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William Moorcroft

(c. 1762—1825) veterinary surgeon and traveller


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(1767–1825),

Early British veterinarian and explorer of central Asia. Moorcroft was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire, and he worked as an apprentice surgeon in Liverpool. Although unsuccessful with the primitive treatments of the time, Moorcroft opted, in 1788, to focus on veterinary medicine—then a virgin field—and he received the support of John Hunter, the leading British surgeon. Moorcroft left England for France in 1789, and from March 1790 he took classes in veterinary medicine, setting up the first veterinary horse practice in 1792. In 1800 he was asked to find suitable horses for shipment to India as breeding stock. He sailed for India in April 1808, and in 1811 he embarked on his first exploratory journey, ostensibly to assess breeds of horses in northern India. His journey took a figure-eight route south of Nepal through northern India, passing through no unknown land. This was not the case for his second expedition, in 1812, much of which covered the Himalayan foothills to high altitude, and Moorcroft became the first European to traverse the Himalayas. He passed through untraveled land in Tibet—reaching Gartok and Rakas Tal, 530 miles (853 kilometers) west of Lhasa. On his return he was captured by Gurkhas, then released, and he reached India in late 1813. In 1819 he received open permission to seek suitable horses within “western Asia.”

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From The Oxford Companion to World Exploration in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: World History.


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