Poultry was as important to cooking in the 18th century as today. Chickens, ducks, and geese were not only a source of meat and eggs, however, but also helped to keep the bug population under control in colonial gardens. The following are several early breeds you would have found down on the farm.
Dorking Chickens. This silver or dark poultry breed has five toes. They are large and broad-breasted, well suited to the outdoors due to their ability to forage for their food.
Spanish Black Turkey. These completely black fowl descended from Mexican turkeys domesticated by the Aztecs, which were brought back to Spain by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. They spread to England and from there were brought back to North America by settlers in the 18th century. Crossed with North American wild turkeys, they produced breeds such as the Bronze.
The horses that transported riders; pulled carriages, carts, and plows; and treaded wheat from the stalks in colonial times were mostly noted in records simply as plow or carriage horses. However, George Washington inventoried Arabian and Andalusian horses in his herd, along with Chincoteague ponies.
Arabian. Arabian horses originated on the Arabian Peninsula and have a distinctive head shape and high tail carriage that we probably are all familiar with. These beautiful horses are one of the oldest breeds; archaeological remains of horses in the Middle East that resemble the modern breed date back 4,500 years.
Belgian. This large draft horse, also known as Belgian Heavy Horse, Brabançon, or Brabant, originated in the Brabant region of modern Belgium. It was a favorite for pulling heavy loads.
|Marsh Tacky Horse|
Cows provided meat, milk, leather, and labor for colonial farm families. The following 2 breeds were widespread throughout the colonies.
|Milking Red Devons|
Kerry Cows. Now a historic rare breed of dairy cattle, Kerries are native to Ireland and are probably the breed records of the early Plymouth Colony described simply as “black cows.” They are believed to be one of the oldest breeds in Europe. Their coat is almost entirely black, with a little white on the udder, and their horns are pale colored with dark tips.
|Goat at Plymouth Plantation|
|Ossabaw Island Hog|
|Leicester Longwool Sheep|
Having grown up on a farm, I’ve gone to a number of county fairs, and I always find myself drawn to the fancy chickens. For some reason I love the different breeds and colors. Believe me, if I owned any acreage, I’d have a flock!
Do you like to go to county fairs and check out the livestock? Do you find yourself drawn to a particular type of animal? Have you ever had an unusual pet? Please share a bit about your animal preferences and experiences with us!
J. M. Hochstetler is an author, editor, and publisher. The daughter of Mennonite farmers, she is a lifelong student of history. Northkill, Book 1 of the Northkill Amish Series, won Foreword Magazine’s 2014 Indy Book of the Year Bronze Award for historical fiction. Book 2, The Return, released in April. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story, was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year.
Bronze turkey image: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=284803
Goat image: https://www.plimoth.org/
Ossabaw Island Hog image: CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5894230