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The Chinese collar

W. Micuta

Waclaw Micuta is Director of the Bellerive Foundation in Geneva and his address is: Renewable Energy Development Institute (REDI), 5 rue du Vidollet, CH-1202 Geneva, Switzerland.


In China, the Chinese collar is being used on a very large scale, but only for horses. The author is of the opinion that it could be adapted to other draught animals such as cows, bullocks and buffaloes. It comprises all the virtues of animal collars known in Asia, Europe, the United States and elsewhere. Moreover, it is surprisingly efficient and simple to use. Its manufacture calls for properly trained harness-makers and could be done both on a small and large scale. The materials necessary are available everywhere and the quality/price ratio is one of the best.

It is not surprising that this type of collar has been developed on a large scale in China since this was probably the first country in the world to use the horse collar. One can admire such collars in the famous and recently excavated Qin Tombs, built in the second century BC by the Chinese emperor Qin near the city of Xian.

The Chinese collar, as shown in the figures, consists of a shoulder pad and two hames. The pad is in the form of a long, densely stuffed "sausage", the two ends of which are bound together with a leather strap. The upper part of the pad is bent slightly forward (in the direction of the animal's movement). The upper surface of the pad is covered with leather, which protects it from the pressure of the hames. Pads and hames are produced in different sizes (reportedly about four sizes) and are chosen according to the size of the animal.

The pad is positioned around the animal's neck and stays in place by itself. It is not attached to any part of the harness. As in Europe, horse-driven carts are equipped with two shafts running on both sides of the animal. The shafts are attached to one of the horses through a padded wooden saddle fitted on the animal's back. The harness is completed with a breech strap fixed to the shafts that prevent the cart from running into the animal and make it possible to manoeuvre the cart in the reverse direction. Since Chinese horses are relatively small, two or three are needed to pull a loaded cart. The traces of the additional animals are attached directly to the cart.

The two hames are made of rounded pieces of wood (Figure 3). At both ends, there are two openings for ropes or leather straps to keep the hames together at the desired distance. In the middle of each hame, there are two openings to fix two pieces of rubber band, each reinforced with three pieces of sheet metal riveted to the bands. The interesting point of this arrangement is that the pulling force is evenly distributed over the entire length of a hame and the point of attachment of the traces is lowered. The hames are simply placed on the pad.

Although this brief description of the Chinese collar gives a general idea of what it is, it is not sufficient to start the production and promotion on any scale. As in any trade, one needs expertise, which can only be gained through long experience. The introduction of animal harnesses, and particularly animal collars of various types, in developing countries should be done in close cooperation with qualified harness-makers who have inherited knowledge and experience from several generations of predecessors, as they would know how to use animal energy best for the benefit of both humans and animals.

1. A shoulder pad of the Chinese collar (face view) - Le coussinet d'épaule du collier chinois (vue de face) - Albardilla de la collera china (vista de frente)

2. A shoulder pad of the Chinese collar (side view) - Le coussinet d'épaule du collier chinois (vue de profil) - Albardilla de la collera china (vista de perfil)

3. Two complete hames of the Chinese collar - Deux attelles complètes du collier chinois - Dos enganches equipados con collera china

4. The author with a horse wearing the Chinese collar in Switzerland - L'auteur avec un cheval équipé du collier chinois en Suisse - El autor con un caballo equipado con la collera china en Suiza

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