Heirloom livestock of South Carolina

South Carolina farm

While on vacation in
eastern South Carolina, Mark and I dropped by
were interested to read about the heirloom livestock that would
have lived on rice plantations there during the slave era. 
Rather than paraphrasing the already-well-interpreted signs, I’ve
just typed in the text below:

Dominique chickenDominique Chickens: Kept for eggs and meat,
chickens were too common to warrant a written record.  They
were often owned by the slave population, offering a source of
hard cash as well as a diet supplement.  Dominique chickens
were common in North America by the mid-18th century, prized for
their good temperament, medium size, ability to forage, and brown
eggs.”  (As a side note, people around here still keep
Dominique chickens, but they pronounce the term “Dominiker.”)

: As
their name suggests, Guinea fowl originated in sub-Saharan
Africa.  They were kept on the plantation for meat. 
Being essentially wild birds, they were typically allowed to roam
freely, roosting at night in trees where they were safe from most
predators.  They forage well for themselves and, being of
African origin, are tolerant of the heat.”

Red Devon cowRed Devon milking cows: The first Red Devons
arrived in American in 1623.  Prized for their docile and
hardy  nature, these cattle were used on the plantation for
meat, milk, and as oxen.  An ox is a castrated bull that,
with proper training, can be used to haul wagons and to plow
fields.  Both male and female Red Devons have horns.”

: Tunis
sheep are good meat producers, and are also known for their long
staple wool.  This wool must have been a significant product
of Brookgreen’s large flock.  Tunis lams are reddish colored
at birth, only turning white as they grow.  First brought to
America from Africa in 1799, Tunis sheep are fairly tolerant of
heat, an important factor here.”

White muleMule: Used for riding and as
draft animals, mules were prized for their strength, their long
working lives, and their resilience.  A mule is a cross
between a male donkey and a female horse, resulting in a sterile
animal with the body of the horse and the extremities of the
donkey.  They are intelligent animals, leading to their
reputation for stubbornness.”

Horses: For status-conscious
rice planters, few things were a clearer badge of rank and wealth
than a fine riding horse or a matched pair of elegant carriage
horses.  The finest riding horses claimed descent from one of
the three stallions that sired the Thoroughbred line in
18th-century England, and many such horses were raced in South

Another sign noted:
“Kitchen residue from meals consumed over one hundred and fifty
years ago suggests the occupants had a diet typical of other rural
nineteenth century sites.  Specifically, they consumed
domestic livestock such as cattle, pig, sheep, goat, and, in
lesser amounts, chicken and geese.  These food sources were
supplemented with wild species from the adjacent rice fields,
creeks and woodlands.  These included gar, perch, striped
bass, turtle, wild duck, deer, squirrel and opossum.”

Bare chicken yard

While I enjoyed
imagining the nineteenth century farmyard, I wasn’t as impressed
by the
actual facilities at Brookgreen.  Mark took one look at the
bare chicken run with an
Gardensold-fashioned waterer and said “They need an
EZ Miser!”  I was more
interested in seeing all of the animals given grazing room, and
imagined using the livestock to
rotationally graze and improve the soil of
the dry, sandy lawn areas outside the formal gardens.

Since I figured the
staff wasn’t interested in our crazy suggestions, though, we just
took one last look at the beauty of the formal gardens and headed
back to the beach.

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