03:19 PM
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WhyNot-
#28
Old 11-20-2010, 03:25 PM
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I've been waiting 11 years for that post. I can now die a happy man.
#29
Old 11-20-2010, 04:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot View Post
Zombie bells
Zombie bells
Zombies all the way
Oh what fun it is to run
and eat some brains todaaaay.....HEY!
♪♪Zombie horses, zombie horses,
Belled in holiday style,
Cephalovore time in the city! ♪♪

Last edited by Polycarp; 11-20-2010 at 04:09 PM.
#30
Old 11-21-2010, 05:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aha View Post
Ok what the hell is a Two-forty speed?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jingle_Bells
Quote:
Two forty refers to a mile in two minutes and forty seconds at the trot, or 22.5 miles per hour.
#31
Old 11-21-2010, 07:01 AM
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Of course the horse has a "bobbed" tail, that's why it's called a 'bob-tail'; people are prone to use abbreviations, especially in songs and poems, etc., etc. That's what people mean by poetic license; it's an agreement that poets are allowed to make up words.(Barbed wire, for instance, is often pronounced as if the name is barb wire, famed in song and story as the name of a particularly chesty endowed female private eye.) The song doesn't say if the bob-tail of the horse is permanent or temporary; just that it is, for the purpose of the song, "bobbed tailed", or, less accurately, "bob tail." The bells might very well be attached to the actual tail or to the "breaching"* that encircles the rear quarters in the horizontal plane. The actual horse doesn't care where the hell the bells are attached; they won't like bells any better in one place than they do in the other. In either case, one may refer to them as "bells on bob-tail" which is another example of poetic license as I doubt the horse is yclept "bob tail."

As a side story, a less discussed reason for "bobbing" or mutilating a horse's tail is that horses are prone to defecate copiously and they sometimes do not succeed in moving their tails away from the results of the defecation, particularly when they are in harness. The result is that the tail may be coated, or at least fouled by feces; known in the vernacular as "horse shit." A horse whose tail is fouled by feces is not pleasant to sit behind, as one would do in a sleigh or other horse drawn conveyance, as the smell of the feces can be quite offensive; most people would prefer to avoid that smell. "Bobbing" the tail of the horse minimizes the probability of feces enfoulment, to coin a word. It also, in the eyes of some folk, enhances the appearance of the horse although I doubt other horses were consulted as to their preference.

I do hope that the foregoing helps to resolve the question posed by the OP.
#32
Old 11-21-2010, 07:08 AM
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I missed the damned Edit window time frame so in my above post, I use the word "breaching" to describe a part of a horse's harness; there are other words used to describe the same part but I don't know what they are. I have requested the information from my horse intensive nieces; if I get a response, I will list the alternate names, unless I forget which isn't unlikely.
#33
Old 11-21-2010, 08:45 AM
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Sorry, looks like we'll have to put this one down. Sorry about your tale, Bob.

samclem, Moderator
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