During the settlement era of the Great Plains and for the millennia before, animals were not simply pets, but were the engines that drove work, transportation and progress.
Animals used as beasts of burden and draft animals, and this draft is considered working animals, have been going on for many thousands of years, and they primarily consisted of cattle, horses, donkeys and then later on mules.
So they were using all of these in the settlement of western Kansas.
Horses, whether you're riding or using them as draft animals, the same horse, could do both, both things.
You could ride the horse, saddle it and put a bridle on it.
And the draft horse, you would harness it and have it pull a wagon.
They can be used for both and trained for both.
So it's kind of what the rider would pick out or the trainer on which would be better, and then develop those strong characteristics to get the finished horse.
The big draft horses such as the Clydesdale, the Percheron, those are heavy draft horses to pull big loads, but there is a way to arrange those too, because in a team you want the wheel animals, that is those closest to the thing you're pulling are the biggest animals because they have the power just to get the machinery or the wagons rolling.
You want the power close to the wagon to get things going before it goes in a chain reaction.
And those at the very lead start to lead out.
But if you had a buggy you want a horse that was fairly lighter and these horses could go out and trot all day.
You didn't ride them that much, but they were good for pulling.
There are breeds that people find the different characteristics in, whether it's a thoroughbred, a saddle bred.
This particular horse is a quarter horse of today and he's actually much bigger than what they would had in the 19th century.
This horse probably weighs probably 1300 pounds.
The horses the cowboys rode were probably 900, 950 pounds.
The normal cowboy was only about, you know, five feet, six or so and weighed 120 pounds.
A smaller horse was very good for them.
Now this horse, for a cowboy horse is very much out of shape, out of condition because he's way too fat.
But he isn't ridden enough.
Now, the cowboy horses were not grained.
They were living off the grass and they were being ridden often, sometimes 30 miles a day, but only a half day at a time.
And then they would have 4 to 5 days rest.
So every cowboy had 6 to 10 horses to ride, especially on a trail drive.
Now, this horse has been brushed by, brushed him beforehand, so I made sure there wasn't any dirt or stickers on him.
And so the first thing we'll put on is a saddle blanket.
Most of the blankets were wool blankets, and we want to make sure, since this is on the ground, that we have everything off of it.
We'll shake it, get the dust out of it.
And if he's curious, we'll let him smell it so it doesn't bother him.
And if this is a horse that wasn't broke, you're kind of rub it on him and slap it on him to get it used to you.
Now horses don't see directly in front of them.
The way their eyes are.
They see with both eyes.
It's called a monocular vision.
So he's seeing you with this eye, and he's seeing me with this eye.
When things go in front of him there's a blind spot right in here that is about three feet.
And also in the back of the horse, there's a triangular blind spot.
So if you'd ever walk behind a horse, you want to know that he's there and keep a hand on him and usually say, Whoa!
And walk around to the other side because there's a time where he can't see you.
But if you have a hand on him, he knows you're there, and then he can catch you out of the other eye.
So anyway, he's cleaned off.
We have the bridle on him with control.
I knotted the reign here so that it wouldn't drape so bad.
And so the saddle blanket goes on.
And yes, there's a sticker on it right there, a sand burr.
That wouldn't have been good if it was underneath.
And the fold of the blanket always goes to the front.
But I slid it back because if I just threw it on and he moved, that ruffles up the hair.
So the saddle goes on and you can lift that saddle and see how heavy it is.
So they aren't light.
They're about 35, 36 pounds.
And so you get the saddle.
And what I've done is put the cinches around the saddle horn and I'll flip the saddle over on the right side or slip the stirrup up on its fender.
And I have the straps up here, but this way I will pick it up and set it gently on his back and this stuff won't slap down on the other side.
So I put this on and straighten it out, make sure it's set on here well.
I will check the other side before I pull it down.
Now, the stuff that was thrown over the back of the saddle, but it didn't flop so it wouldn't hit the horse hard like the stirrup and the cinch, you pull that down and make sure that all the strings are out.
There's a saddle blanket in front of the saddle and behind it.
Now we're going to the other side of the horse, the left side, to make sure it's correct.
So the first thing we want to do is the cinch that's dangling down below.
We want to bring it on first so the saddle is secure.
You do it very gently so the horse feels comfortable with this.
If you somebody was putting a belt on you and they put it around your waist and then grab it and tighten it real fast, it is comfortable.
Pull it up very gently until it's snug.
And while it's snug, it goes quite a ways.
And these holes are basically four inches apart.
But we won't really be really tight and mean to him.
We'll snug it up there, but we'll play with it so we know that it will hold on.
This is a breast strap or breast collar.
This goes around his chest and fastens to the saddle.
So if you'd be going up a hill, the saddle wouldn't slide back if the cinch was loose.
So this is kind of an extra security thing.
And also, if you were roping, it would help the the horse pull forward.
Now, the cinch on the back is to hold the saddle down.
If you're roping, if you have something through the saddle horn, because if you don't, you have some big cow or steer on the saddle horn, the saddle tips up and watch this.
Watch his head.
That pinchs up here.
So rear cinch on the saddle is primarily to keep that saddle from going forward.
So you want to check these horses all the time.
And we'll also, although I've done it more than once... Back.
Because they're so sensitive, see, I just put my thumb on him and said back.
Because we'll lead him around a little bit, not very far, not very fast.
But by leading around it kind of relaxes him a little bit and he thinks, "Why are they I leading me around."
And they don't think about it but probably the cinch is loose again, and we can pull it up another three or four inches.
That's tight now.
And horses will lose weight really fast because they'll sweat a lot.
And so every now and then you want to stop and tighten your cinch or basically if you're going to go uphill or downhill or rope something, you want to make sure is really tight.
Now to properly mount, you're on the side.
You can get on him, put your left foot in the stirrup.
Okay, now put one hand up on the cantle and you put the other hand on the main instead of the saddle horn.
Okay, Just lift yourself up and throw your right leg over.
You'll be fine.
There you go.
And so when you want him to turn left, you will take this rein and pull down here.
But make it tight.
But you'll have to adjust your hands to get less, so he gets a feel.
So move him forward.
So you're moving your hands all the time.
Now pull him over.
So they're tough.
Horses are tough.
They can run a long, long time, especially if they're in shape.
So yeah, they are very gentle creatures and if you treat them right, they will treat you right.
The other commonly thought of working animal on the ranch or farm is, of course, the dog.
This was even more the case in the early days of settlement.
In the 19th century on some of the early Biennial Agriculture Reports put out by the Kansas Department of Agriculture, they would say how many cattle were in a county, how many sheep were in a county.
And they even have a listing of how many dogs are in the county.
And you say, Well, who in the world would keep track of dogs?
You know, we don't anymore, except in the more urban areas or the towns where you have to buy a dog tag or a dog license.
Well, they were taxed in the 19th century and early into the 20th century because the dogs, the farm dogs, they were an asset to be taxed because they were so valuable for being herding dogs and also watch dogs.
It is natural to think of dogs when it comes to security and herding of livestock.
But the wily and intelligent donkey, ranging from miniature to mammoth, find similar purpose on the contemporary farm and ranch.
Bob and Carrie Buhler discovered this on their small farm near Morland, Kansas.
It was about midnight.
You could hear the Coyotes singing because they actually will come up to the road right here and just sit and sing.
Sometimes I think they lick their chops when they think about all the animals here that they could get, but they don't dare with with the donkey.
These guys, my gosh, they alert long before we're aware that maybe there's a coyote out in our field who's just staring into the barnyard, you know, and all you look over and all these ears they're they're cued in and they've got that, that coyote in their sights.
They're tracking it.
It does not move without their knowledge.
And they they're very protective when there's a threat.
They know exactly where the babies are and they don't let them out of their sights.
The donkeys themselves, they're turned loose with not only sheep but also cattle.
They keep the predators away.
If cows are having baby calves in the pasture.
A coyote or coyote, that would try to be a predator on the calves, the donkeys will keep them away.
And also it's been proven out here when you aren't using your bulls for your cow herd.
If you have a bunch of balls in a pasture, when the bulls get to fighting, the donkeys will harass the bulls and with their braying will keep the bulls from fighting.
A family south of Hoxie who are really good cattlemen.
And they would pasture through their bulls in the winter.
They'd all be in the same pasture and the bulls would fight.
And there were some actually dying from their injuries.
So they got some donkeys.
They put them in with the bulls and have had no problem with them whatsoever with the bulls fighting and injuring.
They have certainly more than paid for themselves on saving the domestic cattle of keeping them from injuring one another.
And these are what would be considered mammoth donkeys?
We've got we have one standard, but the four that we originally had were all mammoths.
And so the mammoths would be what people would have bred with horses to make mules.
The mules were a good working animal, but there's a lot of people that preferred the mules to horses because the mules are a hybrid between a donkey called a jack, a male jack, and a female horse called a mare.
And the mules or sterile.
But the mules, by a lot of people, they were more hardy.
If you talk about it in today's terms, it would be called hybrid vigor.
With mules, it's hybrid vigor because they were using genetics from the horse and also from the donkey and a lot said that mules were smarter than horses.
They were stronger than horses.
They could take the heat better and they were good workers, but they can do anything a horse can do, and usually a little better and a little longer with more endurance.
People assume that the horse is the main draft animal, and that it always was that.
But the oxen was probably the beginning of major transit in the Great Plains.
Santa Fe Trail first first trail that that they used wagons.
The first oxen were introduced in 1829 and they were introduced by the military.
A military expedition was sent out.
They were short of funds and they could buy oxen for about a third of what a mule costs.
And it didn't cost.
They didn't have a harness.
A dollar 50 would buy a yoke, so they used commissary funds to buy oxen.
Claiming we can use them for food and they introduced oxen to the trail.
When they first started, people said, Well, they're going to be slow.
You know, mules can move right along, but oxen they'll just plod along.
They discovered that the wagons that were pulled by oxen were way ahead of the mules because there were traders ahead of the army supply train trying to get ahead of the army to New Mexico to trade before the war.
They averaged 40 miles a day with oxen for like the last three weeks of that trip or whatever.
Mules couldn't hold a candle to them.
And a number of people remarked later that when you got right down to it, the oxen were better draft animals than the mules, more efficient.
And of course they they were not slower.
They would actually could move longer distance in a day on average than the mules.
And oxen were used even here in western Kansas in through the 1890s and even some in the early 1900s.
The oxen, for instance, to break the prairie, they were lower to the ground.
They were powerful and they could pull the plows used for breaking the sod much longer and easier and cheaper than a horse or a mule could.
The oxen, in some cases, people think of the oxen had to be a specific breed.
But it isn't.
It's kind of a catch all for any cattle that are used for draft purposes.
I'm Darren Roberts and this is my wife, Jessie.
And these are our calves Dance Party and Cherry.
They're a young set of beef calves that we've trained for about a year.
We got to get the idea of the interpretation of what ox trains and ox carts of the time in the 1860s would have been like.
So we took these calves and they were just bucket calves about a 50 to 100 pounds.
And we grew them up into these calves that weigh about 900 pounds.
And we've taught him how to be oxcart calves.
By no means am I saying these are exactly oxen, and oxen by definition is a steer that's three years old.
So these are heifers, they're beef cattle.
They're what we had.
And I suspect that we'd find out if we went back to the day when these people were using these cattle, they probably used a lot of what they had to, so.
It's a fun connection to put everything kind of full circle.
The first thing we're going to do with these young calves is to put the yoke on.
And as you can see, we have a beech yoke.
Here's the pull ring that draws the draft of the cattle.
Grab on there.
We lift it over their heads and set it on their necks, just like that.
And we take our bow, which a lot times is made out of hickory.
Any wood that's hard with a straight grain worked extremely well to make bows.
Run your bow up.
There's these holes that these bow pins will go in and you get your pin in that locks the yoke in place on their neck.
So here we're bringing these calves around on a haw, and we're going to come up right up to our cart.
And you'll walk them up beside the tongue, which is the long piece that extends out from under the cart here.
And once we get it backed in here, you can see we have our pole ring hanging down here.
You have a pin, We use this T pin is what some people call it.
Hitch pin will work.
And in this ring we will have our draft when we pin this.
There's a keeper here on the bottom of this tongue that stops that from being able to go backwards.
And then you drop your pin on the pole ring.
And that hitches you up.
From the front of the ring.
And then our tounge runs back in through the wagon to help give us the draft.
And if you'd had other oxen in front of these, most of the trains of the day would have had anywhere from 4 to 6 yoke of these cattle.
So you could have anywhere from 8 to 12 to even more cattle, and the subsequent oxen would be yoked ahead of the back cattle on the wheels with chains and they'd.
You'd go as far as you could every day.
Sometimes you'd stop mid-day for water to eat a little bit of lunch and rest the cattle, and then you'd push on towards night, day in and day out.
It would have been a lot of walking beside the wagon to get where you were going.
In America, everybody walks beside their wagons.
In other countries, they walk or ride a lot.
A lot of countries they'll ride in the wagons.
It was a very American thing to drive from the side.
And if you had 4 to 6 yoke oxen out in front of you, you'd kinda walk in the middle and you'd had a really long whip.
And you use that whip from the middle so you didn't have to walk back and forth and get those cattle to come up all day long.
There was a lot of privation going down these old trails, but the cattle were a great fit because they were tough.
They could take two or three days without water.
You read some of those accounts, of those teamsters, you hear a lot of talk about not getting water for a couple of days with cattle and they could take that.
And as the forage along the trail was eaten off by the wagon trains that preceded them by late fall, sometimes the forage wasn't very good.
Horses and mules couldn't convert that into energy as well as these cattle could, So they could deal with a lot harsher conditions on the trail.
A lot of the cattle that were used for draft had no lineage as being draft animals.
They were just cattle that had scattered, some of them after the civil war in south Texas.
We all know that there was a lot of cattle that came from the south to be put into harness and driven.
So the cattle of the time there may have been a few of them from the east that would have been draft specific, but a lot of these cattle would have just been cattle that were found.
It became an industry all its own to be able to put cattle together.
So there was always a lot of oxen involved at these trains.
So you just think of a large train with maybe two or 300 wagons.
You could have thousands of oxen in this one one train alone.
The scope of what the ox trade was in the West was a lot more immense than we even understand.
And that's something that we try to kind of bring with this is the idea that here's just two but you times that by many tens of times the amount of cattle that would have been on the plains and the men that went with it, you know, it created a lot of ripple effect jobs.
You know, you had stock tenders and then you had the merchandizers of the cattle, the Teamsters and all the merchandizing that went with loading the wagons and getting them prepared for the plains.
The cattle were extremely strong.
And the aspect of being able to pull, you know, two and a half times their weight is what they say an ox of today's standard could pull.
Now down the trail, you could probably figure out maybe a time and a half that much away, because you have a lot of days of that grueling trail to get through.
So you wanted to make sure you had enough oxen to pull your load without just completely wearing your cattle out every day to the rigors of heavy, heavy loads.
Which they were pulling a lot of weight up, some really heavy grades as you got further out to the west.
And a heavy percentage of these oxen that were going down, these freight trails, a lot of them would have been shod just like a horse.
They'd had a metal shoe and they put those shoes on, they'd put them in a stock, which is a rack where they could kind of tie them up because cattle can't stand on a one with a leg picked up like a horse or a mule.
And they tack shoes on their feet just like horses.
And a lot of my interest goes back to the being able to interpret the driving of cattle.
From which we've read through our history and we've trained a lot of horses here and we've trained a lot of dogs, and we think that to train cattle is maybe a little easier than train and all the above.
They've been really, really easy to train as far as when you show them something, as long as you're teaching it to them in a way that they can pick up on, They do a really nice job of being able to come up with that the next day and you don't have to go back and retrain that.
Yeah, we've taken these cattle to several events around where we had schoolkids come and we showed them about how to yoke and drive cattle.
And it's really exciting to watch kids, they see these calves and they get excited and you can see that in some of them.
It's their first time they've ever seen a beef calf or cattle in general.
And we do our demonstration.
And then one of the last things I say is, would you like to come pet the calves?
And boy, they just erupt and they come up and they scratch these calves and rub all over them.
And I think it's a great tool as far as cattle producers to be ambassadors for our industry to show these cattle in their best light and show them, you know, how valuable they have been for centuries.
I mean, cattle are probably one of the old... they are the oldest draft animal that we know of.
Since the B.C.
They've found archeology of cattle in some sort of a leather rawhide harness and some sort of a wooden yoke.
You know, we've used them to clothe ourselves and feed ourselves and do our work for centuries.
The animals we used for drafting and riding, we don't give them enough credit.
They made the great Plains.
They made America.
Now with the animals, most of them are used for pleasure.
So now, you know, we ride a horse and most would say they aren't ridden enough, whereas you would take a horse out and ride it all day many miles and ride it the next day.
To a lot of horses are only learn a few hours, and hours might be too long, as a pleasure on some weekends.
But they're in better health because they aren't used as much.
They aren't rundown.
They are living a lot longer than they used to because they aren't working their bodies, and the nutrition is so much better.
It used to be, 30 years ago, an old horse was considered old at 20 years old, and now there are all these horses that live long enough, but there's a lot of horses that are still being lightly used and stuff in their mid thirties.
And that's a big change from what it used to be.
But they are still important to our culture and people still enjoy them incredibly.
They proved themselves, but people have forgotten really how valuable they were as culture and settling the West.