But this was not always the case. While the first veterinary school opened in France in 1761 and was followed by other schools in Great Britain, Germany, and across Europe, America throughout much of the 18th and 19th centuries remained largely indifferent to veterinary education. Thirty-six veterinary schools would be established in Europe before the first American school opened. Early American colleges focused their educational mission on preparing graduates to be ministers or priests. The publication “120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait” estimated that prior to the Civil War, a quarter of all college graduates became ministers. Until the 1800s, America had no veterinary schools, and the few schools founded in the early 19th century were plagued by ignorance, apathy, and greed.
VETERINARIANS GET NO RESPECT
When Dr. Joseph Bushman, a veterinarian practicing in Washington, D.C., during the Civil War, declined President Lincoln’s request to serve as a veterinary sergeant in a cavalry regiment in the U.S. Army, his decision was about respect. In Dr. Bushman’s native England, veterinarians were commissioned officers in the British army, an advanced rank justified by the high regard afforded veterinarians as trained professionals. Dr. Bushman, a graduate of the Royal Veterinary College in London who had also studied veterinary medicine in France, was a member of a select group of individuals in America: veterinarians who had graduated from a reputable veterinary school.
Dr. Bushman’s refusal to serve at a lower rank was justified, and eventually he received a commission to serve in the Quartermaster Corps, where he was assigned to work in the Giesboro horse and mule depot of the Army of the Potomac. He would later be a lecturer at the Kansas State Agricultural College.