Commentary: World Vet Year and the Horse

The year 2011 marks the 250th anniversary of the so-called “modern” veterinary profession.

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By Warwick Bayly, BVSc, MS, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, Past WEVA President, Current President’s Advisory Committee Member

The year 2011 marks the 250th anniversary of the so-called "modern" veterinary profession, and the United Nations has designated it as World Veterinary Year. An international slate of commemorative events has been assembled to help recognize the contributions that the profession has made to society in the quarter millennium since the acknowledged birth of veterinary medicine and surgery in France in 1761. The calendar can be viewed at

Recognition for the veterinary profession must be attributed to King Louis 14th of France, the visionary responsible for the great palace at Versailles. Those who have had the opportunity to visit the chateau might recall that there are two very large semicircular arrays of buildings facing the entrance to the palace. Although these are now used as offices, in Louis Quartorze’s day they were the stables.

Concern for the health and welfare of horses led to recognition that there needed to be a more formal and progressive way of educating "horse doctors." Louis Quartorze’s grandson, King Louis 15th, due to his desire to ensure that the horses in his court were as healthy as possible, suggested a school be created to train the people responsible for treating the many maladies that afflicted these animals. Louis Bourgelat is credited with creating the first "Western" veterinary school in 1761 in Lyon at the king’s directive, and shortly after Bourgelat oversaw the opening of a second school that exists today in Alfort. As we know, in the intervening years the focus of the veterinary profession has expanded inordinately from that of hipposcience (study of the horse) to encompass the wide variety of disciplines that fall under the aegis of the profession today

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