MOORCROFT, William

MOORCROFT, William. Ormskirk, Lancashire 1765 — Andkhui, Afghanistan 25.8.1825. British Veterinary Surgeon and Traveller in North-West India. Born as illegitimate son of Ann M., educated in “Liverpool as a surgeon, studied veterinary science in France. Made a fortune by his veterinary practice in London, but lost it over patents. Appointed in 1808 veterinary surgeon to the Bengal Army and Inspector of military studs. In 1811-2 crossed the Himalaya and traced the sources of the Satlaj and Indus; in 1819 went to Lahore, Ladak, residing at Leh, to Kashmir, via Attock and Peshawar to Kabul, to Bokhara, disposing of his merchandise; commenced his return journey, Aug. 1825; soon after died at Andkhui, and was buried at Balkh.” In his travels  he was studying the value and availability of Afghan and Central Asian horses which he preferred to Arabic, then commonly used by cavalry in India. But he also had wider trade interests and a fair amount of pure wanderlust. His superiors were nor approving his plans. The reason of his death remained unclear, but probably it was the fever then common in northern Afghanistan. Also Trebeck died, but their papers were brought to Calcutta. The major part of his journal concentrates on Ladakh, Kashmir and the Punjab and contains valuable notes about geography, zoology, ethnography, occasionally even archaeology, and especially about economic and commercial resources. There was a wild rumour, definitely put down by Fazy, claiming that Moorcroft did not die, but went to Lhasa disguised as Kashmirian.

Publications: “A Journey to Lake Mánasaróvara in U’n-dés, a Province of little Tibet”, As. Res.18, 181), 8o-reprint with new paging publ. in London 1818, 380-536.

With G. Trebeck: Travels in the Himalayan provinces of Hindustan and the Punjab; in Ladakh and Kashmir; in Peshawar, Kabul, Kunduz, and Bokhara from 1819 to 1825. Edited by H. H. Wilson. 1-2. 459+508 p. L. 1841.

Also wrote on veterinary subjects.

Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; H.M.C[hichester’, D.N.B. 38, 1894, 337f.; *R. Fazy, “Le cas Moorcroft, un problème de l’exploration tibétaine”, TP 35:1-3, 1939, 155-184; K. Karttunen, Literature of Travel and Explor. 2, 2003, 810f.; Wikipedia.

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