Overview

Farm animals were very important in every aspect of the settlers’ lives. They relied on animals for food, clothing, and transportation.

This settler has built a doghouse out of straw bales to help his dog stay warm and dry during the cold, windy Saskatchewan winters.

An oxen is being used to plow the prairie sod to break it down so that a crop can be planted.

Oxen

Oxen were used for lessening the workload for the farmer. Oxen could haul logs and pull plows and heavy wagons. A yoke made of wood was used to harness the oxen to the plows or wagons.

A train is stopped in a small town next to a train station and two elevators.

This is a full load of hay on top of a hay cart that is being pulled by an oxen.

Oxen were slower than horses but much stronger and easier to take care of. Oxen could survive by eating prairie grass, meaning it was easy for the farmer to find food for the oxen. A team of oxen was very valuable to the early settlers.

Oxen are very strong and have been trained to pull plows and carts. Oxen were very valuable to the early settlers.

This boy helped out his Dad on the farm by hand-making a manure cart to pull behind their ox in 1937.

Horses

Horses were used for lessening the workload for the farmers, but also for transportation. The horses were usually big, powerful horses, such as Clydesdales that could easily pull plows, wagons, and buggies. In the winter, pioneers travelled in horse-drawn sleighs, making it easier for them to travel through the snow.

This team of horses is pulling a plow that is being used to break the soil.

Horses cost more than oxen, but were faster and could get more work done. Horses ate grass and hay, but also needed grain feed to stay healthy. Horses also required a lot of water to drink.

The settlers used horses for travel and also for farmwork, making them very important animals.

Did You Know?
Cow
Did you know? Cows must give birth to one calf per year to continue to produce milk. Settlers used cattle mostly for their milk, which could be turned into cheese and butter.

 

Sheep
Did you know? Sheep have rectangular pupils that allows them to have up to a 320 degree field of vision. This is helpful because sheep are a prey species and have to keep their eye out for predators, like coyotes.
Horse
Did you know? By 1921, almost every Canadian farmer had horses and the total horse population was at 3.5 million. There were 1 million of these horses in Saskatchewan.
Chicken
Did you know? Chickens were a great food source for settlers. Mature chickens can produce eggs two out of three days and they also provide meat.
Cow
Did you know? Cows will chew their food for up to eight hours a day, moving their mouth 40,000 times. Cattle eat grass and low-quality grain, and hay in the winter.

Poultry

Chickens were used to supply food and comfort to the farmers and their families. Chickens provided eggs, meat, and feathers. The feathers were used to stuff pillows and quilts. Chickens ate the grain the farmers produced. During the summer they were usually free to roam around the yard, but in winter, they needed shelter to survive.

This farm wife is feeding grain to their turkeys.

Chickens provided settlers with eggs, meat, and feathers.

Cows

Cows were raised mainly for their milk; farmers milked the cows each day by hand. This was often the children’s job. The settlers would churn the milk into butter or make it into cheese. They would use the milk products to feed their family or for trading for other goods. The cows could also be used for their meat and for their hide.

These cows are gathered outside eating a mound of hay in the winter of 1946.

Cows provided milk products that could be used to feed a settler’s family or to trade for other items that were needed.

Pigs

Pigs were easy to raise because they ate roots, waste food (old bread, vegetable and fruit peels, spoiled foods) and sour milk. The pigs were raised for their meat. The bacon or ham from the pig was salted or smoked so that it would last longer and not need to be kept cool.

Pigs were kept in the barn in the winter to keep warm.

Pigs were raised for their meat.

Sheep

The first sheep arrived on the Canadian Prairies in the early 1800s. Many of the large cattle ranches in southern Saskatchewan started as sheep farms. Sheep would graze on grass and weeds on a homestead. In the winter, they would be fed hay. Settlers would have a hard time keeping sheep in a fence, as they would often escape. Sheep had to be kept close to the homestead because they were vulnerable to predators. Sheep did not have a natural defense to protect themselves.

A woman is standing next to her house, along with three sheep that are grazing.

A farm wife is letting her sheep graze in their front yard.

Sheep could be used for their meat, although the meat quality was low. Sheep were raised mostly for their wool, which could be made into yarn. Yarn was used to make sweaters, socks, toques, mittens, scarves, blankets, and other items used to keep settlers warm.

Two sheep are standing together.

Sheep are raised for wool.