Amazing articles on just about every subject...


( Originally Published 1918 )

Killing the animals. Domestic animals represent one of the great conquests of man over nature. When all animals were wild, they meant to man only what they meant to one another a source of danger, a source of food, or a competition for food that both parties wanted. In any case the animals represented an unfriendly, when it was not a hostile, element in man's environment. A large part of man's activity has been expended in killing the animals sometimes simply for his own comfort in being rid of them, as in the case of the lion or the mosquito, and again for the sake of feeding on their bodies. That he has been very successful in this enterprise is a matter of general knowledge, though there are still certain minute living things that he cannot yet eradicate, such as the microscopic germs of disease.

Domestication. But man did not confine himself to utilization of the dead bodies of the animals ; he learned, after a while, to capture them alive and to tame them. Then they bred in captivity, and he surrounded himself with numbers of them which he had domesticated and upon which he could rely for a constant supply of food. This domestication of animals was one of the greatest of human exploits, for it made life much less subject to chance ; food-getting in the hunt was always more or less precarious, but now man could get from his animals not only food but articles for clothing and shelter. And he learned, besides, to employ the special qualities of his animals the scent of the dog, the strength of the ox, the swiftness of the horse to assist him in the struggle for existence. Possessing them, he became really as keen as the dog, as strong as ox, as swift as the horse ; he appropriated their qualities to himself and lived his life the more safely and successfully thereby.

Breeding. And as he bred his beasts he selected for preservation those which he most valued. These were the ones which produced the next generation, and that next generation kept and even increased through inheritance the desirable qualities of the parents. Man became able to mold by his action the qualities of his domestic animals ; he bred them for the things which he wanted of them, and animal-breeding became a science and an art that produced the most astonishing results in adapting the animals to man's purposes. Some of the domestic animals have been bred, in the course of ages, to be so different from the wild stock from which they came that we cannot be sure as to just what that stock was. The same is true, of course, in. regard to domesticated plants, but it is more striking, perhaps, in the case of animals ; for, though animals were more plainly hostile to man, yet they have been pulled over, as it were, from the ranks of his enemies to fight on his side in the battle of life.

Wealth in domesticated animals. The wealth of a country in these days, long after the beginnings which we have sketched, lies in good part in its domestic animals. They still furnish the materials for food, clothing, and shelter, and they have not ceased to be useful in assisting man in his labors. In our modern civilization the most important domestic animals are cattle, horses, sheep, swine, and goats. These were all domesticated ages ago, and the form in which we know them is, as we have said, quite altered from that shown by their ancestors when first they became attached to man's service. In a very real sense they have been made what man ranked them to be.

Origin of the best breeds. It takes a high civilization to produce a highly bred domestic animal ; savages have not the knowledge, skill, or means for producing and holding a special and superior breed. To keep up a good breed, it is necessary to prevent it from crossing with inferior or wild stocks ; there must be in-closures, which the savage seldom has. Hence the best domestic breeds have come from regions of old and advanced civilization ; that is, from the Old World, and chiefly from those parts of it where human civilization began namely, in southern Asia, southeastern Europe, and northeastern Africa. This explains in part why the Americas have contributed no important domestic animal to the world.

Few American breeds. But America seems also to have been singularly lacking in animals suitable for domestication. The Indians domesticated the llama and alpaca, but these were never of more than local importance. The bison was not domesticated ; probably the hunting was so plentiful that there was no stimulus toward domestication. But when the Old World animals were once introduced, they were found to be well adapted to our climate, vegetation, and environment in general ; the horse, for example, originally brought by the Spanish, ran wild in great herds over the Western plains. At the present time the United States form one of three main sources of supply for animal food-products, the other two being Argentina and Australasia.


The beginnings of American cattle-raising. Bulls and cows were first brought to America by Columbus in 1493 ; the Spanish breeds were introduced into Mexico about 1525 and form the basis of the Texan stock. From these were probably derived the cattle possessed by the Indians at the end of the seventeenth century. Portuguese cattle were introduced into Newfoundland in 1553, and the French brought Norman cattle into Canada a little later on. The various colonists from the northern European countries introduced their own breeds. From these various stocks descended the great numbers of cattle found later in the United States. In the early days, and for a long period, cattle were valued chiefly for their hides, and breeding for the purpose of keeping stock pure was not much attended to until early in the nineteenth century. Oxen were used for heavy labors, for in colonial days horses were far too costly for farm work. One or two cows were kept for their dairy products, which were chiefly for home use, though if there was a surplus it could be disposed of at the village store.

The demand for meat. It was with the concentration of population in towns and cities that there developed a demand for cattle as a meat supply. In New York, in 1678, we are told, the average number slaughtered yearly was four hundred, and in 1694, four thousand. In 168o the price of beef was about two and a half pence a pound.

Neglect of cattle. For the first half-century of our colonial period the cattle, especially in the winter, were much neglected ; shelter was not provided, or, if it was, it afforded little protection. Cows were not milked in the winter, for there was a prevalent belief that winter-milking would kill them. Little or no food was stored for cattle ; even in winter they browsed on what they could find in the fields and along the roads. Naturally they became very thin and poor in the cold season, and many of them died of hunger and exposure. In general, they were much smaller than our present stock. The horses were worked hard and under-fed ; after a heavy day's work they were simply turned into poor pasture, and the same sort of neglect was the portion of the sheep and swine.

Westward movement of the industry. Cattle-raising is a business characteristic of frontiers, and as the frontier in this country moved westward, the cattle industry moved with it. At the same time the growth of population in the East created a demand for meat products ; the first fattened or stall-fed cattle that ever crossed the Alleghenies journeyed on the hoof from Ohio to Baltimore in the spring of 1805. This was the only way to get cattle from the frontier over the mountains to the region of demand. Beginning early in the century, then, there developed a profitable industry in the fattening of cattle on corn during the winter, the animals being driven to the East when the spring came. Ohio and its neighboring states first developed this enter-prise. Then, early in the second quarter of the century, there arose an interest in improving the breeds of live stock ; the exhibits of cattle at county fairs stimulated an interest in this matter. The industry began to take on- a modern tinge and to show its possibilities ; improvement brought prosperity and profits, and success stimulated to further improvement.

The cattle states. The industry continued to follow the frontier. As late as 185o the states having the greatest number of cattle lay, with one exception (Ohio), along the Atlantic seaboard ; the states having over one million cattle were, in order, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Florida. Fifty years later there were eighteen states and territories which had at least a million cattle each, but by this time the great cattle states were in the West, with Texas, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska in the lead. The Eastern states, which had formerly contained extensive areas suitable for grazing, had been filling up with population, and these sections became too valuable for the former purpose. Then, also, grazing on the large scale called for even. more extensive areas of pasture. The very best environment for stock-raising on the large scale is, for this country, the High Plains region, just east of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Not only are the choicest grazing grounds here, but because of deficiency of rainfall for farming the agriculturist puts up but small competition ; rainfall insufficient for farming, however, may be quite adequate for grazing.

Cowboys and farmers. In recent years the development of irrigation in the semi-arid regions of the West is making some impression on the cattle-raising industry. The encroachment of the farmer has often resulted in a hot set-to between him and the cowboy between the " fence men " and the " no-fence men." The cowboys resented anything, like a fence, that might limit freedom of motion and of utilization of pasture ; and they used to cut the wire fences and otherwise hamper the farmer in his business. It is the old fact again that as soon as an area ceases to be frontier, with characteristic frontier conditions, then it is no longer suitable for a frontier occupation, such as grazing.

However, from some of these regions where irrigation and planting are in vogue beef is still shipped out in large quantities ; this beef production is due in good part to the alfalfa, an immigrant crop well suited to dry regions, several harvests of which can be cut in a season. During the winter months, and in periods of great drought, alfalfa is the staple food of the cattle.

Progress of the industry. The development of cattle-raising in this country has shown rapid progress in the last half-century. Of all our domestic animals ' cattle form the largest item ; but their value is 'considerably less than that of the crops raised on our farms. In a recent year the states having the greatest number of milch cows were Wisconsin, New York, Iowa, and Minnesota ; those having the largest number of other cattle were Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas. Many of the states in the High Plains region have great numbers of cattle other than milch cows. The latter are conspicuous by their absence, because these states are far remote from the great milk-consuming centers of population.

Refrigeration. The marketing of fresh beef in places remote from the locations of raising and slaughtering the animals, to say nothing of an export trade in this commodity, has had, in its development, a strong bearing upon our cattle-raising industry. These enterprises were possible only with the progress of refrigeration, which has been practiced since about 1875. The early refrigerator car was an adaptation of the freight car ; double floors, roofs, and sides were provided, and the intervening spaces were packed with sawdust. The car had a large ice-box, the water from which, as from a common refrigerator, dripped out through a hole in the bottom of the car. The first shipment of refrigerated fresh beef forwarded under such conditions was made from Chicago to Jersey City in the seventies. Naturally the sale of beef in distant markets greatly stimulated the production of cattle raised for meat.

Export of fresh beef. Then came the export of fresh beef across the ocean. In 1875 a New York merchant shipped a few carcasses to Liverpool by steamer, the meat being kept cool by hand-operated fans. The project was successful and was repeated later in that year on a larger scale, the fans being operated by steam ; and presently the shipments, while still very small as compared with later ones, had increased markedly in amount. Since these beginnings the industry has steadily progressed, and improved methods have been introduced to keep the meat in good condition. An idea of the sudden growth of the industry can be gained from the fact that while in October, 1875, our exports of fresh beef totaled only a few thousand pounds, for March, 1877, they amounted to over 6,700,000 pounds, and for the whole year 1877 they exceeded over 55,000,000 pounds.

Export of live stock. About the time that fresh beef began to be exported there commenced also the foreign shipment of live stock. This industry continues today on a large scale, for British and other European importers prefer to slaughter the animals themselves where practicable. Accordingly we find numerous steamers leaving our coastal cities loaded with live stock destined mainly for Great Britain. It is rather more expensive to ship the cattle alive than to send the beef, for some cattle die on the way, others fall off in weight, and all of them have to be fed during progress to the coast and on the voyage.


Development of the dairy industry. The production of milk for food is an important branch of the cattle industry. We have seen that the colonial farmers generally kept cows, and that their butter and cheese were homemade. But as population increased, the villages had to be supplied by neighboring farmers who peddled the milk every day ; and the business has grown and developed as city populations have had to be supplied from the surrounding country. The map will give some idea of the extent to which a big city is always drawing upon the country. Also the means of transportation has altered ; the small milk wagon has given way to the automobile and to the milk trains which daily rush, in the early morning hours, into the large cities.

Modern sanitary methods. And the dairy industry has been much complicated by the modern demands for cleanliness and sanitation. Milk easily becomes impure and soon spoils, so that neatness and speed are essential if there is to be no disease coming from the milk supply. In the best of modern dairies the cows are milked by machinery, the attendants are dressed as care-fully as surgical nurses, and the milk is pasteurized. Inspection by municipal authorities is frequent, and unsanitary establishments are speedily put out of business. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of pure milk as food, and authorities have come to insist very rigidly upon its quality. This has, of course, resulted in an increase in the price of milk, but the benefit is worth the cost ; it is astonishing that there was not more disease in the past, considering the carelessness with which the milk supply used to be treated.

Butter and cheese. Butter and cheese are two very important products of the dairy. The centers of their production need not be so near the market as in the case of milk. Until 183o cheese was made in the farmhouses, and was given in exchange for sup-plies from the village stores ; but thereafter it was realized that there were profits in cheese-making, and a change in the manufacture came about. Separate " cheese houses ". were built on farms, and about the middle of the century the cheese factory came into vogue. The milk was collected over a wide area, conveyed to a favorably located factory, and there converted into cheese. The cheese factory, says one author, is the gift of the New York dairymen to the world. The factory system spread rapidly between 186o and 187o ; by 1866 the state of New York alone had over five hundred factories, and by 187o there were about thirteen hundred in the whole country. In recent times the industry has continued to expand in a remarkable degree. Similarly butter factories have developed to take the place of the former home industry.

Centers of the dairy industry. Such specialization in the production of dairy products has resulted in giving us a dairy industry quite distinct from the live-stock industry with which it was more closely associated in its beginnings. The main centers of the dairy industry are in the Eastern states and in the various states of the corn belt.

Other products. There are other products of cattle-raising be-sides the beef and the milk. Chief among these are the hides. Cattle-raising is a different thing when leather is the product contemplated. But these aspects of the subject are to receive mention in a later chapter.

Home | More Articles | Email: