Journal of the South African Veterinary Association
On-line version ISSN 2224-9435
BRUCKNER, Gideon K.. A brief overview of the history of veterinary field services in South Africa. J. S. Afr. Vet. Assoc. [online]. 2014, vol.85, n.1, pp. 01-06. ISSN 2224-9435. http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v85i1.1182.
The historical evolution of veterinary services in South Africa is closely linked to the colonial history of the past and the eventual political formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, as well as the establishment of a fully democratic South Africa in 1994. The majority of the early pioneering veterinarians had close links to military activities and were originally mostly of British origin. The appointment of the first colonial chief veterinary officers occurred in the late 1800s. These appointments were dictated by the need to combat devastating animal diseases, such as rinderpest and African horse sickness, mainly because they affected draught oxen (used for travel) and horses (used in combat). Veterinary field services was established in 1962 as a separate functional entity within government services when M.C. Lambrechts became Director of Veterinary Services of South Africa. In the context of this article, veterinary field services refers to that sphere of veterinary service delivery conducted by government-appointed or seconded veterinarians applying disease control and prevention, as required by animal health legislation. Paging through the history of veterinary field services in South Africa confirms that the problems faced by the veterinary services of today were just as real during the times of our pioneers. The pioneers of veterinary services transformed unknown animal diseases into textbook descriptions still used today and also demonstrated the important link to, and use of, the observations made by farmers, as well as the need for continued basic and applied research on animal diseases. This article provided a brief overview of the evolution of veterinary field services and the important role played by pioneers over the last two centuries to make South Africa relatively free and safe from the most important trade-sensitive and economically important animal diseases.