The Shepherd's Guide - A Practical Treatise on Diseases of Sheep

Author(s): Hogg, James


Introduction, 1
Diseases incident to Lambs, 7
Diseases of Hoggs, or young Sheep, 17
Braxy, ib.
Species I. Bowel Sickness, 20
II. Sickness in the Flesh and Blood, 24
III. Dry Braxy, 26
WaterBraxy, 34
Cures for the Braxy, 39
Best means of preventing it, 42
Hydrocephalus, or Water in the Head, 54
Pining, or Daising, 68
Diarrhœa, 71
Thwarter-ill, 75
Breakshuach, or Cling, 83
Scab, 93
Vermin, 99
Head-ill, 112
Blindness, 117
Outward Accidents, 120
Rot, or Poke, 126
Leg-ill, 163
Staggers, 166
Foot-rot, 169
Pelt-rot, 171
Dropsy, 173
Blast, 177
Wind, 180
Chill, 183
Red-water, 186
Erysipelas, or Wild-fire, 188
Memoir read at the Meeting of the Royal Medical
Society at Paris; on the most prevalent
Diseases of Sheep, by M. Daubenton, 190
Memoir on the most necessary Regimen for
Sheep, by Ditto 212
Account of the Sheep Pox, from the French of
M. Vitet, 230
Essay on encouraging Sheep-Farming in some
Districts of the Highlands, and Population
in others, 252
Appendix, 325
IF the most exalted and specious reasoning
of natural causes, and their effects, on the
animal frame and constitution, were of itself
sufficient to throw a proper light on the
causes inducing, and the best means of preventing
or removing, a number of the diseases
incident to sheep, the country is certainly,
by this time, in possession of every
thing that can be advanced on the subject.
But as the most plausible theory often fails
when reduced to practice, and as the most
subtle and nice reasoning, on this subject,
may tend more to amuse the fancy of the
curious, and excite the wealthy to a few
experiments on a small scale, than to enlighten
the eyes of the farmer, whose attention
to the maxims laid down can only
render them of national utility, therefore, in
addition to what bath already been advanced,
if a few observations, made by an illiterate
person, during a life employed in the
rearing and management of sheep, and who
bath paid every attention in his power to
discover such practices as tended most to
ameliorate their evils, as well as those that
proved most hurtful to them, he submits,
them to the public in the following pages,
humbly hoping that the perusal will contribute
to the cause of humanity, as well as to
individual advantage, and national benefit.
It is evident, from the rapid improvement
made of late years in our breeding stocks,
that the farmers of our country need only to
be convinced what scheme tends most to
their interest, to put that scheme immediately
in practice. But it is also plain, that
the greatest part of those who have brought
these improvements to the highest pitch, and
who, by a steady perseverance, have proved
most eminently successful, are men nowise
singular for their literary acquirements; and
who, though they can communicate their
sentiments with perspicuity in conversation,
never once think of doing it in writing It
is thus that a great many observations are
lost to the country in general, which, if once
circulated, might be greatly improved upon.

It will perhaps ever be the case in many
of the families in our country, who have arrived
at opulence in this line, that the son
of genius and abilities flies to some other
more genteel employment, or ruins himself
by speculation, while the low plodding brother,
who was brought up behind the cows,
accumulates riches, and, consequently, a
great share of respectability, by following
the honest and useful occupation of his fathers.

From a continual course of conversation
with such men, assisted by daily actual observation,
have I collected the following
hints, and with such, I hope, they will have
more weight than those delivered to them.
in a more exalted style; for every one of
them will be convinced, from experience, of
the truth of some cases here mentioned that
have fallen under his own observation, which
will create an implicit belief in, and a steady
attention to, the others.
For this purpose, I must be allowed to retain
a homely and plain style, with the common
phrases and denominations of sheep,
herbs, and diseases; otherwise, I would be
unintelligible to the very class of men to
whom these hints can be of any use.
On such a topic, though I must proceed
with candour and perspicuity, I may be allowed
to be warm at times; especially, as I
am convinced, that too much can never be
enquired, nor written, about the means of
preserving an animal, which is the great
source of the riches and manufactures of our
country, and for the rearing of which such
a large proportion of it is almost exclusively
fitted by nature.
That the diseases of sheep are numerous
and complex is too well known; yet, from
their extraordinary fewness on some farms
compared with others of the same nature,
and even on the same farms under a different
management, I am often tempted to
conclude, that they are naturally as free of
them as the hawk or raven; and, were I
able to define the various parts of the animal
frame, their connection with one another,
with the influences of climate and regimen
upon each of them, I have no doubt
but I should make it appear, that the whole
of the diseases, to which this useful animal
is subjected, might be traced to have originated
in accidence, proceeding from improper
usage or inattention in their keepers or
managers. Soils and seasons have their influences,
and that to a degree so extensive,
as that they will never be entirely bettered;
yet still they may, in a great measure, be
guarded against. For my part, I anticipate,
with exultation, the approaching happy era
in the history of farming, when the Rot and
Braxy, which, in their respective districts,
have raged like a pestilence amongst the
woolly tribes, and buried the hopes of the
husbandman with his bleating flocks, shall
be as much eradicated as the small pox is,
at this day, among the human race: For to
what an extent has their rigour been abated,
even in our own remembrance? On
many farms, where they cut off annually
about a sixth of the stock, their baneful influences
are now scarcely felt.
THAT the diseases of sheep are by nature
inconsiderably few, an inference, if not a
proof, may be drawn, from the great difference
betwixt the diseases incident to children,
and those incident to lambs. With regard
to the former, they are so very numerous,
that one-fifth of mankind are computed
to die in their infancy; whereas, during
the time that the lambs subsist partly on
their mother's milk, they are subjected by
nature to no disease whatever. This may
seem a bold assertion, when it is so well
known that many of them die during that
period; but I declare that, during all my
experience, I have seen very few lambs die
of any disease, saving those that could be
well accounted for, as originating in accident,
or the severity of the season.
As soon as they are ushered into life, numbers
of the finer breeds are cut off by the
severity of the weather. But it is plain this
may be prevented; for, where a farm is not
naturally well sheltered, artificial shelters
may be raised at a small expence; but, indeed,
the Scottish black-faced breed are so
hardy, that, if they get a competent share
of milk, no weather will beat them.
Again, when the lambing of the young
sheep commences on the 15th or 17th of
April with the rest, many of their lambs, in
barren springs, die of hunger. This is occasioned
either by the want of milk, or unkindness
in the dam; but where the dam
hath a sufficiency of milk, she very rarely
proves unkind to her young. But to this
the shepherd must be particularly attentive.
The lamb, a few minutes after it is lambed,
will endeavour to suck; and, if he sees the
dam repelling it, he must take hold of her,
and examine if she have a sufficient appearance
of milk; and if she have, by confining
her a day beside her lamb, and causing it
to suck her, she will become quite reconciled
to the nursing of it in future.
If a black dot appears on the vent of the
pap, and a redness all around the top of it,
her paps are sore, and such are hard to better.
The only thing that can he done, is to
milk them with the thumb and fore finger
until the milk begin to flow freely, then
anoint them well with sweet oil, or butter,
and confine them as above.
If the dam have only a small appearance
of milk, a little cow's milk must he given to
the lamb for a:day or two, and the ewe put
upon some more succulent pasture, the good
effects of which will soon appear.
For this purpose, no sheep-farm should
be without a few acres of fine land, enclosed
and enriched; as it commonly saves more to
the farmer in one year than would defray
all the expences attending it.
Others of the ewes, on having their first
lamb, have a good appearance of milk, and
yet have none. By good feeding, and constant
sucking, the milk may be brought to
them; but this false udder first falls gradually
away, and then begins again to swell
with true nutritive juice.
An active shepherd will easily discover
the lamb's danger from any of the above
circumstances; and, exclusive of the lank
and hungry appearance of the lamb, let him
attend to this general rule: — That whenever
he sees a lamb constantly sucking, or
endeavouring to suck, he may conclude all
is not well, and the ewe must instantly be
looked to; for, as long as the lamb retains
any strength, it continues unceasingly to
persist in craving the privilege which nature
has taught it to expect.
Where a failure of milk on the young
ewes or gimmers is dreaded, the farmer
ought to keep them from the male until a
season corresponding with that, in which vegetation
is so far advanced as quite to remove
that obstacle: — Young lambs are better
than none.
Another cause of many a lamb's death is
what we call pinding. This is most dangerous
when the ewes are in high condition,
and vegetation backward; the milk is then
strong and thick, and the excrement of the
lamb becomes of a gluey nature, and lays
hold of the tail and buttocks, which, by the
heat of the sun, are pasted so close together
about the fundament, that all possibility of
evacuation is prevented, and the creature
bursts in a short time. An attentive shepherd
may easily prevent this, by loosing
them, and rubbing them with friable clay
or dry mould, which prevents them from fastening
again. Some of the males will likewise
fall, during the first ten days of their
life, of an inflammation in the bladder; but
this never happens but in cold barren weather,
when they lie too long in one place,
and cannot think to rise. This must likewise
be looked to by the shepherd; and if
he comes to a lamb weak or exhausted by
any of the above, if it fall a trembling, it is
sure to recover under proper attention. During
the month of June, a few lambs in a
flock will sometimes be infected by a stiffness
of the joints, occasioned by the low state
of the dam at that time. The animal then
waxeth very fast, and if, for want of proper
nourishment, its growth is stunted, the joints
swell and grow up; but they generally recover.
A straggling lamb will sometimes
die during this period, of a kind of sickness
occasioned by mixing some kinds of grass
too freely with the milk; this is called by
shepherds the grass-ill. Though merely accidental,
it is impossible to prevent it; but
it seldom occurs, and is never destructive.
The only other cause of the death of lambs,
is in consequence of gelding the males. To
prevent this, care should be taken that it be
performed at a time when the air is free
of electrical fire. Heating of them, too, is
very often fatal; and the operator must, by
all means, abstain from spirituous liquors.
When the lambs are very fat and strong,
some farmers anoint the two vacuities in the
scrotum with oil of turpentine; one standing
with a vial, and anoints with a feather every
lamb before it is set away. This is a severe
remedy, hut it is a sure one, as it repels the
effects of the electrical matter on the inflamed
parts. It however stops the growth
of the lambs for a fortnight; therefore, if the
folds are clean around, the weather not sultry,
and the lambs gently used, there is no
great risk without it.
When the lambs are taken up to be cut,
they should never he catched by the back
or flanks, or any other part except the hough
or neck, and lifted gently up by the legs.
The operation ought to be performed as
gently as possible, by slitting up, or cutting
the scrotum with a sharp smooth-edged
knife, and starting the testicles by pressing
both hands against the belly of the lamb.
In removing them, the chords should be
taken between the fingers and thumbs, while
the backs of the hands are still kept steadily
against the belly, and the stones drawn
with the teeth somewhat upward until they
separate. The operator must then pull its
tail sharply two or three times, to replace
the chords and vessels which have so violently
been disarranged, and if it be necessary
to hold it still for the purpose of earmarking
it, the hind legs must no longer be
kept up than the operation of gelding is
over, but immediately let fall.
If there is to be great loss from the operation,
it will be evident the second day;
but the greatest mortality is on the third and
fourth after they are cut, and if the deaths
are very numerous, they will continue to occur
for six or seven days. The carcases are
absolutely putrid in the hinder parts; and,
when once the mortification begins, nothing
will check its progress. It is a curious fact,
that when the putrifaction conies to a great
height in a flock, both tup-lambs and females
will die infected in the very same
manner as those that were castrated.
These are the only inward diseases, or rather
accidents, of which lambs die; to outward
accidents they are exposed in common
with all other creatures. But in a country
where there are so many thousands of them,
and when it is considered how tender they
are, and how many accidents attend them in
feeding, herding, and folding, is it any wonder
that stragglers should at times fall,
whose death cannot be accounted for? But
in every stage it will be seen, that sheep
must be taken care of, and the more care
and pains, the more profit to the owners.
When a ewe loses her lamb by any of
the above accidents, if there are any spare
lambs on the farm, of which there are commonly
plenty in a good stock, another lamb
may easily be given to her by the following
simple stratagem: — Take the skin of the
dead lamb, and fasten it tightly around that
which you intend giving her; confine them
together in a dark corner, on a space of four
feet diameter, and in twenty hours, or even
sometimes less than the fourth of that time,
she will be quite reconciled to it, and acknowledge
it as her own all its life, often
with more fondness than she showed to her
own offspring.
DURING the rest of summer, and harvest,
it is very rare that any of them fall, until
about the middle of October, when the
Braxy, or sickness, begins to make its appearance
on some farms. This universal
ravager of the young flocks, through all hardy
districts and farms in the nation, sets in
early or late, in proportion as vegetation
ceases early, or continues until a later period
of the season. This is now perfectly well
ascertained, and generally acknowledged;
and, likewise, that all kinds of food which
preserve a continual vegetation are effectual
preventatives; such as clover, turnip, sea--
marsh, and the dark-coloured tath that
grows in abundance on drained ground that
has formerly been marsh. This last being
so green and soft, and continuing to vegetate
at all seasons when the weather was
mild, induced many people to believe, that
it was of a flatulent nature, and would increase
the malevolence of the Braxy: But
experience soon evinced the contrary; and
that in proportion as this grass was nourished
by the prevalence of the draining scheme,
the Braxy by degrees evanished.
Before speaking farther of this disease, it
may not be improper to apprise the reader,
that it is of four different kinds; at least, if
the Water-Braxy, mentioned by the Reverend
Mr Finlater, be admitted as one of them:
But of all these we shall speak distinctly.
In two of them the difference is only discernible
on opening the carcase, when it appears
differently infected in the one from
the other. But they have both the same
symptoms; both the same effluvia when
dead; and both proceed from the same
cause; namely, indigestion. But, in one, the
stomach and intestines only are principally
infected, while a small part of the inflammation
only is communicated to the flesh.
In the other, the fleshy parts are all swollen
and corrupted, while a small proportion only
of the inflammation is communicated to
the stomach and bowels. Such of the sheep
as fall of this disorder in the spring die generally
of this latter description.
These are facts; but to discriminate nicely
betwixt the different germs of the infection
would require one better versed in the
construction, connection, and names of the
several parts of the animal frame than I am;
though it is probable, that the one originates
in a stoppage in some of the blood vessels,
and the other in a stoppage in some parts
of the bowels; but however that is, they
are certainly both consequences of indigestion.

I shall first state the causes of this indigestion,
and then point out some of the best
means of preventing it; for that it may, in
a great measure, be prevented, I positively
affirm, as well as all other diseases to which
sheep are rendered liable: And to these
causes I beg the shepherd's attention, assuring
him, that, on being attentively considered,
they will seldom or-never, in one instance,
be found to fail.
It is well known, that about the middle
of Autumn, if not sooner, such lambs as are
pastured by themselves are gradually let into
richer pasture, which bath been preserved
for them during two or three of the preceding
months; which practice is very laudable,
as it puts the young creature into good
condition before the winter commences. As
long as the weather continues soft, if left to
themselves, they fail not to take immoderate
fills of grass; and, as this is never
attended with any immediate had consequences,
they are too commonly suffered
to take their will.
Now, the reason why this has no bad effect
in the mean time is because vegetation
still continues to push forth the sap of the
earth into every green blade and stem; and,
besides, the lambs (or hoggs, as they then
begin to be called) always settle on the
richest parts of the pasture, which being of
a succulent nature, and easily digested, consequently
the creatures remain, to all appearance,
unhurt for the present, as they
certainly would, were a continuation of the
same weather, and the same food, always
attainable. But, sooner or later, the frosts
must commence, and, frequently enough,
very suddenly; then the mountain grasses
close at the root, and not only become of
themselves more dry and astringent, but the
difference in the temperature of the air acting
upon the bodies of the animals, induces
them to search after, and feed more upon,
heath, bent, and other herbs of a more hardy
and hot nature than those that they lately
delighted in to such a degree. Now, the
stomach being, at this time, much racked
and distended by its constant repletions for
some time past, is rendered in a manner
callous; and the sudden change in the atmosphere,
from a moist to a keen sharp air,
creates in the animals such a sharp appetite
for these dry hot herbs, that they devour
them with great voracity, and take a fill of
them equal to what they took before of the
soft succulent grasses. The former being as
costive and hard of digestion as the other is
soft and easy, the consequence is now easily
seen through; at least, by a man of science,
this hint may easily be improven to a full
survey of the distemper in all its stages:
but as it is easier for me, who am no anatomist,
to conceive than describe, I shall not
follow out its process further for fear I make
a fool of myself, and they who do so get
many to help them.
That the above is the very cause of that
Braxy which hath cut off so many thousands
of excellent young sheep, not the least doubt
need to be entertained; and the shepherd
is satisfied with knowing perfectly well that
it is so, without troubling himself farther
about the matter. Any shepherd will tell
you, that it is always on sudden changes
from fresh weather to a frost, that its ravages
are most felt; and so much are they
aware of this, that I have frequently seen
them, on such mornings, put on an old hat
and old clothes in order to carry them home,
not doubting in the least but that some of
them had fallen a prey to it. The stoppage,
which causes the inflammation in this
case, I conceive to proceed from wind in
and about the stomach, occasioned by the
plentiful mixture of these so very different
foods, as the mortification is confined to
those parts, and seems to commence about
the vent leading from the stomach, or in the
crook of the reid, where the aliment is finally
The next that I shall mention, is that
which differs from this last only in the appearance
of the carcase on dissection; for
besides having, as I said before, the same
symptoms, and the same strong effluvia
when opened, they are carried off by it in
the same short space of time. In this case,
the inflammation, instead of commencing
about the stomach, takes its rise about some
of the most fleshy parts of the body, and
seems to be the consequence of some air
getting into the veins. However that be, it
is certainly occasioned by a sudden change
of food, and the temperature of the air; and
is the same trouble with that which prevails
amongst the young cattle in the west of
Scotland, and is denominated the Black
Spauld; and it is a well known fact, that this
likewise sets in at the same season, when the
grasses fail, and the cattle are begun to feed
on fodder and dry herbage.
Stragglers will die thus infected, when
hoggs are dying fast of the former case in
the same flock; and all the old sheep which
die, as well as the hoggs which fall in May,
are carried off by this species. It is, however,
to be remarked, that these are but very
few, and its ravages may be computed as
no more than one to ten of those that die
of the first case.
The third is a kind of Dry Braxy, and can
hardly be said to proceed from indigestion.
It makes its attacks during storms of snow,
when the walk of the hoggs is much circumscribed,
and when they are confined too
much to the tops of heather, bent, and other
dry sapless food; but it only seizes on such
as have plenty of grass when the weather is
soft. On dissection, the bodies of the animals
dying of this species are considerably
different from any of the other two; the
carcase is much less swelled, and not nearly
so blue and putrid; the stomach is scarcely
infected in the least, but the small therms
are mortified, black, soft, and almost rotten.
The inflammation visibly beginning in
one of the latter folds of the intestines, and
certainly proceeds from the following cause.
The fæces, by the time it reaches thus far,
is quite drained of all its nutrimental qualifications;
but, in proportion as the animal
feeds on dry costive food, the purl becomes
more hard, and is collected into larger
lumps, consequently, the spaces between
these clumps must be longer. Now those
hoggs which have, from the time they were
weaned of their mothers' milk, been accustomed
to feeding on this soft easy food, the
entrails become narrow in proportion to the
smoothness and conformity of the excrement
passing through them; but on an entire
change of this into stiffish lumps, with
a void before and behind each of them, a
twist, or intussusception, is sometimes occasioned
in one of the folds, which immediately
puts a stop to all passage from the belly,
and causeth the inflammation; or, perhaps,
one of these clumps, sinking into the vacuity
immediately below it, is productive of
the same disagreeable effect.
I acknowledge that this is only conjecture,
arising from the notoriety of the inflammation
beginning in those parts; for, with all
my care, I could never discover the twist
that had occasioned the animal's death,
though, from the mortified state of some
part, it was visible where it had been. I
had almost forgot to mention, that, in one
or two instances, I perceived a small double
in the intestines, which, by some wind passing
through them, had forced its way
through the thin texture that covers them,
and by which the fat hangs. This was full
of wind, quite black and mortified, as were
sundry of the folds above it.
Such hoggs as are infected by this kind
of Braxy, sometimes linger on a day or two
in great agony, and only appearing a little
swelled; and, as it is on such that a great
many of the cures are tried, it is the less
wonder that so few of them prove beneficial,
as it is certainly very difficult of cure.
Mr Little's Opinion of Case Third.
Mr Little, with whom I corresponded on
this subject, in one of his letters to me, hath
the following technical observation, which
I shall transcribe; for though it seem to
overthrow this theory, yet, as I do not perfectly
understand it, it may be right for any
thing that I know.
"The more I reflect on your theory of the
causes inducing the sickness," says he, "the
more I am disposed to attach implicit credit
thereto; because, on a retrospective
view of past events, I find that it tallies exactly
with a number of cases and circumstances
which have come under my own observation.
But I am not very well satisfied
with your statement of the third case, though
perfectly so with respect to the cause of it;
which I know very well proceeds from their
feeding too much on dry sapless food in
times of frost and snow, when they are confined
together. This species of the disease
is more destructive in many places than you
seem to be aware of; and I do not believe
that it originates in a stoppage of the fæces
through its intricate windings amongst the
latter folds of the intestines. I rather think
that the food, during the time of its fermentation
in the abomasis, is not productive of
so much liquid as is sufficient to dilute it
properly upon farther mastication. And the
animal frame being like a well finished machine,
wherein one wheel always sets another
in motion, all the curious operations of
nature, in the concoction of the regimen into
chyle, are immediately marred, and the
wonderful powers of the stomach laid dormant.
The consequence is, that severe cholic
pains instantly ensue, which, if timeously
attended to, might, by bleeding, anodynes,
and sweetening injections, often be
expelled; but which, if suffered to proceed,
must necessarily terminate in an inflammation,
and the death of the animal."
Before proceeding further, I may remark,
that all these three are visibly different species
of the same malady, of which the smell
itself is a sufficient proof; and that, of all
others, which has any resemblance to it in
this particular, is the flesh of such as die
awald, which, for smell and taste, might
be mistaken for it; for the Braxy is the
great purveyor for the tables of the farm
The first visible token of this distemper,
which is alike applicable to all its cases, is
the animal's ceasing to chew the cud;
which it does sometimes for several hours
before any thing else can be observed to ail
it. — This leads to a reflection on the curious
operations of nature in the stomach of
a sheep.
When the grass is first swallowed, it descends
into the maw, or paunch, where it
is found in large quantities, nearly as it was
pulled. When they are feeding full, ten, and
even twelve pounds weight of this stuff is
sometimes in a sheep seven months old.
Out of this first stomach it has the power of
bringing it up for further mastication, and
it would appear, that that which is lowest
and first swallowed must come up first, else
it might lie there for years together; and
how this is effected, when such a mass of
crude and heavy matter intervenes betwixt
that and the throat, is not easily to be conceived.
The maw, or first stomach, of such
as die of the Braxy, species first, is always
distended to the last degree with foul infected
air; and, were it not that this is never
so much inflamed as the last stomach,
it might be conjectured, that a species of
the distemper originated in the animal's previously
losing its cud. I have seen old people,
who, when a cow grew sick and lost
her cud, took one out of another cow's
mouth, immediately after it came up, and
put it into hers which was sick, and after
she had chewed and swallowed this two or
three times her own was restored.
A cow which dies of a surfeit of clover,
has the same appearances, on dissection, as
a sheep which dies of the sickness, species
The loss of the cud is, I say, the first token.
As the distemper advances, the agony
which the animal is suffering becomes more
and more visible. When it stands, it brings
all its four feet into the compass of a foot:
and sometimes it continues to rise and lie
down alternately every two or three minutes.
The eyes are heavy and dull, and
deeply expressive of its distress. The ears
hang down; and, when more narrowly inspected,
the mouth and tongue are dry and
parched, and the white of the eye inflamed.
The pulse beats strong and thick; the
breathing is not very short, but attended
with panting and seeming difficulty: The
urine is high coloured, and the blood dark
and thick.
In all these cases the kidneys are terribly
infected, and reduced to a flat jelly resembling
putrid gore, and the natural consistency
of the liver is also much spoiled. In the
first case, the belly is prodigiously swelled,
even so much that it sometimes bursts. All
the stomachs, or rather all the different
apartments of the stomach, are inflamed in
some degree, and all in the same proportion;
but the first always least, and the latter,
or that next the intestines, most, which
is often quite putrid. In the second, the
whole body is hoved and swelled like a loaf.
The liver in this case is extremely putrid,
and the ventricles of the heart full of congealed
blood, and a livid redness pervades
the whole body and bowels, and the fore--
thighs are commonly worst. In the third
case, the belly only is a little swelled; the
chewed grass in the maw is very stiff and almost
quite solid to feel upon, and the flesh
is not greatly tainted.
Let me now attend to the water braxy,
mentioned by the Reverend Dr Findlater.
Many people hold this as merely chimerical;
and assert, that it never had existence
saving in the doctor's brain. I was much
of the same opinion myself, but I am now
perfectly ascertained of its existence, having
seen and dissected several of them, and am
likewise assured, that it does considerable
damage on some particular farms; but
whether it is indeed a species of the braxy,
will admit of a doubt, though it is always
viewed by the shepherd as such. In two
outward symptoms it has a resemblance to
it which may occasion this. The first is,
that the animal, when living, appears affected
much the same way, — lying frequently
down, and loitering behind, — and likewise
appears somewhat swelled. And the next
is, that, like all others affected by the braxy
of any kind, it will not bleed to any extent
on opening a vein. The cutting of a vein
in the tail, spauld, or below the eye, will
make other sheep bleed plentifully; but
from these scarcely a drop will issue; and
even on cutting the principal vein in the
throat; only a very small quantity proceeds.

But, in the interior, they differ very widely.
On opening them, the whole entrails
are swimming in bloody water, none of
which is within the guts, but only within the
rim of the belly. The gall-bladder is very
small, appearing as having been mostly spilled
previous to its death; and the urinal
bladder is contracted and shrunk up to a
size scarcely noticeable. The small fibres,
connecting it with the other parts, are inflamed;
and, on bringing it near the nose,
smells somewhat like the other braxy. The
bladder seems entirely to have lost its power
of absorption, no urine being ever within it;
but, on blowing it up with wind, it is always
quite sound, and never bursts as the
reverend doctor alleges. The guts and flesh
are a little discoloured, and have a smell
peculiar to that disorder. The smaller
apartment of the stomach, or reid, hath
some purple spots on it; and, on being felt
with the hand, these are thicker in the texture
than the other parts of it. They seem
to have bled a part inwardly; this, some
suppose, issues from the liver.
There is another rare distemper called the
yellow sickness, which I do not at all consider
as a species of the braxy, but rather a
sort of jaundice. They pine in it for some
days, and are very sick. The entrails, on
dissection, are of a dark yellow, and have
likewise a smell, peculiar to that distemper,
flavouring something of sulphur. But this
is a disease peculiar to old sheep; and, had
it not been for the name, ought not to have
been mentioned under this head. Such
sheep as feed upon woody banks are most
subject to it; and I always consider it as
proceeding from their eating some poisonous
herbs. There is always a sort of congealed
stuff like rotten eggs about the kidneys.

This disease, I am told, prevails to a considerable
degree amongst some of the fine
English breeds. The outward symptoms
are strong convulsions, accompanied with
shivering at intervals; yellow eyes and urine;
and, on dissection, besides that the whole
body and entrails are covered with an ugly
yellow, the gall-bladder is distended to
three times its ordinary size, and that part
of the liver to which it is attached, dyed
quite yellow. There are often hard lumps
upon the liver, and others adhering to such
of the entrails as are nearest the back.
From same of these symptoms it would appear,
that it had some resemblance to a bilious
complaint; but it not being very common
in such counties of Scotland as I have
been any way conversant in, I have not
been able to certify, whether a plurality of
diseases is included under this general
name, or if the yellows and yellow sickness
have been originally considered as different
As to the cures for the braxy, although
those that have been, and are yearly and
daily tried, are almost innumerable, yet the
most that can be said about them, is to describe
how completely they have all failed
of the desired effect. Were I but to enumerate
those which have come even under
my own observation, I would have a tedious
muster-roll of names, without having the
authority to affix the title of effectual to one
of them.
An advertisement appeared in our papers
last year, holding forth, with great pomp
and assurance, the extraordinary virtues of
mustard in removing it; but, of all the cures
that ever have been tried in this country,
the effects of this hath been the least salutary.
One in twenty hath not lived to
which it hath been administered; and one
of the Messrs Anderson's of Meggat told
me, that it had killed some of theirs which
they were not sure were infected with the
sickness. It may certainly be presumed,
that a preparation of a nature so hot, is not
a cordial fitting an inflammatory case; or,
at most, it is a desperate remedy, which
may cure, but hath ten more chances to
The only cures which I can freely recommend
are in every shepherd's power, and
are as follow
First, if the animal is found in time, let
him give it a severe heat by running; if
this do not cure it, nothing that I am acquainted
with will. However unfavourable
this may appear, let him hunt it well, and
follow after it that it lie not immediately
down on leaving it; or, if it will lie down,
let it be in a house. Many shepherds have
discovered this by chance, who yet are
ashamed to be the first to acknowledge it.
The next is bathing amongst warm water
for the space of eight or ten minutes at
least, when a quantity of water gruel, mixed
with butter, or some softening ingredient,
may be given them as an injection, or otherwise.

Care must be taken, however, that none
of these is administered for the Water Braxy,
because either of them occasions instant
death: The bath makes them bleed inwardly,
and die forthwith; neither is a chace
productive of any good to them, but evil.
If you get hold of it, this is easily discovered,
by putting both hands to its belly,
and working them with a quick vibration,
when, if it be the Water Braxy, it will jumble;
but, if it cannot easily be got hold of,
you may guess by the appearance of the
swelling, which, in the common cases of the
Braxy, rises on each side of the back, but
in the Water Braxy hangs low. But in all
cases bleeding is good; and if they bleed
freely, or by any means can be made to
purge freely, there is great hopes of their
recovery. These have been oftener attended
with success than any I have seen tried.
But cures for the Braxy are of small avail;
for, besides that most of them fail, the
greatest number of the hoggs which die of
it, are found dead in the morning, without
any thing having been seen to ail them on
the preceding night.
Let us then attend to that which is of infinitely
more consequence, namely,
The Best Means of Preventing it.
To this I earnestly intreat the farmer's
most serious attention; and the first thing
to which I would enjoin him is, to take particular
notice what number of sheep his
ground is adequate to feed properly, to stock
it accordingly, and pasture the young. and old
of his flocks all together. By this plan, the
Sickness, or Braxy, is almost totally eradicated
wherever it has been introduced; for
the young of the flock follow after and
share the experience of those that are old,
both with respect to what food is proper
for every season of the year, and time of the
day; and gain much by feeding along
with them for some hours every seasonable
night, when they would otherwise have been
lying fasting, and so hungry next morning,
that they are apt to wrong their stomachs,
by eating too freely of any thing that comes
in their way. By thus rising in the night,
too, they are enticed both to pass urine and
dung, by which the Water Braxy is totally
prevented from attacking them, and a stumbling
block laid in the way of the others.
By this plan, also, the ground is much
more equally stocked, and every corner of
it more equally eaten. No straggler will
wander from the farm; and the sheep feed
ten times easier, and neither waste themselves
nor the ground by being driven to
and fro.
When these are all thoroughly considered,
is it any wonder that this is the best means
of preventing the Braxy that hath yet been
tried? or that the farmer who once tryeth
it, will never again change it for any other
To make it a little more plain: Let the
farmer take the ewes of each distinct hill,
hop, or ridge, and, about the middle of July,
select from each of these divisions of the
best lambs, a number sufficient to replace
the aged, infirm, and eild of that certain department.
Let these be kept in a parcel by
themselves, or with the eild sheep, until the
milk is gone from the ewes, and then turn
them again at large to pasture, with the
old sheep, on each his own native hill all
the rest of their lives; for no sooner are they
set at liberty, than they draw to their respective
places, and commonly again join
their clam and former acquaintances. Thus,
in a few years, every little department of
the farm becomes stocked with a distinct
clan of friends, who will in nowise separate;
and though they be ever so thoroughly mixed
with other clans during the day, they
will all sunder voluntarily, and draw to their
own layers at even.
Though this system of herding, as well as
the draining of sheep pasture, were introduced
here by a very singular character, viz.
Mr William Bryden, senior of Riskinhope,
who possessed land, for a great number of
years, under his Grace the Duke of Buccleuch,
yet the benefits which have been
reaped from both are unspeakable; and I
have no scruple in declaring, that they are
the first and best means of preventing the
But as this plan is not eligible in every
instance, and where great numbers of wedder
hoggs are kept for sale or otherwise, it
is necessary, to prevent confusion, that the
hoggs be pastured by themselves. Let such
tenants and shepherds attend to the following
I observed formerly, that all kinds of
food which preserve a continued vegetation
are preventatives for this malady, and, where
these are attainable, a retreat to them is often
of great utility; but where they are not,
which is often the case, let the farmer take
notice, in the first place, to choose his hogg--
fence on a part of the farm which consists, as
nearly as possible, all of one soil. I have travelled
through a good many of the pasture
countries of Great Britain, and have taken
much pains to enquire concerning this, and
I aver, that on such a pasture the Braxy is
never destructive. It is no great matter
whether the soil is fine or coarse, providing
it be all the same. It is but stocking it the
lighter; and sheep will thrive as well upon
coarse land as upon that which is fine, if
there are few or no sweet spots interspersed
through it, which attracts their taste, and
keeps them hanging upon such.
To such a walk the constitution becomes
adapted, and they continue to take regular
meals of it, during all kinds of weather.
The same observation holds good with respect
to any parcel of sheep, of whatever
age or denomination, as also in the choice
of a farm.
A flock, whose range consists chiefly of
one kind of soil, seldom miss being equal,
and in good condition; while those whose
walk consists of soils, of which one half is
fine, and the other coarse, very rarely are
so. The reason is obvious. They never fix
upon the coarse part until the fine is so bare
that they can make no more of it, and even
then the former goes but very ill down with
them. Neither does stocking light do much
for them; for still they will have the fine finished
before they will settle peaceably upon
the other, and often continue to gnaw
upon it until part of them are quite wasted.

But, of all soils in the world, the kind
that is most destructive in raising the Braxy,
is that on which lee-heather grows; that is,
where heather grows upon a mould or gravelly
soil. If it grows upon a mossy turf it
is not dangerous, and wearing them upon
such will often very much abate it; but as
to the former, every person, who has had
any experience in the line, will allow of its
malevolent tendency in promoting this distemper.
Some apprehend, that it is the
heather itself; and others, that it is the long
foul grass that is nourished about its roots;
but the truth seems to be, that it is partly
both. Such heather commonly grows in
bushes, and the grasses about these are of
the most soft and delicious kinds; while, on
the other hand, this kind of heather is remarkably
strong and hot: — Thus it is easily
accounted for, without deviating in the least
from my former theory.
If such ground, however, is unavoidably
situated within the bounds of the hoggs'
winter pasture, care should be taken, on the
first opportunity that offers, to extinguish
every bush of it by fire, which will at once
convert it from an incentive to a preventative;
for the young sprouts which grow upon
burnt ground, being of a tender and delicate
nature, are generally laxative and easy
for the stomach.
I wish the utility of burning the land
were better understood in Scotland, where
in many districts it has been woefully neglected,
though it is certainly the best, and
often the only improvement that can be
practised on muir-farms. A part of heather
is very beneficial, especially on the land
where old sheep are pastured; but if it can
be eradicated, or kept down, so as to have
only one-eighth of the walk covered with it,
it is quite enough; and where hoggs are
pastured, all the lee-heather should be carefully
extinguished. There is no one improvement
which might be conducted more
systematically than burning, and yet there
is nothing done more carelessly. It is true
the game-act restricts the farmer from burning
any muir after the 10th of April, which
is often a great loss to the nation; for, if the
weather proves wet previous to that term,
the mosses and muirs must remain in their
natural rough state for a whole year, which
contributes greatly to reduce the condition
of a large proportion of sheep in Scotland.
Certainly an indulgence should be granted
to the farmer in this case. I have heard
Mr Laidlaw of Blockhouse aver, that rather
than miss a year's burning, he would lose
L. 50.; at that time he only kept 2000
sheep. Now, when it is considered, that a
great proportion of the pasture-farms in
Scotland have much the same appearance
with his, is it not a moderate computation
to suppose, that the country almost insensibly
may lose, in wool, sheep, and condition
L. 50,000? while all the loss that would accrue
to it, on account of the muir-fowl nests
that might chance to be burnt, would not
exceed five shillings!
That the shepherd may know better how
to proceed with the burning, let him take
notice, that where heather is extinguished
by fire on a clay or loamy soil, it will not
sprout again, so as to cover the ground, for
twenty years; but, if on a hogg-fence, at the
expiry of twelve years, the surface, that was
before covered, will again be mostly overspread.
If it is a gravelly soil, the one half
of the above terms may be considered as the
epoch of its return. If the soil is a mixture
of moss and gravel, the half of that again;
and if the soil is entirely moss, it grows
again that very same year: Consequently,
the shepherd should in the three former
cases keep a regular rotation of crops, and
burn his ground in such a manner, as to
have always a proper proportion of it young,
old, and middle-aged; which is likewise the
best method for fostering the game; for the
sportsman will easily discover, that when
there is plenty of young heather on the
farm, he will rarely find any game amongst
that which is old; but, in the latter case,
with regard to moss heather, it should always
be burnt as soon as it will burn; for,
of all foods, none are more healthy and nutritive
than young moss-heather, ling, and
deer-hair, and none are more useless when
The only other preventative which I can
freely recommend after these, is the method
to be used in the herding of them. Let,
them be stopped on the upper parts of their
pasture for two hours in the morning; and,
by all means, let them not be suffered to
remain too late on the grassy parts below,
but, about nine o'clock, again put in motion
outward, that the stomach may not be
impaired by too immoderate fills of this soft
grass. The shepherd should always remember,
that frosty and variable weather is approaching,
and if he be not careful to act
thus, the above mentioned consequences
will be apt to ensue. It will likewise add
to this security, if, when setting them outward,
he makes them run a small way, as
it induceth perspiration, causeth them to
evacuate dung, and rest themselves awhile
to chew the cud.
On some farms where the Braxy bath
been very destructive, the farmers have, by
bleeding the whole parcel of hoggs in the jugular
vein, taking about two ounces of
blood from each, considerably abated its
ravages. This was always performed about
the beginning of November.
These certainly are the best means for
preventing the Braxy, or sickness; nor do
I believe there is any other, exclusive of
these mentioned. They have indeed got a
foolish tradition about Annandale, that, in
former ages, when sheep were so few, as to
be all housed during the night, the Braxy
was unknown; but facts are always the
best foundations to build upon, and I have
seen many instances of domestic sheep, called
pets, dying of the sickness; and, in the
counties of Ross and Sutherland, where
many of the small tenants house their sheep
every night of the year, for fear of the foxes,
the Braxy rages with uncommon severity.
THIS is the next disease which attacks
them, and is commonly known by the latter
denomination. A sheep affected by it
becomes stupid; its eyes stare, and fix upon
some different object from that which it is
in fear of. It soon ceases from all intercourse
with the rest of the flock, and is seen
frequently turning round, or traversing a
As to the causes inducing it; it is universally
allowed, that it is occasioned by sheep
being exposed too much to rough and boisterous
weather, without any shelter. It
would likewise appear, that the water is
ejected into the brain by the spinal marrow;
but whether it is a certain internal distillation,
or admitted from without from the
serosity of the skin, is not so easily determined.
Certain however it is, that a bratted
sheep (one whose back is covered with
a piece of cloth) will not take it; and, of a
well-sheltered flock, very few ever will.
The water settles sometimes in one corner
of the skull, sometimes in another; but,
whenever it begins, it continues to increase
and gain upon the brain, until it is either
extracted, or the animal so much wasted,
that it dies as lean as wood, at which period
the brain is commonly half wasted
away, and the skull full of these noxious
fluids. Sometimes it concentrates in the
very middle of the brain, when it is very
difficult to cure; and sometimes in the
hinder parts, where it joins with the spinal
marrow, when it is quite incurable. If this
water is not extracted by some operation,
the disease invariably terminates in the
death of the animal; and though the operation,
whatever way performed, is extremely
simple, yet thousands are suffered to perish,
through mere carelessness or diffidence.
In whatever corner of the brain the water
settles, the skull immediately above it soon
grows quite soft, and the shepherd, by
groping with his thumb, will easily discover
where it is seated. If it is any where in the
crown, the gentlest way is to tap it in the
place where the skull is soft, and let the
water run out. This is commonly performed
with an awl, or large corking pin, although
an instrument with a small tube in
it, might easily be made, which would drain
it off more completely. Since writing the
above, the author hath received a small silver
trocar from Dr Duncan, jun. Edinburgh,
invented by him, for the purpose of draining
off the fluid, in whatever part of the
skull situated, and has little doubt of its
final success. By this operation, if the instrument
is not pushed too far, the animal
is nothing the worse, whether it recovers at
the first, or not. But, what is very remarkable,
this plan is not successful on all farms
alike, of which I have known many instances.
There is an old shepherd on the farm
of Mounbenger, named William Cowan,
whom I have often heard declare, that, in
a course of thirty years experience, one
sheep out of twenty which he had tapped,
had not died on their own farms; while it
was very rare that he could cure any on
some of the neighbouring farms. He performs
it always with a large corking-pin.
But, if the skull feel soft in the forehead,
then the operation must be performed by
thrusting a stiff-sharpened wire up each nostril,
until it stop against the upper part of
the scull. If this cure were not well authenticated
by daily observation, it might
seem a very severe and dangerous operation,
as the wire goes quite through the brain in
two different places; yet a far greater number
are cured by this way than any other.
The operator must feel for the part of the
skull that is soft, and lay his thumb flat and
firm upon that; then taking the wire in his
right hand, push it up that nostril that
points more directly for the place that is
soft, where the disease is seated; and if he
feel the point of the wire below his thumb,
he may rest assured that the bag is perforated,
and that if the brain do not inflame,
the creature will grow better; but if he
does not feel the point of the wire press
against the soft part of the skull, on which
the thumb of his left hand must be placed,
it will be necessary to try the other nostril.
The reason I conceive why this is the most
certain cure, is, that the bladder being
pierced on the lower side, the liquid continues
to drip through the hole, as long as
any remains, and even as fast as it gathers,
so that the perforation does not get leave to
grow up, or close again, until the animal is
quite better; while, on the other hand, although
the water be ever so neatly extracted
above by tapping, as soon as the sheep
gets to its feet, no more of it can get out;
so that the aperture made in the bag again
closes, and the disease goes on. I have
cured numbers both ways, and killed a part
too; but those that I killed were generally
with the wire; because, if the other fails of
the desired effect, the wire is always applied
to as a last resource; and many have I seen
cured by it, which were, to all appearance,
quite past redemption.
When I was a youth, I was engaged for
many years in herding a large parcel of
lambs, whose bleating brought the whole
Sturdies of the neighbourhood to them, with
which I was everlastingly plagued; but, as
I was frequently weaving stockings, I fell
upon the following plan: I catched every
sturdied sheep that I could lay my hands
on, and probed them up through the brain
and nostrils with one of my wires, when I
beheld with no small degree of pleasure,
that, by this simple operation alone, I cured
many a sheep to different owners; all which
projects I kept to myself, having no authority
to try my skill on any of them; and
it was several years before I failed in one
The late Mr Laidlaw, of Willenslee, had
a peculiar way of performing this operation
which, however plausible, was not very successful.
He burnt a small hole in the soft
part of the skull with a hot iron, and with a
small hook took out the bladder of water
entire; he then closed up the aperture
again with a plaister of wax, tying it firm
on. He cured only about every fifth sheep
at an average, all the time I was acquainted
with him.
If the Sturdy is not at all to be felt by
pressing with the thumbs, it is either seated
in the centre of the brain, or behind, and
nothing can be done for them save with
the wire.
I have always observed, that a sheep, on
being wired, is sick, in proportion to the
stiffness of the gristle below the brain. I
the wire is hard to go up, it is always very
sick, but if it goes easily up, it puts it little
off its ordinary. This I conceive to be occasioned
by the wire taking a wrong vent,
and perforating the most delicate and inflammable
part of the brain. When one is
wired, it is proper to take hold of it with
both hands behind the ears, and shake its
bead loosely. This empties the bladder,
and the water must find its way by the nose
afterwards, for they will frequently grow
quite better, though no water be seen to
issue from the nostrils at that time: this
makes them sicker for the present, but they
are more apt to amend afterwards. If it
were really necessary to extract the sac, or
small bladder, which generally contains the
water, the operation of trepanning would
be, of all others, the most feasible; but if
the water can be extracted, the sac is of
little consequence, else so many could never
be cured by wiring. However, though I
have never witnessed the success of trepanning,
I have been assured, that, when carefully
and gently performed, and afterwards
secured by wax-cloths, from suffering by the
elements, a good many have been saved by
The best way is, to raise up, with a sharp
knife, about the breadth of a sixpence, of
the skin immediately over the part of the
skull which is soft, then to raise about the
half of that size of the soft skull, taking care
not to separate them altogether, but let
them keep hold of one side, folding, and
keeping them back with the thumb, until
the water is extracted; then fold them neatly
down again, seal them, and cover all with
a wax-cloth.
Others, again, make two cross incisions,
each about an inch in length, then raising
back the points of each angle, extract the
fluid, and sometimes the bag which holds
it. In both cases the utmost gentleness
must be used, and care taken afterwards to
make them close above from outward cold
or wet. I do not greatly approve of this
method, but some may, and experiments
are plausible. This disease is almost peculiar
to sheep during the first year of their
age, it being very rare that one older takes
it, without having been formerly affected.
On opening the head, a bladder is found,
of most delicate texture, thin and transparent,
and full of a clear fluid, like water,
sometimes intermixed with a thin cruor.
This bag is most commonly situated betwixt
the brain and skull, and always increases
in size as the disease advances; and
the vacuum in the brain increases in proportion
to the size of the bag.
The vacuum is sometimes of one shape
and sometimes of another; and we might
suppose, that, as the increase of the bladder
compressed the brain into smaller bounds,
so the latter would become more firm
whereas the contrary is the case, for it becomes
always more loose and watery; and
some of those that die of it, without any
thing having been done for them, have the
brain almost consumed.
This gradual waste of the brain is as hard
to account for, in a probable and natural
way, as any thing relating to the distemper;
for if, as some think, it is consumed
by insects, whether is it they which cause
the collection of fluids there, or the fluids
which produce them? My brother William
makes the following hypothetical observation:
"Two or three recent observations
induce me to believe, that the dissolution
of the brain, &c. is occasioned by numbers
of animalculæ, which I have observed swimming
loosely in the liquor. They resemble
ants eggs, both in shape and colour, but
are somewhat shorter. But as all the animals,
on which I made the observation, had
been dead for sometime, so these puny in
habitants of the brain were dead also: but
if they had been living and organized insects,
which I have no doubt they were,
there would have been multitudes of so diminutive
a size, as to be quite imperceptible
to the naked eye: and I am fully convinced,
that, if the disease were minutely
observed, in all its stages, by microscopical
observation, whatever its beginning was, its
progress would be occasioned by the activity
of these animalculæ, and by their increase
both in numbers and size."
I said formerly, that it was sometimes situated
in the middle of the brain: — when
this is the case, the water is not contained
in any particular bladder of its own, but enclosed
in certain departments amongst the
ventricles of the brain. The whole surface
of the brain, next the skull, is then often
quite unimpaired, though wasted almost to
a shell by its internal consumption. In this
case, the skull does not become soft in any
part, and nothing can be done for them,
save with the wire.
In two instances, when no softness could
be found in any part of the head on dissection,
I found the disease seated in the right
side of the head, a little above the line betwixt
the eye and the ear; and though they
were both without horns, yet, owing to the
thickness of flesh which there prevails, I
had never discovered it, else it might have
been extracted. A hole was wasted in the
skull, about an inch in length, and half an
inch in breadth. A considerable part of the
brain was dissolved to the left of the line,
which the wire must necessarily take from
the nostrils.
Such as die, in consequence of wiring,
are in the greatest agonies, and often groan
most piteously. On dissection, the brain
appears inflamed, and the course of the wire
is easily traced; it appears as if something
as large as a common wheel spindle ha
passed through it. Yea, though the wire
be made quite sharp, when the place is examined
where it perforates the brain, the
aperture made by it is so large as to admit
the top of a small finger. In a few instances,
on being wired, I have seen them
fall down like a creature felled, and expire
in the space of two minutes.
Sometimes there are two or three different
bags in the same skull, all unconnected
with each other. I have seen one below
each horn; in which case it may be felt in
due time, on the upper side of each horn,
where a small semicircle becomes soft. On
reaching a certain degree of ripeness, the
wire will sometimes cure these; but in almost
every case, the trocar seems an excellent
contrivance, and I hope, by and by,
to be able, from experience, to publish its
utility to my countrymen.
THERE is another distemper, which is most
severe upon young sheep, but it is confined
mostly to some districts in the west of Scotland,
where the land is very coarse. It is
distinguished in different shires, by the
three following names, Pining, Daising, and
Vinkish. This distemper, though it somewhat
resembles the rot, is the very reverse,
and acts upon principles directly opposite:
for as the rot is the consequence of too
sudden a fall in condition on soft grassy
grounds, this is occasioned by a too sudden
rise in condition on coarse heathery soils
In the rot, the blood grows too thin, and
though the animal continues to feed most
greedily, it pines daily away to a mere skeleton.
In this the blood grows too thick;
and though the sheep affected by it likewise
continue to feed greedily, they continue
as fast to pine away and decay. It
fixes always on the best of the flock, but removing
them to fine land, especially such
as hath been recently limed, cures them immediately;
and they never fail, in future,
to become excellent sheep, and remarkably
healthy. As I said this being commonly
occasioned by a sudden advancement in
condition on coarse, heathery, and mossy
soils, (for the deer-hair and heather, when
young, fatten sheep amazingly fast), so the
finer breeds of sheep are not nearly so apt
to take it as the black-faced Scottish breed.
This has of late been sufficiently proved on
some farms in Galloway, where this disease
prevailed to such a degree in the Autumnal
months, that, if the farmers had not been
possessed of some finer and more dry pastures,
the Vinkish, as it is there called,
would, in all probability, have exterminated
the stock. But on the same farms having
been taken by farmers from the east country,
and stocked with the Cheviot breed,
scarcely a single instance of it hath occurred.
In that country, most farmers, who
have extensive muirs, or mossy farms, think
themselves obliged to have a low grassy
farm, cost what it will; and without a prospect
of this, they will not take a farm of
the former description. They are commonly
necessitated to change the pasture every
week, in July, August, and September.
THIS is is another ailment that fixes generally
upon hoggs, or year-olds; and is commonly
denominated the Rush. It is occasioned
by a sudden flush of grass in April, or early
in May, but is not attended with the least
danger, unless they have been let very low
of condition, so that their constitution cannot
bear this sudden change; in which case
it sometimes sickens, and cuts them off. If
they weather out three days, and are in any
condition of body, they mend faster than
they which had nothing of it, the inwards
being purified by it; and if they are seen
to be in a weakly state, and are taken into
a house and fed with sweet milk, corn, and
meal, for a week or two, it will save them.
But the best way to prevent any bad effect
resulting from it, is, to keep them as well
up in condition as possible. It commonly
ceases in June, and though stragglers of
flock will take it at any season, at no other
season is it attended with danger, saving
that of debilitating the animal somewhat.
On sundry farms of the very best soils, there
are many individuals of the flock subject to
it all their lives, and never turn good sheep.
Though this may, with propriety enough
be likewise called a dysentery, yet it must
be considered as distinct from the Break
shuach, to which it hath no other resemblance,
save that they are both attended
with a purging. This is very different in its
effects and continuance on different farms
and the sole cause of it may be considered
as originating in a debilitated frame, and
soft feeding afterwards.
The skin is so thin, that the roots of the
wool appear on the inside, and so tender,
that it is almost impossible to take it off
without tearing it. The flesh is white and
lean, and the bowels of a pale gray colour,
and so tender that they can scarcely bear
touching. There is very little else in the
stomach and intestines, save air. The internal
coats are abraided from the intestines,
and from the third and fourth apartments
of the stomach. No fat is left on the
bowels, nor indeed on any other part of the
body; or such as is left, is converted into a
tough pale substance, and has quite lost its
How to distinguish this from Breakshuagh.
1. This chiefly attacks hoggs, and lean two--
year-olds; the Breakshuach those that are
2. This occurs in the spring and ceases in
June, when the other only commences.
3. In this the appetite is sharpened, in
the other quite gone.
4. This is never fatal, unless the animal
has been previously much debilitated; the
other is generally so.
5. This is not contagious, the other is
highly so.
6. In this the fæces are loose, but natural;
in the other they are mixed with blood
and slime, and extremely fetid.
7. This only puts a temporary stop to the
animal's thriving, the other wastes it rapidly.

THIS is the next disease that falls to be
mentioned, because it preys upon young
and old, and middle aged. It is denominated
the Thorter, or rather Thwarter-ill, the
Trembling, and the Leaping-ill. By these
three different appellations, shepherds mean
to convey the idea of one and the same distemper,
though there is every reason to suppose
that they have originally been distinct
names for three different diseases, which,
having all some resemblance in their causes
and effects, and attacking their flocks all
about the same season of the year, they
were often unable to distinguish which was
which, and by an easy transposition, converted
them all into one. However this
may have been, nothing is more certain,
than that, under this triple name, are confounded
all the diseases which, on a dry
soil, proceed from a debilitated state of
body and barren seasons. Under this triple
name, I have seen them suffering by diseases
which, at least, had much resemblance to
the following:— Rheumatism, ague, palsy,
and apoplexy; and even when an old sheep
falls down, and dies of weakness and debility,
the manner of their death differing
somewhat from that of hoggs, it was frequently
ascribed by shepherds to the Trembling,
or Thwarter-ill.
It is needless to expatiate at great length
on these ailments, they being happily, by
the recent attention paid to sheep, nearly
extirpated; but, no more than twenty years
ago, their ravages continued to be so considerable,
that farmers even then believed
the disease, as they called them all, very
infectious: and a stock that were infected
by it, to be fully as unsafe to buy as a rotten
one. This bred the utmost confusion
amongst our sales of sheep; and it became
a maxim, that it was even very dangerous
to stock a land that faced to the north from
one fronting the south, and per contra. —
They were also careful to buy none from a
farm where it prevailed at the time; and
the rot spreading far and wide, sheep were,
before the close of the American war, almost
gone to nothing.
But it is now perfectly evident, that, if
sheep are kept in good condition, and gently
used, these diseases, as well as several
others, shall he known only by their names.
It still exists on some straggling dry farms,
where the ground is visibly overstocked, and
there only on dry, frosty seasons, when the
spring is hard and severe. On such places,
if March and April are barren, no succulent
food, nor almost even any green thing,
is to be attained by the poor creatures for
a long space of time. It is easy, then, to
conceive the emaciated state into which
this must throw them; especially when
many of them are either heavy with young,
or giving suck. If at this time they happen
to get an overstretch in running or
leaping, or even a hasty start or crush in the
fold; numbers fall a prey to this disorder,
or rather to these various disorders. Some
will fall down, and die in two or three minutes;
others will lose power of one side,
and lie sprawling until they die of hunger;
others again will lie shivering, and very sick
at times, until death also comes to their relief;
and some will go a long time quite
lame, sometimes carrying one limb, and
sometimes another, till they are likewise
quite exhausted. In the first case, when
they fall down, and threaten instantly to
expire, which is certainly an apoplectic
shock, I have seen bleeding, by cutting a
piece from the tail, or opening a vein or
the inside of the fore thigh, give immediate
relief. In all the other cases, the best method
is, to take them home, and feed them
with strengthening food until their exhausted
body gradually recover: if once, by this
strong feeding, they are attacked by a temporary
diarrhœa, they will recover very fast,
and by degrees regain their pristine vigour.
I remember, when I was a boy, of serving
with a shepherd named Ebenezar Stuart,
whose wife cured every creature that was
attacked by this disorder during the summer
and autumn. She went into the meadows,
and gathered an equal quantity of
two herbs, which she called the dew-cup,
and the merry-leaf, of which, though I do
not know the botanical names, yet they are
easily distinguished. The first grows upon
bettle spots, is of a deep green, has many
points, the middlemost of which is the longest,
the rest growing gradually shorter, until
they close on the opposite side; the dew,
which does not wet it, stands in its bottom
like a ball of chrystal. The other, called
by some country people, the healing-leaf,
grows on wet meadows; is long and slender,
green on the upper side, and red on the
back. Of these, she took a quantity proportioned
to the bulk and strength of the
animal to which it was to be administered,
boiled them among butter milk, then strained
them, and poured the juice down the patients'
throat; and, I never knew her medecine
to fail in one instance of restoring
them; but it was only one particular species
of the distemper which raged there
about; namely, that which had some resemblance
to the rheumatisms, with aguish
fits. She cured a bull, a colt, and many
sheep, to Mr Cunninghame of Hyndhope
and a stirk to Mr Scott of Gilmanscleuch
during the time that I was there.
I never had occasion to try the powers
of this medicine, save once, upon a hogg
or sheep, about eight months old, which
dwindled on for several months, and at last
recovered, and is alive at this day; but I
believe dame Nature had as great a hand
in it as my leaves.
This distemper is peculiar to dry soils
and prevails on dry barren springs, when
the wind settles in the east. If the sheep
are in good condition, they are not nearly
so apt to take it; but if they are either low
of body, or the wind have a tendency to
centre easterly, the greatest care must be taken
to use the flocks gently; and it is highly
commendable to decline udder-locking
them altogether, as the fatigue which they
thereby undergo, is often attended with the
most fatal consequences. I saw an instance
of this very lately, though the owners refused
to admit of the usage they received at
the udderlocking being the sole cause. There
were no fewer than one-twentieth ewe of the
whole large parcel died the succeeding week,
and many of the others lambed dead lambs,
at no small danger of their own lives.
Having mentioned this circumstance, I
cannot help observing here, that I look upon
this custom of udderlocking, so generally
persevered in throughout Scotland, as an
unnecessary, a painful, a dangerous, and a
hurtful operation. As an instance of the truth
of this assertion, I refer to every years experience
and observation; for though the
ewes undergo it long before their time of
lambing commences, they never fail then to
begin lambing, though the lambs are not arrived
at maturity. I cannot see what purpose
it serves, but to hurt the ewes, and
kill many of the lambs in their bellies. Nature
has left a sufficient space bare to enable
the young lamb to find the dug, and
the uncovering of more, serves only to chill
them in the most tender parts; for, though
I have been engaged amongst them all my
life, I never saw one lamb die for lack of
its dam being udderlocked, nay, let her be
as young or as rough as she will; nor did I
ever meet with the man who could ave
that he had seen any. Whether the Cheviot
lambs are easier killed this way, or, if owing
to the shape of their dams they are more exposed,
I cannot tell, but far less hurt will
make that breed lamb dead lambs, than the
forest breed.
THIS terrible malady is occasioned solely
by overheating sheep, and is the most infectious
of all the disorders to which they
are subjected; for, when once by misguidement
it is introduced amongst a flock, it
spreads like a pestilence, nor is one individual
of them safe that but smells on the
infected animal. Indeed, it is kindly ordered
by the author of nature, that these poor
creatures, as soon as they feel infected, immediately
seclude themselves from all society
with the rest of the flock, shunning
them as carefully as they do the human
race, else its ravages might lay whole districts
Besides that there is no disease so infectious
as this, neither is there any other which
wastes their body with such rapidity; for
though the sheep be fat and strong, when
infected, in two or three days it is reduced
to a mere skeleton, it being almost unaccountable
what becomes of its flesh in so
short a time.
If they are overheated by running, or
folding, or being pressed too closely in a
fold on a warm day, at a season of the year
when they are mending fast in condition,
they are in the utmost danger of taking it;
for a burning heat being raised in the blood
and bowels, they are apt to drink greedily
of cold water, while the pores of the body
are all open, and the fat in a half melted
state. This immediately brings on the disease;
the animal is seized with a dysentery,
or rather a bloody flux. The excrement
becomes quite liquid, of a greenish colour
and at times mixed with blood, and emits a
strong fetid smell. This, as well as its languid
appearance, will soon betray to the
shepherd its unsound state; he will observe
it wasting away like snow from the wall,
with its head hanging down, and its sides
fallen in, courting solitude with the greatest
anxiety; searching after, and drinking
water with avidity, while every draught
serves only to encrease the malevolence of
the distemper.
If the shepherd have no means of confining
them from ranging at large on the hills,
it is requisite that he take them home, and
smear them with tar, to which he may add
a little turpentine, which prevents the rest
from being so readily affected by the smell.
But, if possible, they should be taken and
confined in a place where there is no water.
If they reach the fourteenth, or even
the tenth day, they will probably recover,
though wasted to a mere vision, after which
they seldom fail of turning excellent sheep.
If they are taken early, a little of any thing
that will physic them is beneficial, but if
the disease has reached a height, they are
not able to bear it. The utmost care should
be taken in the months of August and September
that sheep are not over-heated, else
it may not only raise the Breakshuach, as
the immediate consequence, but sow the
seeds of one more destructive and harder to
be erased, as that will be hereafter shown.
There is no method of discovering the
Breakshuach until once they become infected;
then woe to the man amongst whose
flocks it makes its appearance, especially if
it be on a soft grassy farm. On a very firm
walk, where the sheep are hardy, although
bad treatment should bring it on a good
many individuals, it is not nearly so infectious
as amongst a flock that are fed with
soft grass, and large bellied; among such it
is epidemical in the highest degree. If it
were not from this circumstance, it might
be considered, in all other respects, as analogous
to the dysentery in men, as it seems
to arise from similar causes, is attended
with similar symptoms, and often yields to
similar remedies.
Such as are infected are easily discerned,
for they immediately seclude themselves
from the rest of the flock; and, during the
months of August and September, the shepherd
ought to keep a sharp look-out for
them, especially if there have been much
handling or sorting amongst his hirsel; and
if he see any lying or sauntering by themselves,
he must inspect them narrowly. If
they have the Breakshuach, they will have
a sickly and a languishing look, the ears
drooping, and the eyes heavy and red; the
belly clung, and the wool closs and pale
coloured. The infected animal neither eats
nor chews the cud, but hath an unquenchable
thirst. A frequent rumbling noise is
heard in its bowels, Its excrement is thin,
and either of a yellow or green colour, commonly
mixed with blood, and of a slimy substance;
as the disease advances, it voids it
with increasing pain, and the smell of the
whole body becomes fetid and nauseous.
There is another species of it, called the
Dumb Breakshuach, in which they languish
and pine in the same rapid manner, but it
is only attended with a very small degree of
flux, and is neither so fatal nor so epidemical
as the other. Such as recover of either,
generally lose their wool.
The best method to cure the Breakshuach,
if taken in time, is to administer physic until
they purge freely, and I would recommend
either rhuburb or glauber salts as the
safest and easiest purgative. Bleeding, in
an early stage of the distemper, is certainly
beneficial; and if medical men could contrive
any drugs that would induce perspiration,
it could scarcely fail of some good
effects. Men, the most knowing, are scared
from trying the effects of medicine on their
own species, for obvious and prudent reasons;
but what an extensive field is open
for trying them upon the diseased of the
flocks and herds? Perhaps simples might
be discovered that would counteract the
most virulent of the distempers and accidents
to which they are liable. When the
physic hath purged them, or when they are
far advanced in the disease before they are
brought home, aliment of an astringent
quality only should be given to them. The
most successful which I have seen used, is
eggs and sweet milk, mixed with the bark
of the alder-tree, ground to a powder.
These may be mentioned in a few words,
it being perfectly well ascertained, that
overheating the animals is the sole cause
of it. Therefore the shepherd should take
the utmost heed not to gather his ewes unnecessarily,
or in any way to heat them in
warm sultry weather.
There are, indeed, sundry sortings amongst
the sheep, that must be carried through at
certain periods, be the weather as it will;
but when these happen on warm weather,
let a very few only be put into the fold at
once, and used in the gentlest manner possible.

And here I must give my most ardent
vote for the abolition of that greedy and
most pernicious custom of milking the
ewes, which is the ground-work of more
evils to the poor creatures than any tongue
can tell. Is it not enough that they have
struggled with a debilitated frame and scanty
meals, against all the cold showers and
biting blasts of our mountains, to bring us
up a stock of lambs, that they must be thus
wasted perhaps to gratify a senseless female?
In the first place, they are, early in summer
gathered and crowded into folds, that the
males of their young may be gelded. A shot
time after that, they are gathered, folded
and plunged through and though a pool to
wash their fleeces. As soon as they dry, they
are gathered and folded again, that they
may be shorn; and, two or three times after
that, they are used in the same manner,
for the purpose of weaning the differing sets
of lambs. And is not all this enough? that
they must be wedged into a foul bught,
evening and morning, and drained of their
milk as long as the farmer's wife shall think
fit. I am a sworn enemy to every practice
which tends to waste the bodies of the
sheep; and I would rather there were never
another ounce of ewe-milk cheese nor butter
in Britain, than that the poor animals
should be so abused to procure it. Of all
practices this is the most pernicious which
prevails to the present day. It causes great
numbers of them to turn blind; raiseth the
foot-rot and leg-ill, and very frequently the
fatal murrain of which we have been treating;
and as it tends so much to debilitate
the body, the rot, in some seasons, also ensues.

It is likewise exceedingly detrimental to
the wool, making it much more thin, coarse,
and light; and I will venture to assert, that,
when the farmer has paid the ewe-milkers
their wages, he loses as much in the article
of wool alone, as he gains by his cheese.
This is the only other disease that is in any
degree infectious, and though only known
by its name through a great part of Scotland,
is, nevertheless, very troublesome amongst
the fine-wooled flocks in low-lying
grounds, if not timeously prevented by salving.
It sometimes, likewise, finds its way
into flocks of short sheep, either by infection,
or making them lie too close together,
during the night, in the warm summer
months. And even in the most distant
Highlands and Hebrides, it has of late years
made considerable depredations; but as it
is easily discovered, care must be taken to
check its progress at first outsetting, by salving
or smearing, either those infected or
the whole flock, which is the most sure way.
The infected sheep become restless, and
manifest great impatience. Instead of feeding
quietly, they tear off the wool with their
teeth, and go in search of stones and banks,
against which they may rub themselves.
The skin, when narrowly inspected, has a
red, fretted appearance, and emits a peculiar
ichor, which hardens into a scurf. The
wool becomes foul, and falls off prematurely.
The animal ceases to grow, or loses
flesh, and pines away; and if not cured by
salving, invariably sinks under the continual
irritation and poverty occasioned by
It is highly contagious; and when once
introduced into a flock, lessens its value
more than one half, by quickly infecting
the whole. No man will buy of that stock
for keeping, and the farmer would be found
liable for damages, were he to sell any of
those infected for sound sheep: while the
distemper very seldom takes them when in
a proper condition for the knife.
It seems not to spread among the flock
so much by direct contact, as by means of
the rubbing places; for, in many instances,
when the whole stock of a farm hath been
dispersed and exterminated because of it,
the stock which was afterwards laid upon
the ground, became instantly affected; probably
in consequence of infectious matter,
or animalculæ, still having adhered to the
stones and banks. The fine-wooled old
rams are of all sheep most liable to it; and
if the hoggs of the Cheviot, or Leicester
breeds, are not carefully smeared in season,
it is apt to break out amongst them. It is
seldom ever generated among short sheep
that have been smeared; but smearing does
not prevent infection.
A few sheep in any flock will, at times,
appear having a hard scurf on their backs,
occasioned by a heat, or sonic distemper;
but this being neither dangerous nor infectious,
it is sufficient to anoint it well with
the common mixture of tar and butter.
But even the most virulent scab is not at
all an incurable distemper; and there are
sundry very common ointments which have
been attended with good effects in removing
it, when constantly and carefully applied;
such are, tobacco juice, oil of turpentine,
and a mixture of train oil and brimstone.
But the most effectual cure is that which
can now be got in any apothecary's shop,
known by the name of sheep ointment. It is
a strong mercurial composition; and the
most safe way is, for the apothecary to put
it up in small balls, each of which he may
deem sufficient, and safe to be rubbed upon
a sheep at once; for as different hands
may make it of different strength, the most
experienced applier can hardly be a competent
judge how much is sufficient for
each animal without some such precaution.
Let the shepherd, then, take one of these
balls at a time; and mix it with three gills,
or a mutchkin, of train oil, and if the animal
be thoroughly infected, put the whole
of this upon it, as close to the skin as possible;
but if it is only scabbed, or itching
on some parts of its body, perhaps each
of these mixtures may serve two. If the
infected parts are mostly on the back, or
upper parts of its body, the shepherd must
make a shed, or opening of the wool, exactly
on the very ridge of the back, from the
crown to the tail; let him shed it clean to
the skin, and keep it open with both hands,
while another pours in the ointment from
a common tea-pot. He must not keep the
wool too close down with his hands, else it
will cause the ointment to drip upon it. In
this case, a few sheds, or openings, will do;
but if it is scabbed about the belly and
throat, it must be shed very thick, and the
ointment rubbed on the skin with the fingers,
as it cannot then spread in the skin by
running. Let it always be done on dry weather;
and it is a safe and certain remedy,
though perhaps the scab may again appear
on the offspring of this flock.
THIS attacks sheep of all descriptions, but
is always worst upon hoggs, and such as are
unhealthy. It is of a flat make, brownish
colour, and has three legs on each side of
its head. When great numbers of them are
upon one sheep, they cause them to itch,
and pull the wool off with their teeth. Such
prodigious numbers of them are sometimes
upon an unthriving sheep, that shepherds
have supposed them to be the cause of their
leanness; but whether this is the case, or if
the leanness produceth them, is hard to
say: I rather suppose the latter to be the
truth, for the healthiest hoggs have always
a share of them before being smeared. They
breed mostly about the throat, or under
part of the neck, where their eggs are often
to be seen in great numbers; and great
care should be taken to smear the hoggs
particularly well about these places; for if
any of them are left there, the animal is in
great danger of being bridled. This is occasioned
by the animal's bending its neck
extremely to claw its throat with its teeth;
on which occasions the teeth often fasten in
the wool, so that it cannot disengage them,
and it soon loses the power of its neck. I
have known several die this way, and many
more, who, if they had not been relieved,
must necessarily have perished. Very few
of them breed upon old sheep that are in
good condition; and though most of the
Highland farmers suffer their ewes and wedders
to remain unsmeared, a very small proportion
of them ever suffer so much from
keds as to make them pull their wool. But
a few unsmeared sheep, left among a flock
of smeared ones, seldom fail to suffer from
them, for multitudes of the keds, which
escape from the others, on the layers, fasten
upon them.
They seldom or never prove fatal to the
animal, or else the utmost neglect must attend
it; for all the various salves, that are
used for sheep, prove fatal to the keds; but
if any white, or unsmeared spot, is carelessly
left, they soon find it out, and nest upon
it. It seems to have been for the destruction
of this insect that smearing was first invented,
which hath since been found to answer
other good purposes.
These, when full grown, are six times as
large as the keds, but not so general over
the country. This creature, before it is
crammed with blood, is likewise of a flat
form; of a brown, or livid colour, with
some light speckles on its back. It has six
legs, and a flat proboscis, with three notches,
like the teeth of a saw, on each side; with
this it insinuates its head within the skin of
the sheep, where it continues to suck blood,
and swells for weeks, and often months, together.
Indeed, when once it is fastened
thus, it seems to be unable to extricate itself,
as it never does come voluntarily off,
until once its legs rot away within; yet,
what is somewhat curious, it engenders its
young while in this state. They may ofttimes
be seen fastened close by the wound,
either on the sheep, or the shoulders of the
dam. On first becoming discernible, they
are as red as purple, which colour they gradually
lose as they increase in bulk. They
are very easily killed for the present; for
tar or turpentine destroys them; and they
only fasten upon such parts of the animal
as have little or no wool upon them; but
on grounds where they prevail, it is but a
very short time until they gather again.
— They are constant attendants upon the
Thwarter-ill; wherever that disease prevails,
the Ticks prevail; and where there is nothing
of the one, there are none of the
These are the most fatal to the sheep of
any vermin, for in warm weather they will
destroy them in a few days, if not noticed
and cleaned away. They commonly engender
about the root of the tail; from whence
they spread rapidly over the body, sometimes
falling in towards the flanks, where
they nestle below the skin, and often eat
themselves into the entrails; and sometimes
they spread up the two sides of the back
bone, consuming skin, and fell, and all, as
they proceed. It has been the opinion of
many experienced shepherds, that they are
generated from the seed, or excrement, of
the large fly, commonly called the flesh fly.
That this will not breed them, I dare not
assert; it having been so long believed, and
there are few old adages that are without
some foundation in truth; but that in many,
nay, in most instances, I am perfectly certain,
that they are bred without any interference
of the fly. I have seen thousands
of them within the skin of a dead sheep,
where it was impossible the fly could penetrate;
and when a carcase lies long without,
and the weather not warm, they frequently
breed first betwixt the flesh and the bone.
I have seen myriads of them formed of the
froth of a sheep's mouth, in less than two
hours after it was dead, when the weather
was very warm. I once saw mutton, fresh
and clean, covered in a pail, so that a midge
could not get at it, and having been forgot,
on examination it was found nearly converted
into maggots: but, if they be at all the
progeny of the fly, sure nature never erred
so widely from her usual plan of making
children, at least of the same species with
their parents. The butterfly, indeed, genders
the caterpillar; but the caterpillar, after its
various changes, turns a butterfly; the common
maggot, however, never turns a fly.
But perhaps the flies breed maggots, and
the maggots flies; if so, they cannot be
said to descend by ordinary generation.
The sheep that are troubled with them, are
easily discerned, though at a distance; they
constantly hold down their heads, shake
their tails, seem quite impatient, and often
run with violence from one place to another;
but, in the last stages, they grow
quite callous and hopeless, and lie close
clapped to the earth until they die. Many
high-lying districts are not troubled with
them; but wherever they are known to
prevail, the flocks should be carefully looked
through every day, when the weather is
sultry or warm; for though on a change of
weather, or a certain alteration in the constitution
of the animal, they sometimes depart
of themselves, yet the sheep are most
apt to be destroyed by them in the most
tormenting and loathsome manner.
That the sheep may be relieved, let the
wool be shorn neatly off, all about the parts
of the body that are infested; it must be
shorn off as far as the skin appears wet, for
so far will the maggots spread, and no farther.
The vermin must then be cleared
away very gently, for fear of hurting the already
ulcerated parts. If any lumps, like
blisters, appear on the skin, they must be
opened, as it is probable there are nests below
them. The sore parts must then be
bathed with soap and urine, and rubbed
with the common mixture of tar and butter.

It has always appeared to me, that they
were occasioned by a certain habit of body
in the sheep, or from their feeding on some
kinds of food, which gives the excrement
and perspiration, a rancid and putrid smell
for they have every one of them the same
loathsome smell; and you can, when near
them, distinguish those that will soon be infested
from this circumstance. On very sultry
weather, they will kill a sheep outright
in a week; and, in three days, will sometime
render them incurable. They do not
always attack such as have a diarrhœa, or
rush. If the foulness about the tail be black,
or dark green, they are in no more danger
than others; but if it be light green, or of a
yellow tint, they are almost sure to breed
on such. I have likewise read, or heard of
a maggot sometimes breeding below the
horn, which caused the utmost giddiness in
the animal; but, as no instance of it hath
ever come under my observation, I can say
nothing of it; but am of opinion, that a
species of the sturdy has been mistaken for,
and given rise to this theory. When the
sturdy is seated below the horn, and suffered
to proceed to the last stages, the skull,
at the root of the horn, wastes away, and
the disease comes in contact with the skin;
in which case, the hair peels from the place,
and maggots breed: and that this may have
been mistaken for a peculiar distemper, is
no improbable suggestion.
THESE have, of late years, been so exceedingly
numerous in this country, that
they have greatly harassed the flocks, and
consequently the shepherds. They are certainly
of many different kinds, and naturalists
might distinguish by the various species
to which each belonged; but as a great
part of them appear to me to differ only in
size, I can say nothing of them, save that
which, in Scotland, is commonly denominated
the cleg. This differs in shape, and
nature, widely from the others; approaching,
when full grown, to dimensions more
like the wasp than common fly. These I
suspect to be often the cause of all the evil
wrought upon the sheep by the others, as
none of them can penetrate the skin save
the clegs; yet, though the wounds which
they make be small, the flies do not fail to
improve them, fastening around them in
knots, and causing them to corrupt and enlarge.

Some gentlemen, with whom I am acquainted
in Nithsdale, were verily afraid
of losing their stock of sheep by them, last--
year, 1806; and they certainly lost a part,
and had the rest much injured. I chanced
to pass through one of these flocks when
they were near the worst, and was not a little
surprised, as well as shocked, to see the
condition they were in. Their heads were
swollen, black, and seemed to be all over a
scab, and the flies were settled on them like
a black cloud. They are most troublesome
and offensive on low-lying, and woody pastures;
but when summers are warm, great
care should be taken, when the sheep are
shorn, to put a little tar upon every wound
made by the scissars, be it ever so small;
and to decline earmarking them during the
warm months, else they are in danger of
being tormented and endangered by the
THE most of the cures which have been
tried, have always been absorbents, to dry
up and clean the ulcerated parts: such as
lime, burnt alum, &c. The farmers in Roxburghshire
and Northumberland derived
much relief, of late years, by an application
of what is there called the sheep powder;
but unfortunately I do not know the ingredients
of which it is composed. I can, however,
recommend a cure from experience,
which I hope the shepherd will find to be
I happened, last summer, to be assisting
at a sorting of a stock of sheep, of the Cheviot
breed, where sundry of their heads
were broken by the flies. The shepherds
brought them out of the fold, with an intention
of smearing the sore parts with tar.
I advised them strongly to anoint them with
coarse whale oil, such as they mix among
the tar, having several times seen sores softened
and healed by it. Some of it being
near at hand, they were persuaded. The
flies were at this time settled upon the fold,
in such numbers, that when we went in
amongst the sheep, we could with difficulty
see each other; but when those anointed
with the oil were turned in amongst the
rest, to our utter astonishment, in less than
a minute, not a fly was to be seen. I was
likewise informed, that a few days afterward,
the very same happened at the farm of Kinnelhead,
before many witnesses. Those that
were rubbed with the oil grew better instantly.
Now, as wool that is anointed
by this oil never loses its savour, till scoured,
may it not be reasonably supposed, that
if a flock of sheep, when in the fold, were
sprinkled with whale oil, it would keep the
flies from troubling them the rest of the
THIS disease, radically considered, seems
to be peculiar to some flocks only that feed
on some of the highest mountains of Scotland.
I have known many stragglers die
with swelled heads, which, when opened,
were all gorged with blood and stiff blue
matter; but these appeared to have been
venomed, or stung by adders, as the same
infection, having the same appearance in
every respect, sometimes takes place on
other parts of the body that are bare of
wool, such as the udder or fore-leg. On
one farm of the March estate, there were
sixteen ewes died all a few days after they
were smeared, of, what the shepherds were
pleased to call, the head-ill. This was sundry
years ago; and I saw some of them dissected,
and am convinced it originated either
in the animals being hurt, or from some
venomous reptile, which had haunted the
smearing-house; for they did not die all on
one week, but every one of them at nearly
an equal space of time from the time of their
being smeared. The veins of the head were
very turgid and bloody; but no inflammation,
or red points, were discernible in the
But, on some of the Kells-hills, in Galloway;
on some of the most easterly of the
Grampian Mountains; and in the forest of
Skye, — such of the sheep as frequent the
bare tops of the hills, are really subject to a
disease of this kind, wherein the head swells
and bursts. In Galloway they term it the
great head; and the Gaelic name for it signifies
the same thing. They will sometimes
grow better, even although a good part of
the scalp come off; but it most generally
proves fatal. I was informed by William
Hastings, an old shepherd who herded many
years on Cairnsmuir of Carsfairn, the
highest hill of all the south-west of Scotland,
that they were obliged to keep them care.
fully from the top of that mountain, and to
gather them as carefully from it every night;
for if they got liberty to settle upon it three
nights at one time, numbers of them would,
instantly appear affected with the great head.
If they were suffered to remain where they
were, they died in a short time; but if timeously
removed they recovered. Though an
intelligent man, it was his opinion, that the
ground was too elevated for any animal to
live upon it; the contrary of which can be
well attested: nor did I ever hear of such a
distemper attacking the sheep on Ben-Nevis,
in Lochaber, which is the highest mountain
in Britain, nor yet on Ben-Lawers, in
Breadalbain, which, I suppose, is next to it
in height.
But on the mountains around Cairn-Gorm
and Lochavin, its attacks are so visible on
those sheep that feed on the tops of the
hills, that the natives, in their usual superstitious
way, ascribe it to a præternatural,
and very singular cause. They say, that a
most deformed little monster inhabits the
very tops of these mountains, whom they
call Phaam: that it is very seldom seen;
but whenever it is seen, it is early on the
morning, immediately after the break of
day; that his head is larger than his whole
body; that his intents are evil and dangerous;
that he is no earthly creature; and if
any living man, or animal, come near the
place where he has been, before the sun
shine upon it, the head of that man, or animal,
will immediately swell, and bring on
its death in great pain; and that his baneful
influences are often very severely felt
amongst their flocks.
The only probable way of accounting for
this, is to suppose it occasioned by some
poisonous herbage that grows on these
heights; for surely no reptile can cause
them for their residence; and the most common
herbs on such places, are, a thin, point
ed grass, very sweet and nutritious; and the
well-known, hardy herb, that spreads close
to the ground, in long tufted branches, and
is called by the country people the fox foot.
This, we suppose, they never eat, unless
when very hungry.
WITH this certain parcels of sheep are
greatly harassed, but none die of it, saving
such as are drowned, or break their necks,
which frequently enough happens. It is
occasioned by a continual fatigue for a
length of time, which will bring it on at any
season of the year. Thus sheep, that are
long and hard driven to distant markets, or
such as are daily dogged from one part of
the ground to another; ewes that are wild,
and roughly used by the women during the
time they are milked, and hoggs which are
fatigued by driving through snow to procure
them subsistence, are all very subject
to it. Their eyes at first become sore, and
emit a sort of ropy humour, after which
a white film settles over them; and, if they
continue to be fatigued, it grows thicker,
and the eye appears perfectly white; in
which case, they are proportionally longer
of mending. For this, some bleed them below
the eyes, and let some of the blood run
into each of them; but the enjoyment of
ease will infallibly cure them in a space of
time proportioned to the fatigue which they
underwent before. Some shepherds ascribe
it to the dust which arises from the heather
blooms; or the seeds of the mountain
grasses being blown by the wind into their
eyes; but I never saw, nor heard of it, prevailing
among a flock that were lying at
their ease. It is very wonderful, that though
a number of individuals of a flock often go
quite blind for months together, very few of
them will stray from their own walk. Nay
unless when they lose themselves during the
first three days, they are as sure to be found
at home as any of the parcel. Their necessity
teaches them a wonderful sagacity, in
following to the rest of the flock by the
scent; and a friend generally attaches itself
to the sufferer, waiting on it with the most
tender assiduity, and by its bleating calls
it back from danger, and from going astray.
It is highly commendable to put them into
some inclosure, to keep them from accidents;
hut the shepherd should never attempt
to drive them, unless in company
with others, else, if there be a precipice,
lake, or danger nigh, they are almost sure
to run headlong into it, and destroy themselves.
Such as are seized with this natural
blindness, that is, such whose eyes
are not injured by crows, or other accidences,
always grow better of themselves.
OF these much might be written, as numbers
of sheep are thereby lost; but I must
be as short with such things as is consistent
with perspicuity, having been obliged, by
insisting on more material matters, to swell
this essay to a size which I did not at first
intend. This is the most common and dangerous
of accidents, and is most apt to happen
when it grows warm after a shower, any
time from the beginning of May until the
sheep are fleeced; the above raising an itching
in their backs, they lie down, and turn
themselves over to claw themselves; and
when it happens to be in a level, or in a
hollow place, owing to the bulk of their
fleeces, they cannot get up again, but soon
swell and die if not noticed and lifted by
the shepherd. The flesh of such as die
thus, hath more resemblance to the braxy
in taste, colour, and smell, than any other.
Lambs that die of gelding are worse than
either in these particulars.
This is occasioned solely by the shepherd's
not having his flocks gathered to proper
shelter in rough and precarious weather.
Old ewes, or wedders, are not so precarious
as hoggs and year-olds; for though the temperature
of the atmosphere hath no greater
action upon the bodies of the former, yet
they know better from experience what such
impressions mean, and gather of themselves
into the low grounds from the danger. Yet
as any of them may be taken at unawares, a
simple barometer is no great cost, and there
should be no shepherd's house without one
of them, for they are really, when rightly
understood, the best tokens to judge of the
weather that we have; and, besides, the
studying the effect of the different airths of
the wind upon them, is a most pleasant
The shepherd may observe, that if the
wind has blown sharply all day from any of
the snowy points, there is no great danger
from the night ensuing; but if it be calm,
and the hills involved in clouds of rime,
and every long pile of bent augmented by
the clinging hoar frost into the shape of a
razor, or candle, let him then be upon his
guard, and assemble his flocks into places
of safety. Where these places are, experience
and observation only can teach him;
hut let him never leave them, where any
ravine, gulf, or precipice, intervenes immediately
betwixt them and the south.
The farmer must likewise be attentive on
his part, to provide artificial shelters on such
parts of the ground as the sheep must often
feed, and where natural ones are wanting;
for I hold it an invariable rule, that the preservation
and nourishment of the bodies of
his animals must always be his first care, and
other improvements will follow in course.
The best shelters that can be raised are
clumps of Scottish firs, which, when grown
up, keep the flocks safe and warm, though
the tempest be ever so fierce; and if the
shepherd have his hirsel assembled about
one of these, he may sleep securely:
"The storm without may roar an' rustle,
He disna mind the storm a whistle."
It would greatly enhance, as well as beautify,
most sheep farms, were proprietors careful
to plant but one acre out of every thousand
which they possess; the expences attending
which are so trifling, compared with
the advantages derived from them, that they
are not worth mentioning: Indeed, since the
introduction of the Cheviot breed becomes
every year more and more general, the necessity
of plantings increase in proportion;
as nothing is so convenient for the lambing
season; and great have been the advantages
derived by the Duke of Buccleuch's tenants
from those which he planted on his estates.
But it being a considerable number of
years before the sheep can, with safety to
the trees, be turned within the plantings;
and as they are no better to the tenant, during
the first lease, than they would be without
the trees, or not so good, so he is commonly
more careful to stipulate for some
fences raised of stone, which are likewise
exceedingly useful. The best form in which
he can make these, is that of a complete
circle, or octagon, (the latter not being so
apt to rush,) with a door in it, at which the
sheep may go in and out. This door should
always he made to face that place near by
where there is good natural shelter, from
that particular point to which the door
looks, for there is no mountain pasture that
is not sheltered from some airth, and this
will render the round, and its vicinity, secure
from all quarters. There is no kind
of stell, as they are called, so safe as this;
sheep are never smoored in them, for the
wind whirls the drift around them, and accumulates
it in large pointed wreaths on
the opposite side. If a judicious choice is
made of the situation of such stells, they
will be found of the utmost importance, for
the sheep, if once acquainted with them,
will come running to them in a cold night
from every direction; and they are likewise
very convenient for confining diseased
sheep, or securing a parcel during the night
at throng seasons.
Whole flocks are sometimes smoored by
huge wreaths of snow shooting from the
hills upon them, but the danger, in this case,
is easily foreseen, and it is the utmost neglect
to suffer them thus to be overwhelmed.

I SHALL now endeavour to describe that
other mortal ravager, the Rot; whose person,
appearances, haunts, and lineage, I
shall so minutely scrutinize, that he shall,
without fail, be apprehended and banished
the country, or forced to fly into a voluntary
exile. It is a curious circumstance, that, of
all other diseases of sheep, the greatest variety
of opinions prevail with respect to
the real cause of this; and, amongst such a
number, it may reasonably be suspected
that it is very difficult to alight upon the
right one; but I have stuck to a theory, laid
down by a few of the most sensible men on
the Duke of Buccleuch's estates, who have
had abundance of experience that way, and
which seems to account at once for all the
different opinions. Yea, I hope to make it
appear, that all the various causes assigned
for the Rot, only serve more fully to prove
this the real and ultimate one. But, not to
keep the reader in suspense, I hold it as an
incontrovertible fact, that a sudden fall in
condition is the sole cause of the rot.
Now, one tells me, that the rot is occasioned
by the animal living on too soft and
tothy food; such as grows in wells and awald
lands, or such as are sandy, and have been
fleeted with water. In one case, this may
lead to the cause of it; for the flesh that the
animal acquires by this soft feeding not being
nearly so firm and permanent as that
acquired by more astringent herbage, consequently
such sheep as feed on the former,
are much more easily subjected to a swiftdecay
on the occurrence of any strait; and
this likewise accounts for the circumstance
of the rot being most peculiar to soft and
grassy soils. But the truth is, that such
lands, instead of being farther the immediate
cause of the rot, it is the disease which
induces the sheep to settle upon these. "It
is no wonder," says a correspondent of mine
"that many people apprehend such food to
be instrumental in raising the rot; for no
sooner is their constitution broke by it, than
their palate becomes so vitiated, that the
delight in nothing else than such garbage;
grows about middens, kail-yard dikes, and
water-fleeted meadows, and this long before
their bad state of health is discernible by
great number of people."
Again, another tells me, that a course of
changeable weather, from one extreme to
another, raises the rot among sheep, and repeat
the old proverb, "Many a frost, mars
a thow, soon makes many a rotten ewe."
This is very true; for there is nothing in the
world contributes more to waste sheep than
a course of such weather; nor is there any
thing more difficult to guard against.
Another tells me, that soft weather, and
a late growth of grass in Autumn, occasions
it. Now, as this is the most tender and soft
of all grasses, the observation I made formerly
is again applicable here, that the fat
acquired by such feeding is easily exhausted:
but this is not all; it is well known
that a late growth of grass, occasioned by
soft weather on the hinder part of the harvest,
is ever succeeded by sharp and severe
frosts, which wastes this newly acquired
substance with such rapidity, as to gender
the seeds of the distemper, so that my thesis
still holds good. Others tell me, that
there are two kinds of the rot; the black
rot, and the hunger rot; the one occasioned
by foul food, and the other by getting
much too little food of any kind. But Mr
Laidlaw of Cassock, Mr Borthwick of Sorbie,
and Mr Grieve of Craik, all able and
extensive farmers, firmly assert, and prove
many instances, that if you give sheep
always plenty of food, and good shelter,
they will never rot, or, at least, it never will
prove destructive; which is so near being
according to my opinion, that it is in effect
the very same. Some men, however, of
late, have ascribed it to a cause so widely
different from all these, that I think it incumbent
on me to lay their reasoning before
my countrymen in their own words;
for though I am perfectly convinced, that
the cause which I have here assigned is the
sole one which brings on the rot among our
Scottish mountains, yet other causes may
induce the same disease in other countries
of this realm, or a disease so similar, as to
be mistaken for the same.
Mr Benjamin Price, a very sensible and
judicious reasoner, after combating the theory,
that moisture is the occasion of it, proceeds
thus:— "The numerous inhabitants of the
earth, and sea, and air, are strongly influenced
by the seasons, and the state of the
atmosphere; and the same causes, perhaps,
that rapidly call myriads of one species into
being, may frequently prove the destruction
of another. Is it then improbable,
that some insect finds its food, and lays its
eggs on the tender succulent grass, found
on particular soils, which it most delights
in? or, that this insect should, after a redundancy
of moisture, by an instinctive impulse,
quit its dank and dreary habitation,
and its fecundity be greatly increased by
such seasons, in conjunction with the prolific
warmth of the sun? The eggs, deposited
on the tender grass, are conveyed with
the food into the stomach and intestines of
the animals, whence they are received into
the lacteal vessels, carried off in the chyle,
and pass into the blood; nor do they meet
with any obstruction, until they arrive at
the capillary vessels of the liver. Here,
as the blood filtrates through the extreme
branches, answering to those of the vena
porta in the human body, the secerning vessels
are too minute to admit the impregnated
ova, which adhere to the membrane,
and produce those animalculæ that feed
upon the liver, and destroy the sheep. They
much resemble the flat fish called Plaice;
are sometimes as large as a silver twopence,
and are found both on the liver and in the
pipe which conveys the blood from the liver
to the heart."
That the fluke-worms are found on the
livers of all rotten sheep, is a fact, and often
in great numbers; but as there hath never
been any insect discovered on the grass
which bore the least resemblance to them,
I do not see why we must suppose them
taken in with the food, more than that all
the worms which breed in the human body
are imbibed in the same manner. Again,
as there are no animals subject to the rot
but such as chew the cud, it is scarcely
supposable that the eggs of any insect can
escape into the second stomach so unimpaired
as to be capable of being there
hatched; for after the food is fermented in
the first stomach, upon farther mastication
it is so completely bruised, and diluted, as
to be rendered quite liquid. Were it possible
to reconcile these to reason, I should
be much taken with this gentleman's theory
as respecting one particular species of
the rot, namely, that which is so quickly
imbibed in some of the middle counties of
England. The same gentleman above quoted,
says, and I have heard it from others,
that on dry limed ley, or fallow grounds, in
Derbyshire, a flock will rot in one day; and
that on some water-meadows in that neighbourhood,
when the weather is warm, in
half an hour. Facts are stubborn proofs;
but this is without any precedent in Scotland.
But, in short, it appears to me, that
whatever at first produces the fluke worms
on the liver, these are the cause of this particular
species of the disease; for, infesting
the liver in such numbers, the disease is
soon carried from thence to every part of
the body in the tainted blood. Now, as
salt, or sea-marsh, is well known to prevent,
and sometimes to cure the rot, this gentleman
rationally concludes, that as salt is destructive
to all insects, a solution of it given
to sheep, when first attacked by the disease,
for sometime would cleanse their liver, and
quite cure them: of this he mentions some
instances, and, in particular, of a farmer
who cured a whole flock of the rot, by giving
each sheep a handful of salt for five or
six mornings successively. The hint was
probably taken from the Spaniards, who
give their sheep frequently salt to keep
them healthy. At any rate, the experiment
is easy, and worthy of a trial. But, to return:

The first symptoms of this malady among
the flocks should be guarded against with
the utmost care and perseverance, which
are as follows:— When a severe storm of
snow covers the ground, and locks up the
herbage, so that they cannot attain nearly
a sufficient quantity of food for some length
of time; or when the weather is so boisterous
that they cannot stir abroad to shift for
food, or when they receive any bad usage;
if, subsequent to any of these, or indeed
on whatever occasion, a lethargy prevails
among them; if they grow dull, and careless
of feeding, the rot is certain to make
its appearance by and by; if this lethargy
is general, the rot will be also general; if it
prevails only with certain individuals, these
are they which the rot will affect.
Therefore, as this is the only stage in
which it can be checked, the utmost care
should be taken, in the first place, not to
let them suffer so as to bring on this listless
inactivity, and to endeavour removing it
on the very first appearance; which may be
done by making them the proffer of food in
which they delight, and also by a little gentle
fatigue, that their appetite may be again
excited. This languor is the very first symptom
of it that can be seen, and it is always
the consequence of having suffered much
by hunger, fatigue, cold, or wet layers. My
ingenious correspondent, above cited, who
declines being mentioned, supposes, "that
the fat within them then falls a consuming,
from which the body receives a kind of
false sustenance, that is the cause of the
animal's torpidity. This continuing to increase,
until the fat is drained of all its rich
and marrowy juices; the blood is by this
time quite tainted, and not only robbed of
its alkaline salt, but also of its viscuosity,
and power of repelling the watery fluids;
and the constitution, from the circumstances
of one part of the body preying upon another,
receives a shock from which it never
will recover." I must acknowledge, that this
observation of my correspondent's strikes me,
as being most exactly natural and corresponding
with truth; for if a sheep is discovered
to be unsound, and killed, the remaining
fat within them will not melt, even
with the force of fire; and, though taken in
the first stages of the disorder, the blood is
always thin, and destitute of that dark colour
common to the blood of a healthy
The next symptom that is discernible after
this lethargy, is in the shape; the belly
being shrunk, and dinged up for some time;
they then fall to their meat with great voracity,
and as long as their bellies continue
light, they are not quite fallen a prey to
the disorder; for a bite of broom, heather,
or sea marsh, once or twice a day, will, by
sharpening the blood, again recruit the bulk
of them. After this clungness, the belly
falls down, and the flanks fall in, which is a
worse symptom, as is natural to suppose,
the disease being then a stage farther advanced;
they are then so far gone, that
though they may live a long time, and, at
some seasons, have a tolerable appearance,
yet they never will be good sheep. If they
are on a hard heathery soil, and are driven
to this state by hunger or bad usage, they
will recover and turn tolerable, though never
good sheep; but if they are on a soft
soil, and sheep of any condition, they are in
a manner lost; for, what may seem strange,
a very fat sheep is in the greatest danger of
taking it, and irrecoverably lost if it does
take it; and if there happens to he a very
fat eild ewe left on a farm at Martinmas,
that is invariably the first, or amongst the
first, on whom the rot will fasten, on soft
When a shepherd, or farmer, is endeavouring
to discover such as are unsound in,
a fold, let him feel the heck, or small of the
back; and if the ewe be firm there, and the
skin refuse to slide on the flesh, it is a good
sign, and, if she be not too old, is safe to
keep. Leanness on the brisket, or ribs, is
not so bad an omen of the rot; but a lean
back is ever dangerous where the rot prevails,
or is suspected. When he lays his
hand first upon the sheep's back, or ribs, let
him do it very softly, and press it still harder
by degrees; and if he feel a slight crackling,
as if there were small dry bladders betwixt
the skin and flesh, that sheep will invariably
turn out rotten, and is, indeed, so
far gone, that she is past redemption to all
intents and purposes.
Recourse must next be had to the eye,
which is an invariable rule to judge of the
state of the liver, and fountain of life. Let
the corner of the eye, next to the nose, be
turned out with the thumbs pressing gently
upon each side, and if it is streaked with
beautiful red veins, branching to and fro,
the sheep is safe and sound: the redder that
the eye is the better; but as grass-fed sheep's
eyes are never red, if they are free of a watery
gilt, not too thick, and above all streaked
with red veins, there is no fear: But, on
the contrary, if the eye is yellowish, clear
with water, and no red veins branching
through it, the sheep is certainly unsound.
I was once conversing with Mr Adam
Bryden on this subject, and, after having
settled between us, that the eye was the
best mark whereby to judge of a sheep
when in hand, I asked him, how a man
might best judge of them by looking at
them in the fields, where no opportunity
offered of examining the eyes? He answered,
in his usual shrewd and comical style:
"The late Advocate Mackintosh's method
of discerning a good man, is the best in the
world whereby to distinguish a sound sheep;
his maxim was, I never like a man if I
don't like his face,' — so say I of a sheep; for
if once you take a narrow view of them, the
state of their body is so visibly pourtrayed
in every feature, that you can be at no loss
to distinguish them. Their eyes are large
and heavy, with a great bladd of white
above the star; the top of each lug descends
to, at least, a level with the root
thereof, and they have each such a grievous
countenance, that no living creature's can
equal it. In short, I cannot give you a better
idea of it, than supposing a person who
has been weeping for a long time, and is instantaneously
roused into a rage."
As to the poke which they acquire below
their chops, it is certainly a sign of the prevalence
of watery fluids over the vitals at
that present time; but it is not a certain
sign that the animal is lost; for, on the
contrary, a very lean rotten sheep is most
apt to have the poke, and a very lean sheep
is most apt to overcome the rot; and such
sheep as, by mere oppression, are rotten
on hard heathery lands, very generally hare
the poke; yet these will frequently, in a
great measure, get the better of it: and all
ewes that are visibly affected by it, are better
with lambs sucking on them than eild;
for if they are eild, they are attacked by a
lingering dysentery, which gradually brings
them to their end.
The next thing whereby to judge is the
mouth; for if the tongue be red and clean,
it is a good sign: but the teeth must also
be minutely judged; because; if they are
kept an year or two over old, they are apt
to decay before next year's draft-ewes go
away. Now, the age of a sheep is very easily
known by its teeth: for in its second
year it hath two broad teeth in the middle;
when in its third year, it hath four broad
teeth; and, while rising its fourth year, it
bath six broad teeth; next year its teeth are
all cast, and, consequently, are all of those
called broad teeth; and when it is five years
old, and rising six, they grow as narrow at
the top as at the root, while, as before, each
tooth spread at the top. If the sheep is not
a real good one, it should be put off this
year, especially if on a soft ground, and of
the Cheviot breed; for such a large proportion
of the profits of this breed arising from
their wool, it is a great loss, as well as a
risque, to keep them when old; for an old
ewe's fleece is always quite light. An ewe
on a hardy ground will hold a year longer
than such; and the next year, when outgone
six years, the teeth are grown narrower
at the top than the root, and then they
should be kept no longer; for, as they open
at the top, the grass, on pulling, drags betwixt
them, which incommodes them so
much that they cannot thrive. When they
grow old, too, their fore teeth appear each
with a point below; the gums being fallen
down from the middle of them, where there
appears some yellow stuff resembling putty.
All farmers must be attentive to these marks;
for, at any rate, an old ewe is a risk, and to
Since writing the above, I have received
a letter from Mr Bryden of Aberlosk, one
of the Duke of Buccleuch's tenants in Eskdale-muir,
on the subject; which, though
carelessly wrote, as intended only to convey
the ideas to me, and partly anticipated
by the foregoing essay, yet, as I cannot convey
his meaning better than in his own
words, I shall here give a literal transcript
of it, as far as it relates to the rot in sheep:
"Concerning the rot," says he, "of which
you are so anxious to learn every particular,
and why it is peculiar to our soft grassy
lands, I have jumbled together the few suggestions
which follow, for your consideration.

It is a general observation, that whereever
there is a rapid growth, the decay is
proportionally so; and in all places where
growth is slow, decay is slow also: and all
vegetable productions, that have a slow,
gradual growth, and permanent duration,
are productive of similar effects on the animals
that feed principally on them; while,
on the contrary, such animals as feed on
herbs, and grasses that have a rapid advance,
and sudden decay, are so much influenced
by it, that their bodies partake.
much of the nature of their aliment. Of
the truth of this observation, a survey of the
various animals of our own country will
fully convince you; and when you consider
the following theory, this will account for
the circumstance of the rot being peculiar
to soft grassy lands, and also in part for the
prevalence of that nervous disorder, called
the trembling, or thwarter-ill, among sheep
which feed on heath, broom, and other herbage
of astringent qualities and permanent
duration; and it is a fact, that changing of
sheep from one of these walks to the other
will prevent the diseases peculiar to each.
For as for the rot, I maintain that it is
always occasioned by a too quick transition
from fitness to leanness; and though
this discovery may be supposed new, it is,
nevertheless, perfectly correct. There never
were any sheep known to rot while they
continued at good, equal maintenance, unless
otherwise abused; and none ever will
rot kept on pasture which does not feed
them very fat, nor allow them to fall away
below a medium.
Now, this disease can rather be prevented
than cured; for this sudden transition
towards decay, so completely disorders
their whole frame, that to restore it is next
to impossible. The substance of the body.
not having time to be carried off by perspiration,
the blood mixes with water, which
distils from the flesh, when the consumption
commences. This water falls into the
veins, and also into the stomach and bowels,
and below the tongue. Thus the vitals of
the animal are ruined before its body can
pine to leanness in a gradual and natural
way; while, if its food had been diminished.
by degrees, and its fat wasted gradually, it
might have descended to perfect poverty
without any symptoms of the rot being attached
to it.
"It is also evident, that a lean sheep may
be subjectected to all the causes of the rot,
and may also have of its symptoms,
and yet recover; because the substance of
the body being wanting, the decay of which
furnishes materials for the disease to form
upon, consequently the vitals are not so effectually
hurt; and a gradual return from
leanness, frequently carries with it all the
appearances of the disease from such sheep,
and they will feed tolerably fat on good
Mr Bryden then proceeds to answer, at
some length, all the common opinions, or
rather the old opinions, concerning the origin
of this disease; but these being accounted
for in a manner so very similar to
the one followed in the foregoing treatise, I
decline copying them. He also applauds the
scheme of draining sheep pasture, as conducive
to the preservation of their health;
as it both furnishes them with dry layers,
and preserves their food from being frozen
up in winter. He then concludes as follows:

"It is my opinion, then, that this is the
best method yet hit upon of accounting for
the rot; and I think the best, and, indeed,
the only means of preventing it, is to keep
sheep at all tunes at a regular maintenance,
and neither give occasion nor opportunity
for a sudden decay. If this could be effected,
though they could not be preserved
from leanness, they might yet be kept from
rotting. There is, indeed, another cause
which I cannot help viewing as of the most
baneful tendency towards raising it, and
that is, warming sheep, especially when
they are fat. To be then oppressed, or
heated far above the natural heat, may not
only make a pause in their advancement,
but, by raising such a ferment in the blood,
bring on that rapid decay so fatal; and I
always think, that few are aware how prejudicial
such treatment is to sheep; nor is
there a more difficult thing attached to the
shepherd's business, than to manage his
flocks at all times without heating them.
If these observations can be of any use to
you, I shall gain my end, and you are welcome
to make any thing of them that you
As I profess writing only from experience,
and as all the sheep which have come
under my observation have been affected in
the same way to a very superior degree,
though the animals were of different habits
of body; I cannot give satisfactory intelligence
how it may affect the sheep variously
in various districts. From recent information,
however, which I have gained from
England, and some of the low-lying fat pastures
of this country, I am induced to believe,
that it must be of two kinds, of which.
the circumstance of their catching it so suddenly
is a sufficient evidence. On some of
these lands, as I have mentioned formerly,
a whole flock will rot in consequence of
feeding twenty minutes on a foul pasture.
Now this must be accounted for in some
other way, than that which I have stated
to be the main cause of producing it, among
our half-fed sheep in Scotland. Yet is it
not curious, that though seemingly brought
on in a way so different, the appearances
on dissection should be verily the same? I
have never had the opportunity of dissecting
one of these that took it so suddenly;
but according to the accounts of those who
have, they are exactly the same with those
we view every year, and that take it in the
usual lingering way; so that in describing
the one I describe the other.
The only dissimilarity I have observed
is, that such as had been reduced to their
consumptive state by perfect hunger and
cold, had not so extremely foul and ulcerated
livers, as those that the disease had attacked
while in higher condition; which is
certainly the reason, why very lean rotten
sheep only are those which ever get the
better of it. In every one of them the liver
seems to be the principal seat of the disease;
but whether, from the vitiated state
of the stomach, the vital fluids carry infection
to the liver, and cause its inflammation
and consequent impurities; or, if the disease
originates there, by reason of flukes
breeding in its ducts, and is from thence
conveyed to every part of the body in the
blood, is too minute a cause for a shepherd
finally to decide, though it is well worthy
of investigation.
When a sheep is killed during the early
stages of the disease, about the time when
the flanks fall in, the fluke-worms are only
to be found in the ducts of the liver, but
often in great numbers. The liver itself is
by this time swelled a full third larger than
its natural size, and seems to have undergone
a considerable inflammation; its coat is
thick, and of an opaque colour, resembling a
pale, clouded flint, or pebble. Nothing can
be seen to ail the lungs. The tallow that
covers the bowels and kidneys is loose and
flabby; and looks as it part of it were melted,
or its surface greased over with melted
butter. One half, or at least one third of
this tallow will not melt by any force of fire,
and such of it as is refined, and made into
candles, wastes and runs excessively. A
considerable, and sometimes a large quantity
of water is found in the maw, which
seems to be acquired by drinking; the inflamed
and diseased state of the liver causing
a continual thirst. I have seen ewes,
on dry barren heather in spring, gather
round pools, and drink greedily; and about
ten or fifteen minutes afterwards, a poke
would appear below sundry of their chops,
although previously there was no such appearance.
When flaying them, the fell is
so loose upon the back, that it will not separate
from the skin; on all other parts of
the body, the skin comes easily off; appearing
as having, in a great measure, been separated
from it before. The skin is tenderer
than that of a healthy sheep; and the
Wool, though not yet loose, comes more easily
off. The fell about the short ribs, and
flanks, which, which, in a healthy sheep, is a bright
red, in them is pale, and bordered with a
tincture of yellow. Their mutton; when
cold, does not grow stiff; and, when boiled,
does not grow tender, but shrinks amazingly.
Their blood is thin, frothy, and light
coloured; and their heart, though perfectly
sound, appears to be somewhat larger. As
the disease advances, all the other symptoms
continue to increase save this; for the
heart is often larger in the first stages of the
disease than in the last. A lean sheep will
often pine long in it; but it cuts off one that
is fat much sooner.
When they die of the rot, the skin and
entrails are perfectly rotten, and the whole
body of a dirty pale colour. The carcase
has no peculiar smell; and although, when
killed in the last stages of the disease, a
large quantity of frothy blood frequently
flows; yet when they die of the rot, very
little blood is to be found in any part of
them. When the poke below the jaws is
opened, the skin is thick, and a congealed
substance within it; and within that a quantity
of clear water. The liver is the most
horrible mass of corruption and disease,
that can be conceived. It is encreased to
two or three times the size and weight of
that in a sound sheep; all its ducts and
vessels are crammed with flukes, and many
overgrown ones often on its surface; it is
half covered with hard, white lumps, of various
sizes, which, when cut, have a grisly
appearance; part of these are likewise mixed
through all its interior, as are also long
layers of sand, so that it is often hard to
cut. The spaces, where none of these intervene,
have quite lost their consistency,
and are flaccid and gory. When it is boiled
in water, it grows perfectly friable, and
breaks in pieces of itself, while that of a
healthy sheep grows firm and solid. There
is generally little alteration discernible in
the lungs; in some instances I have seen
them somewhat wasted, and their laps thin,
with some hard knots, or tubercules, here
and there upon them; these were white in
the middle, and a circle of faint red round
their bases; some watery globules are found
both in the chest and belly.
In all of these symptoms do the English
sheep partake, that are said to be infected
with the rot so suddenly; the only difference
that can yet be ascertained to exist,
is in their manner of taking it; and I should
like to be perfectly assured, that no mistakes
have been conceived concerning it,
and circulated from one to another; and
that the whole has not been grounded upon
this, that a concurrence of circumstances,
such as heating, drinking water, and the
like, has only made it visible upon the
flock suddenly, and all at once, while the
latent seeds of the distemper had been gaining
ground in their vital parts for months
While treating of the cause of this disease,
I have, of course, either directly, or
indirectly, hinted at the best means of preventing
it already; for while I assert, that
a too sudden fall in condition is the principal
cause of that rot which bath been often
so severely felt in Scotland, I am, at the
same time, making it evident, that every
method of preventing that quick decay, is
the best means of preventing the disease:
Of these I shall only recapitulate a few
The first, and one of the utmost consequence,
is that of draining all the marsh
and boggy land on the farm, except such of
it as produces deer-hair and ling. If the
land be a mixture of white-seeded bent,
and prie, it is the better of being drained;
for although the pasture is very little enriched
for many years, yet it furnisheth the
sheep with dry layers in the mean time;
and when it becomes grassy, it is quite permanent;
neither are the drains so apt to
grow up on such a soil, but are likewise
much more permanent than those in a bog
or marsh. But where the ground is flowmoss,
and covered with ling and deer-hair,
it should never be drained, let it be as wet
as it will; for the wetter it is, the ling
grows the better, springing up in bushes
amongst it all the year round. This the
sheep know well; and instead of cutting it
with their teeth, as they do all other herbs,
they pull it up by the roots, and no food in
the world is so wholesome: neither will the
deer-hair grow without a proportion of wet;
and although only a temporary, it is a very
wholesome and nutritive food; therefore,
none of this kind of land should be drained,
unless it be a shelter, or some convenient
place for sheep to lie.
The best method of draining, is to make
the drains as long and as straight as possible,
with a descent of about one foot in
twenty: for the longer they are, they gather
the more water; and the more water that
runs in them, they keep the better open,
and do not grow up; and the straighter
they are, the water, in time of floods, is
less apt to run over; while, if the descent
be too quick, they do not dry the ground so
well, and besides, if it is gravelly, they work
deep pits and ravines in it. Again, the
drain should always be made to run the
same way with the water, or burn, on the
banks of which it is cut; for, if it be carried
the other way, it must necessarily fall sooner
into the stream, and you have not the
command of the descent, to guide it to the
several springs in your way. A great deal
might be said about the most proper system
of draining pasture lands, but as I only
wish to establish the belief of its utility, I
shall not enter into it. That it has contributed
greatly to the prevention of the rot,
among the grassy districts in the south of
Scotland, experience bath fully proved;
where the average loss by it, of late years,
hath not exceeded one for every ten that
were cut off by it annually, some years in
my remembrance; therefore, let no man say,
that soft tathy grass is the cause of the rot,
further, than that sheep, fed by it, are more
easily wronged, and subject to a quicker
decay; for, of all mountain grasses, this
that grows below the drains is the softest and
As to the propriety of using them gently
at all seasons, and providing them with sufficient
shelter, though such could not have
been more properly introduced than under
this head, yet having had occasion to mention
them already, I shall only observe farther,
that the next great aim of the store--
farmer should be to keep them in good and
regular maintenance, at all seasons; to lay no
more stock upon his farm than it is capable
of affording nourishment to at all times; and
rather to err on the safe side, by keeping
too few than too many. Indeed, sundry
sheep-farmers have declared, in my hearing,
that the fewer sheep they kept upon their
farms, the more profits they made. Though
this must be understood with some limitation,
yet that the sheep must bear a proportion
to the size of the farm, is not without
foundation. An experienced wool-stapler
will tell you precisely what farms are overstocked,
from the lightness of the fleeces,
and coarseness of the wool. Thus, if you
lay sixty scores of sheep upon a thousand
acres, and the next year stock it with only
forty scores, the latter will produce you
more wool, and of superior quality; while
the annual loss, by various diseases, is likewise
prevented. On all farms that are subject
to lying storms of hard snow, the farmer
should be careful to raise plenty of hay.
There is no farm, on which, by irrigation,
or composts, a quantity of hay cannot be
raised, sufficient to meet any emergency.
But, as it is not needed every year, it has
been unaccountably neglected; though, in
many of the inland districts of Scotland,
they hold the health and lives of their sheep
on very uncertain tenures, from this one circumstance;
while a good stock of hay
would, at all times, render any of them secure
on that head. I have known, on such
an occurrence, 50,000 sheep all driven from
their respective homes, and crammed into
the lower parts of Dumfries-shire at once;
where, though the farmer was obliged to
comply with exorbitant demands, on the
part of such as let the ground, his sheep
were often much hampered. Now, it is
plain, that this is a very disagreeable task,
and attended with much difficulty and danger;
but it is often the only alternative left
to the farmer, beside that of losing his stock.
In the first place, the sheep are much wasted,
by being driven so far through hard snows;
commonly much circumscribed in their
wonted range and meals while there, and
always much harassed on their way home,
after the thaw, when every little rivulet is
flooded and gorged with snow and ice; in
addition to all this, it very frequently happens,
that he drives them away thirty or forty
miles uselessly, there being nothing more
common than a thaw immediately preceding
a great frost; and, when the frost is at
a height, the farmer is most apt to flee with
his flocks. The treatment they are obliged
to undergo, during these jaunts, never fails
to prey severely on their constitution. A
certain author remarks of the Scots, that
they have every kind of sense, but common
sense. Certainly the jest is very applicable
to many of our Highland sheep-farmers, who
are so careful to improve their breeds, and
yet neglect this one thing needful, to have
always a stock of hay for the sheep; and, if
they do not need it, let it be given to the
cattle, or horses, next year, and let the hay
of that year's growth stand. This would always
secure to the farmer the following advantages:—
Possibly the ground might not
remain locked up by the snow above a few
days; in that case, it would preserve his
sheep from a long and wasting jaunt. And
even in the longest and most severe storms,
there is always some meat to be had at
home, which, with a foddering of hay evening
and morning, and ease, keeps them
commonly much better than those that are
driven to the low countries. Besides, there
is generally a recurrence of temperate and
soft days, when the sheep can get their
bellies full; and, when a thaw commences.
they have nothing more ado than rise from
their layers and fall to their meat, while the
others have many a weary mile to travel. I
have only to add further, on this head, that
no cattle nor horses be suffered to pasture
at large on the sheep walks. If these short
hints are attended to, they may help to diminish
the rot, where it yet prevails; and
where, by having recourse to these, it has
been so happily eradicated, by adhering to
the same measures, a recurrence of its baneful
effects will be prevented.
THIS being a term so much used by shepherds,
it is proper to mention it, though impossible
to give any particular definition of
the disease; for the Leg-ill being an accommodating
name, it is often blamed by shepherds
for every sheep that is rendered lame,
whether by accident or disease. It is frequently
applied to distinguish a species of
the thwarter-ill; that which resembles the
rheumatisms, when the animal sometimes
carries one limb, and sometimes another.
When they pine long of this, the joints of
the infected limb grow up and swell, and
they continue to pine gradually away. I
mentioned formerly, that they were most
subject to it, when, by nature, inclined to
grow fast, and, for want of proper nourishment,
stunted in that growth. They seldom
die of this distemper; a change of weather
and food sometimes dispels it; but some of
them never mend, but continue to halt until
they are killed, to clear the flock of those
that are useless. When the infected joint is
opened, a mass of stiff livid matter is found
within, among the sinews, and all around
the bone; and though the animal has been
sufficiently blooded, a considerable quantity
of dark-coloured blood is always found in
some cavities close by the joint, which
gushes out when cut.
On the very night after sheep are shorn,
or very shortly after, they are likewise subject
to a much more fatal and inflammatory
distemper, commonly called the Leg-ill.
This is occasioned wholly by sheep lying
upon foul layers, while their skin is so bare,
and many fresh wounds in it; and, on no
ground are they so ready to catch it, as that
where sheep have lain much formerly; such
as an inclosure that afforded them shelter in
winter; but this being known, and guarded
against, the disease is not very common. It
most commonly affects the ham, or hinder
thigh, which inflames exceedingly, and often
carries them off in one day. The inflammation
is communicated to the kidneys; but,
as far as I can remember, not to the bowels.
Copious bleeding is good for stopping its
progress; but such as do mend of it are always
very sick and distressed, and generally
lose the power of using the infected limb for
a long season. This last I believe to be that
which is more properly denominated Leg-ill;
but it is a convenient term, and applicable,
on all occasions, where the legs of the sheep
are concerned; even a shepherd, that hath
an ill-bred dog, that bites the sheep until
they halt, will often blame the leg-ill for it.
THIS is another term, like the foregoing,
which is applied indiscriminately to so many
different ailments, that it is impossible to
say what is meant by it; for as the leg-ill is
applicable to every distemper that attacks
the limbs, so is this to all that attacks the
head, save the sturdy, and sometimes to that
too. There is likewise a certain distemper
mentioned, under the head Thwarter-ill,
which is by some shepherds denominated
the Staggers. It is that resembling the apoplexy,
wherein they fall instantly down, and
tumble about, which is so apt to be brought
on by any sudden exertion, and for which
instant bleeding is the best cure. There is
another kind of distemper, which is commonly,
and not improperly, called the staggers.
It seems to be a paralytic affection.
The animal attacked by it holds up its head
in a fixed and convulsed position, and, when
it endeavours to run forward, staggers to one
side, or runs backward. I have seen sheep
labouring under this distemper, hut never
had the opportunity of dissecting any of
them. I suspect, however, that it proceeds
from an inflammation in the spinal marrow;
or, perhaps, it may be similar to the locked--
jaw. It seldom occurs in Scotland. Such
sheep as feed in woods are also subject to
temporary fits of the staggers, appearing as
if intoxicated; but they soon recover; yet,
if they are affected this way, either a sudden
exertion, or fulness of blood, endangers
them much from a shock of the apoplexy.
Nothing induces this temporary stupor more
than a hearty feed of broom, on frosty weather,
which so overpowers them, that they
will he sprawling for several hours, as if in
their last throws. I knew a shepherd of
Traquair, who, one day, coming to a number
of his hirsel intoxicated this way, and
thinking they were at the point of death,
that their flesh might not be lost, cut the
throats of four of them, cursing and crying
all the while; and was proceeding in haste to
dispatch more of them, if his master had not
arrived and prevented him. The different
passions, which then swayed each of them,
were not a little amusing. His master asked
him, in a rage, "How would you like, if
people were always to cut your throat when
you are drunk?"
THIS attacks only such sheep as feed on
wet and soft lands, whose hoofs are so soft,
that they can endure nothing; and on being
folded, bughted, or housed, in a foul or
gravelly place, such numbers of them often.
take it instantly, that shepherds have been
led to believe it contagious. It is also at
times occasioned by sheep feeding alternately
in wet and dry ground, in warm weather;
which at first causes a few small cracks,
or nitches, to open about the roots of the
hoofs, but by repeating the same cause, of
Wetting and drying them several times every
day, these cracks enlarge and suppurate;
a sharp fœtid humour exudes, which corrodes
the flesh, and even the bone. When
suffered to proceed, in either case, (for both
have the same appearance, and the same
effects,) it degenerates into a foul and tedious
ulcer, renders the sheep extremely
lame, forces them often to walk, or rather
creep, on their knees; the hoofs drop off,
and, in some instances, I have seen the foot
rot off altogether. When a sheep is first
observed affected by it, let it be brought in,
and the sore foot washed well with soap and
urine; then well bathed with turpentine,
and afterwards rubbed all over with tar, and
bound up with flannel; and if it is then
turned to a clean dry pasture, the cure is
THIS is by some supposed to be a disease,
but it is merely an accident. When sheep
are very lean, and exposed to a wet climate,
or droppings of trees, the wool falls off them
during the spring months. As soon as, by
the breaking of the fleece, the skin becomes
exposed to the cold winds and the rain alternately,
a whitish crust gathers upon it,
by some called the Pelt-rot, and is supposed
by them to be the cause of the wool dropping
off; whereas the loss of the wool is the
cause of it, at least in all the cases which
have come under my observation. It is
rarely productive of any bad effects, if the
poor animal is not chilled to death; as the
crust arises from the skin on the top of the
new wool. The part of the skin that is hard
should be well rubbed with tar mixed with
oil or butter, and a piece of cloth sewed on
the animal to keep it from the cold.
IN most of the counties of Britain this distemper
is very rare amongst the woolly tribes;
but in some of the islands and shores of
Scotland, where the sheep feed much upon
salt marsh, it is peculiarly destructive, and
will probably prevail in other places of the
same nature. It is curious, that a living author
of much ingenuity (Mr Stevenson) has
given it as his opinion, or rather asserted,
that "sea-shores are found, by experience,
to be useful in this distemper;" whereas it
is the opinion of the natives, and seems to
be incontrovertible, that these are the very
causes which induce the distemper, for removing
them to the land at a distance from
the shore prevents it; and if it were moisture
that caused it, this could not be the
case, for wherever the Highland hills are
highest, there the rains are heaviest; and
they are seldom highest upon the shores,
where this distemper only prevails.
In some of the Orkney and Shetland
islands, it destroys more than all other diseases;
and on the shores of Sutherland
and the Long-island, its depredations are
considerably felt. I dissected a goat that
died of it in the isle of Harris, and a sheep
in the island of Skye: they were both very
lean, and a large quantity of greenish coloured
water within the rim of the belly;
the maw of the goat was likewise full of
water, and it was the opinion of the gentleman
who accompanied me, that their constantly
feeding upon salt marsh, and seaware,
caused them to drink incessantly,
which brought on the distemper; yet, though
a native of that country, he could not say
that he had observed this constant tendency
of the diseased animals to drinking. Its
symptoms, as described to me, were, a dull
heavy look, and a poke gathering below the
jaws, like that in a rotten sheep; on turnout
the eye, however, it is red. Mr Stevenson
says also, that the legs swell at night for
some time previous to the belly's becoming
tense. Removing them to dry pasture, and
back from the flat shores, is certainly the
best means of preventing it.
HITHERTO I have written solely from experience
and observation; having had no
opportunity, and far less inclination, to consult
any books on the subject, for fear I
should have been drawn aside from the
truth by false theories and subtle reasoning.
I have now ventured to look at some of the
few books which relate to this important
subject, and find that, in some instances,
their theories differ materially from mine;
but what I have written, I have written. To
experience only I appeal for my justification.
I find likewise, that there are sundry
diseases incident to sheep, both in this and
other countries, which have entirely escaped
my observation; and as this book professes
treating of the diseases of sheep, and as the
farmer may apply to it for information on
the subject, it is certainly requisite to give
such hints as can be attained, relating to
every known distemper to which this useful
animal is subjected. Wherever they do
prevail, they will be acceptable; and where
they do not, it is uncertain how soon they
may: people will scarcely repent of being
provided for the worst. It is from this consideration,
that I present the reader with
the following cases and observations, which
are all quoted, or translated, from scarce
and valuable books, or manuscripts.
WILEY, WILTS, May 17. 1787.
"IN our country they breed many sheep,
and manure the fallows with them. After
having penned them all night, when they
are driven into fresh grass, or young clover,
they are frequently taken with what we call
the Blast; that is, they over-gorge themselves,
foam at the mouth, swell exceedingly,
breathe very quick and short, then jump
Up and fall down dead immediately. This
is so frequent a disorder, and so great a loss,
that a neighbour of mine had seventeen died
in one morning; indeed, within half an hour,
for they are often taken with it many at a
"We have no remedy ever known as yet,
but driving them into a bare place, like a
road, and keeping them in motion; but it
is so sudden, there is not time for that in general.
It is a disorder not unfrequent
cattle; and having a cow taken in this manner,
I had heard, that by stabbing her in the
maw I stood a chance of saving her life. I
did this, the matter instantly flew out, gave
immediate relief to the cow, she did well,
and has had two calves since. I therefore
resolved to try the same with my sheep, and
have succeeded to my wish. The way I
perform it is as follows:
"The sheep will swell considerably on
the left side, or what you would call the
nigh side of a horse, near the kidneys, behind
the ribs, which is nigh the flank; the
swelling is very protuberant, and there is
mark enough, (about three inches,) where, if
you dart your knife in, it must at this time
infallibly go into the maw. The matter
immediately flies out, gives instant relief,
and with only common applications of a
horse-doctor's mixture of bees-wax, rosin,
grease, &c. the sheep is sure to do well. All
my neighbours were surprised at my success,
as the thing was quite new to them,
and all the shepherds round about.
"I am,
"Your humble servant,
"I HAVE seen several sheep, immediately
after being shorn, appear to be in violent
pain; their sides are somewhat extended,
and their breathing very short; the head is
hung drooping, and they have a great aversion
to moving or walking. These symptoms
continue to increase, until the sheep
dies in a very few hours, unless a violent
purging comes on, which generally gives
immediate relief. On enquiring for the
name given to this complaint, I found it
was called the Wind, but where the seat of
it lay, few could tell me; some thought it
was in the head, others in the lungs, and
the remedies they applied were as various
as their opinions of the disease.
Not satisfied with these accounts, I endeavoured,
by inspecting the carcases of
sheep that died of the disease, to discover
the cause and seat of the complaint. On
opening four sheep that died of the disease,
I found all the intestines rather distended
with flatus, but not in any great degree.
Their blood vessels were very turgid, and
of a deep red, particularly those of the large
intestines, excepting the rectum, or what is
commonly called the burn-gut, which had a
healthy appearance, as likewise had the stomach,
milt, caul, liver, heart, lungs, and, in
short, all the viscera contained in the cavity
of the trunk. From these appearances I
will venture to say, that the disease in question
is a violent inflammation of the intestines,
perhaps in some measure arising from
bruises in sheering, but more so from losing
a warm clothing, and being suddenly exposed
to cold air and cold feeding.
"I beg leave, therefore, to recommend to
farmers, that, on the first appearances of the
complaint, they put the sheep into a stable
or other warm place, and immediately bleed
it freely. Bruise a quarter of an ounce of
some carminative seed, such as carraway,
anise, cummin, or fennel, and mix these
with two ounces of Glauber's purging salts
in a pint of water. Place it on a fire, and
make it boil for a few minutes; then strain
it off. Then add a quarter of an ounce of
powdered jalap, and while lukewarm, give
the sheep a quarter of a pint of this liquor
well shaken together every half hour till it
dungs. It should have no food or cold
water till recovered, but a little warm water
might be of service. (Signed)
"J. WEBB."
"IF a sheep is thin of wool on the back,
mark it for sale or fatting, whatever other
good qualities it may have; because when
it rains long or hard, the water penetrates
easily to the skin on the back, washes out
the yoke, and chills the spinal marrow; the
sheep's back in that case is raised into a
curve, more or less as the chill is greater or
less; and, if I may be allowed a conjecture
from analogy among the human race,
the animal catches cold, a cough ensues,
a consumption that is visible from the leanness
or weakness of the animal, and if it be
not stopped, or cured, the sheep dies rotten.
* * * * *
"It slipt my memory, in my last, to
mention a very common disorder ewes are
liable to after yeaning, a stoppage in the
lacteal ducts of the udder, sometimes in that
leading to one of the nipples, sometimes to
both; the udder swells universally with partial
knobs, which sometimes bring on an
inflammation, and if not stopped, perhaps
in the course of twenty-four hours, part, if
not the whole, of the udder mortifies, and
as the mortification proceeds rapidly, the
sheep dies. The process of cure is, to clip
off the wool as close as possible; to open,
with a razor or other very sharp instrument,
the principal lacteal duct or ducts; to
squeeze out the morbid matter, and put in
a little fresh butter; and to keep the sheep
separate from the flock. The ewe frequently
loses the use of one teat, and sometimes of
both; if but one, she will maintain the
lamb; if both, the lamb to be taken from
her, and the ewe to be fatted.
On the subject of the disorders of sheep,
consult the shepherds rather than the farmers,
as they are constantly with the flock; and
though many of them are very ignorant persons,
nevertheless consult even these, as they
may know, from tradition, some things extremely
valuable. Note down what they
say, as particularly as you can, under its
proper head. Many things worth knowing
may he thus collected together from facts
and experiments. Thus the signs, the symptoms,
the effects of the disorders, — the medicines,
the quantity, quality, time, manner
of application, and season of the year; with
the effects of each, whether cure or death,
may certainly be best learned from them.
Bath Papers.
"THIS disease commonly makes its appearance
about the beginning or end of winter,
and first affects about the breast and
belly, although at times it spreads itself over
other parts of the body. It consists in
an inflammation of the skin, that raises it
into blisters, which contain a thin, reddish,
and watery fluid. These continue for a short
time, break, and discharge their matter, and
are followed by a blackish scab.
"When the sheep are exposed to cold or
wetness, the skin being fretted, makes the
blisters rise; or they often arise from cold
affecting the animal internally; thus producing
a slight fever, which throws out these
vesicles on the body, similar to the scabby
eruptions which appear about the face,
and more particularly about the mouth, of
persons affected with cold. The blood in
this disease is but little affected, although
a little of it oozes into the vesicles on the
skin, and communicates to them that reddish
tinge, which gives origin to the name.
Red-water is a disease that but seldom
appears in this country, and is almost never
fatal. In cases where the disease is violent,
a little blood should be taken in the manner
described. The sheep should be placed
in a fold by itself, the blisters slit up, and a
little infusion of tobacco put into them, and
the following medicine may be given for
three or four mornings successively:— Take
of sulphur two ounces, honey, treacle, or syrup,
three ounces; mix them, and divide
them into six doses, of which one may be
given every morning in half-a-mutchkin of
warm water. If this is found unsuccessful,
half an ounce of nitre, mixed with the foregoing
receipt, will be attended with good
effects; after which a dose of salts may be
given, and the body washed with lime-water
upon the parts affected."
THIS, like the last mentioned disease,
also affects the skin, and is apt, if not attended
to, to spread very quickly among
the flock. It is attended with more inflammation
than the last, and but seldom with
blisters over the body. It commonly appears
in August and September, and does
not continue above eight days at a time,
although those sheep once affected with it
are liable to a relapse. In former times, it
was a practice with shepherds to bury the
sheep affected with this disease at the door
of the fold, which they believed acted as a
charm to drive it from the flock. This,
however, is now disused.
"It is necessary for the cure of this distemper,
to follow the same method recommended
in the Red-water. An ounce of
salts may be given every morning for three
or four days, which serves very well to begin
the cure, when the last mentioned receipt,
with the addition of the nitre, may
be continued till the disease disappears."
THESE two cases are copied from Mr
Stevenson's communications to the Highland
Society. It is the first time ever I
heard of such diseases; and it is not improbable
that they are imaginary, or drawn
from some similar disease in the human
frame, as the whole of the symptoms, and
process of cure, would seem to intimate.
There is indeed a distemper called the Red--
water, which is very destructive among the
young cattle in some parts of Scotland, but
it is so totally different from this described
by Mr Stevenson, as to be recognizable only
by the name.
Of the suitable Remedies for the most prevalent
Diseases of Sheep. Read at the Meeting of the
Royal Medical Society at Paris on the 27th of
January, 1778. By M. DAUBENTON. Never
before Published in the English Language.
FOR, the translation of this and the following
Memoir, I am indebted to my friend
Mr James Amos of London, now studying
at the university of Edinburgh, who translated
them solely for this work. It is entirely
a practical essay. M. Daubenton,
besides being a celebrated naturalist, spent
twelve or fourteen years in a sheep country
in France, for the purpose of studying more
minutely every thing relating to their frame,
nature, and propensities. And therefore the
essay certainly highly deserves a place here;
for on a perusal it will be found, that sundry
of the diseases here treated are analogous to
those in our own country, consequently the
cures he mentions must also be of use here;
and though others of them have not yet appeared
in Britain, the introduction of foreign
breeds may introduce foreign diseases. This
we can neither guard too well against, nor
be too well prepared for when it happens.
"IN our climate sheep are not affected
by any intemperature of the air, except the
violent heat of the sun; their wool defends
them from the most intense cold. For ten
years past, in the northern extremity of
Burgundy, I have had flocks exposed to the
open air night and day throughout the year.
The severe frosts of 1768 and of 1776 had
no effect upon them, although the fluid of
Rheaumur's thermometer descended to 14
degrees and a half, and to 18 degrees below
Zero. The heaviest and most long continued
rains, the snow with which they were
covered, and which served them for their
only drink, the icicles formed upon their
wool, and which remained suspended from
it, caused no disease whatever; but the heat
of the sun has been productive of many
deaths in the fields, and many more would
have fallen victims to it had not proper pre.
caution been speedily observed.
The disease in sheep caused by excessive
heat has been denoted by an analogous
name, viz. the Heat. Those most free in
blood, best fed, and most robust, are more
frequently subject to this disease of heat.
Those attacked by it gasp for breath, foam
at the mouth, and bleed at the nose; the
eye-ball becomes red, the animal droops his
bead, staggers, and soon falls dead. After
death, the eyes, the lower part of the cheeks,
the nether jaw, the gorge, the neck, the
inside of the gullet and of the nose, are of
a mixed colour of red and somewhat blackish.
On opening the animal, we find the
blood vessels swelled in all those parts just
mentioned, and in the head. All these
Symptoms naturally lead us to have recourse
to blood-letting, which speedily effects
a cure, if administered in time. This
remedy, then, is one most necessary for
sheep in every climates, in temperate climates
like our own, and also in cold ones,
where the sun is powerful in summer.
"There is another remedy absolutely necessary
to sheep in every country, and in
every season; it is a remedy for the Itch, to
which they are more subject than to any
other disease. Flocks grazing in pastures
most suited to their species, and even to
their kind, are not exempt from it. Sheep
that are best tendered, best fed, and most
vigorous, are liable to it. When the fat
humour of the grease grows rancid, it affects
the skin, and gives it a disposition to
itch. If this disease is not stopt on its first
appearance, it spoils the wool, and causes
it to drop off. If the progress of the distemper
be not arrested, the flesh becomes ulcerated,
the bones rot, and the death of the
animal ensues. A remedy for a disease so frequent
and so dangerous is still more urgently
necessary for sheep than bleeding, because
they are oftener afflicted with the itch than
with the disease of heat. To record the observations
I have made on these two remedies,
is the object of the present memoir.
"Sheep are bled in different parts of the
body, in the forehead, above and below the
eyes, in the ear, in the jugular vein, the
shoulder, the tail, below the ham, and is
the foot.
"Before treating of the different kinds of
blood-letting, our subject leads us to make
some reflections on the treatment of the
diseases of sheep. The manner of treatment
should be adapted to the proportion
of strength in the animal, and to the knowledge
possessed by the shepherd in reference
to medicine and surgery. A sheep
attacked with a tedious disease has little
strength; in this case the remedies administered
must be rather nourishing than exhausting.
In accidental diseases, which are
speedily cured, the sheep loses nothing of its
strength, if the remedy be an easy one, and
spoils not the wool.
The bleeding of the sheep, then, must
he performed quickly, and by a single man.
The vessel opened by the operation, must be
so large as to give a sufficient quantity of
blood, and situated in a part of the body
where there is no wool.
"I think, that in most of the diseases of
sheep, it is unnecessary to select that part
of the body, where the bleeding may appear
to be most favourable. The most skilful
of the medical profession are not agreed
as to the different effects of bleeding in different
parts of the human body, although
they have much experience upon the subject.
And what would shepherds do, with the feeble
light afforded them, upon a subject far
from being elucidated by reference to animals?
It is better to divest them of a practice,
in which they might commit gross mistakes,
and which most frequently appears
of no utility whatever to the sheep.
"But when a disease attacks many flocks,
spreads from one district to another, and
pervades contagiously many provinces, it is
an object of prime importance, and becomes
a national affair. In such unfortunate case,
all the resources of medicine are to be employed;
and, amongst others, those of the
different bleedings. The ablest medical men
should endeavour to discover the cause and
remedy of a disorder, menacing the destruction
of animals useful to every nation, to
those especially who employ wool in the
finest manufactures.
"Keeping this in view, the Royal Medical
Society has established a correspondence
constantly subsisting between it and
the shepherd, for the purpose of instruction.
Members of the Society are ready
in urgent cases, to direct the shepherd in
the management of his flocks. My observations
on the bleeding of sheep do not
extend to rare and complicated circumstances.
I think, that, in ordinary cases, it is
sufficient that the shepherd know how to
bleed on one particular part of the body of
the sheep, suitable at once as to the size
of the vein, the facility of operation, and the
preservation of the wool. Having thus premised,
I proceed to treat of the different
bleedings made in various parts of the body
of the sheep.
"The veins of the forehead are small; they
consequently give but little blood, and are
not sensible to the finger.
"Above and below the eye, or between
the two eyes, bleeding is performed only
upon the portion of the angular vein, which
extends from the cavity of the eye-brow to
the upper part of the cheek. Thus, although
these three bleedings have three designations,
they may be reduced to one alone,
which is made in different parts of one portion
of the angular vein, about an inch and
a half in length. This bleeding gives sufficient
blood, because the vein is large; but
it is difficult to feel it with the finger, although
swelled, consequently the risk is frequently
run of missing the vein.
The veins of the temples being too
small, cannot be made to swell by pressing.
In most kinds of sheep, the temple
is covered with wool; it is difficult to bleed
in that part those which have horns. However,
I have bled several in that way, though
the blood oozed slowly, without freely flowing.

"When blood is taken from the ears, it
is by a wound, because the veins are so
small, that many must be opened at once.
An incision is made in the ear, and a blow
under it is given, to cause the blood to flow.
This is a bad plan; it should only be adopted
in the most urgent cases, where it is impossible
to act better.
"Bleeding in the jugular vein, in the
shoulder, or below the ham, is too difficult
for most shepherds; and here one man
alone cannot easily operate; besides, that
in the neck and the shoulder would spoil
the wool.
On the tail of the sheep two sorts of
bleedings are made; one on the part devoid
of wool, the other at the extremity;
the former gives but little blood.
To draw blood from the end of the tail,
the last false vertebra, at least, must be cut
off; this cannot be done with a lancet. The
extremity of the tail is cut off; by this
means, the veins, and the arteries, with the
bone, are sliced off; the flesh is stripped
up, and leaves the naked bone; a wound
"Sheep are bled in different parts of the
feet; but here only small veins are to be
found. Besides, apprehensions may reasonably
be entertained, that dirt may frequently
intrude into the openings made by
these bleedings, and thus cause inflammation,
and collection of humours, which not
only bring on lameness in the animal, but
may extend into the hoofs. Bleeding in
this part is also attended with this inconvenience,
that it cannot easily be performed
by one person.
"I have discovered another method of
bleeding sheep, which appears to me preferable
to all those at present in use; because
it is not subject to any of the inconveniences
above mentioned, and is more easily
executed. This is done at the lower
part of the cheek of the sheep, at the spot
where the root of the fourth tooth of the
cheek-teeth is placed, which is the thickest
of all; its root is also the thickest. The
space which it occupies, is marked on the
external surface of the bone of the upper
jaw, by a tubercule sufficiently prominent
to be very sensible to the finger when the
skin of the check is touched. This tubercule
is a very certain index to the discovery
of the angular vein which passes below.
This vein extends from the under border
of the jaw beneath, near its angle, to below
the tubercule, which is situated at the root
of the fourth cheek-tooth; farther on, the
vein bends and extends to the cavity of the
"To let blood in the cheek, the shepherd
begins, by placing an open lancet between
his teeth; he then puts the sheep between
his legs, and squeezes it so as to hold it fast;
his left knee is rather more advanced than
the right; he places his left hand under the
head of the animal, and grasps the underjaw,
so that his fingers are under the right
side of that jaw, near its hinder extremity,
in order to press the angular vein, which
passes in that place, and to make it swell;
the shepherd touches, with the other hand,
the right cheek of the sheep, at the spot
nearly equi-distant from the eye and the
mouth; he there finds the tubercule, which
is to guide him; he can also feel the angular
vein swelled below this tubercule; he
then takes in his right hand the lancet
which he holds in his mouth, and makes the
incision from below upwards, half an inch
in length below the middle of the projection,
which serves to guide him.
"I do not exagerate when I say, that
by this method a blind person might bleed
a sheep; because, with one of his fingers,
he feels the tubercule, which directs him
whilst making the incision.
"Bleeding in the cheek, then, is a method
equally sure and simple, since the Situation
of the vessel cannot be mistaken,
whilst it is sufficiently large to furnish a
proper quantity of blood; for it receives
that of the veins of the forehead, of the
eyes, the nose, the upper lip, &c. The
blood is there retained by the hand of the
shepherd, which serves as a ligature at the
angle of the jaw. No risk is run of opening
the artery; for I have always found
some distance between it and the vein at
the place of bleeding. One man is sufficient
for the performance of this operation.
"All these advantages have determined
me to give the preference to this method of
bleeding in the cheek above all others, having
made the proper comparisons in practice.

"I have now recommended a method of
bleeding sheep, more certain, and more easy,
than those in present use: it remains for me
to point out a remedy for the itch, preferable
to those usually employed in this disease.

The itch in sheep makes continual progress;
the longer it lasts, the more difficult
it is to cure. The shepherd, then, should
be extremely attentive to discover its earliest
symptoms. He must keep a careful eye
over his flocks, and observe if any sheep
scratches himself with his feet or his teeth,
or if he rubs himself against the rack,
against trees, or walls, &c. If the wool is
spotted with dirt on those parts of the body
which the animal can reach with its feet, if
there are tufts of wool pulled out of order,
which the sheep has torn with his teeth, or
scratched with his foot, these signs indicate
itchings caused by lice, by the itch, or some
other distemper. The shepherd must carefully
examine his sheep, by separating the
wool in the parts affected, to see if there
exist real symptoms of itch.
"These consist in that the skin is harder
in the scabby parts than in the other parts
of the body; grains are felt which resist the
finger, it is covered with white scales, with
crust, or small pimples, which are at first red
and inflamed, and afterwards assume a white
or green colour. All these symptoms are followed
by an itching; hut there is another
sort of scab which does not create itching;
this quickly spreads under the wool, and, instead
of causing it to drop off, makes it turn
red, and become stuffed with felt, as if it
had been trampled upon.
"When some of these symptoms have
been observed, the remedy for this disease
must he applied without delay. At the
same time, if it is judged that it was caused
by fatigue, or a state of tenderness; if it has
arisen from bad air, or the heat of the house;
from want of proper nourishment, or from
the naturally bad constitution of the sheep,
the original cause of the evil must be removed,
because it would stand in the way
of the success of the remedy. If the itch
proceed from some other disease, regard
must be had to both at the same time.
"When the disease is not inveterate, or
ulcerated, it may he cured by topical, without
internal remedies. In this disorder,
many topical remedies have been employed;
it would be tedious and useless to recount
all in this memoir: I shall only here mention
the principal.
"The most customary are, the infusion of
tobacco, oil of juniper, solution of green
vitriol, of alum, or of common salt, the
flowers of sulphur, grey ointment, &c.: all
these remedies may cure the itch, but each
is attended with great inconvenience. The
infusion of tobacco, the oil of juniper, and
the solution of salts, do not agree with the
state of the scabby skin; they cause its thickness,
its dryness, and hardness, to increase
and continue; it is thus hurtful to the growth
and good qualities of the wool; besides, the
tobacco, and particularly the oil of juniper,
give to the wool red and blackish tints,
which spoil it; sulphur gives it a bad smell,
which remains in the fleece after shearing;
the mercury in the grey ointment may give
to the shepherd, and the sheep affected, a
salivation, to remove which, the application
of internal remedies may be requisite
besides, to animals destined to be our food,
no remedies should be administered which
are at all likely to produce any bad effect.
"After having tried upon my sheep all
these remedies, and many more, I found it
necessary to discover a better, which should
be less expensive, and more easy in the application,
communicating no bad quality
either to the wool, or to the flesh of the
animal. A mixture of fat, or suet, with
essential oil of turpentine, answered all these
conditions. Fat is preferable to suet in
winter, because it is more easily spread over
the skin of the sheep; but the suet is better
in summer, because it is not so soon
melted by heat as the fat. The composition
of this remedy is extremely easy.
"Melt a pound of suet, or of fat; take
it off the fire, and mix into the suet, or fat,
a fourth of oil of turpentine.
"This ointment costs but little; it has
no bad effect upon the wool, it softens the
skin of the sheep, hardened by the itch, and
cures the disease. It may be rendered more
active by increasing the dose of oil of turpentine.

"It is easy to use it without cutting the
wool where the itch is; since it is sufficient
to separate the tufts a little, in order to lay
open the part affected; then the shepherd
scratches the skin with the scratching knife,
merely so as to raise the crust, and he applies
the ointment, by spreading it over
with his finger.
"Some adhere to the bad custom of
scratching the skin of the diseased sheep
with a bit of brick, till it is on the point of
bleeding; a small wound is thus made,
which is an additional evil. I have provided
my shepherds with a single instrument,
which is sufficient for all the operations
they have to perform on sheep; it is a sort
of incision knife, whose point has two edges,
and serves as a lancet; the handle terminates
in a blade of bone, or of ivory, which
is a scratching knife.
"Ellis, one of the best English authors
who have written on the treatment of sheep,
has given different recipes for the itch, when
in oil of turpentine is mixed with beer, or
with a decoction of tobacco, soap, urine,
brine, &c.; but I do not think that the oil
of turpentine has ever yet been employed
in the manner in which it is in the ointment
I propose, and so as to be suitable to every
circumstance. The efficacy of this ointment
is proved to me by long experience in
my own flocks; I shall only now mention
one of the most decisive proofs. A flock
of rams and ewes were sent out to my sheepfold
last winter, under the most unfavourable
circumstances: They had to go two
hundred leagues, the ewes were big, the
season very severe, and the ground covered
with snow. As soon as I was informed
of the journey, I wrote to stop the farther
advance of the flock; it was then fifty
leagues from the fold, the ewes had dropped
on the road, the lambs, and many of their
dams, had died; both rams and ewes had
lost almost the whole of their wool; they
were emaciated, and covered with scab. A
perfect cure was speedily effected, by the
application of the ointment for which I
before gave a recipe. At present they are
in excellent condition.
This same flock is estimable for the excellent
quality of its fleece. On it is founded
my experience concerning the amelioration
of wool. To this, the sound health of
the ewes, and principally of the rams, is absolutely
necessary; hence I resolved to enquire
with ardour into the means of preserving
it, and of re-establishing it when disordered.

"A sheep is in good health when he carries
his head high, when the eye is of clear
azure, quick and open eye-strings, and gums
ruddy, teeth fast, the face and muzzle dry,
the nostrils damp without being mucous,
the breath free from any bad smell, feet
cool, dung substantial, the mouth clean and
of a lively red, all the limbs nimble, the
wool firmly adhering to the skin, Which
ought to be red, (especially on the brisket)
soft, and supple, a good appetite, the flesh
reddish, and particularly with good veins,
and the hams strong. To know the two
latter perfections, the shepherd places the
sheep between his legs, and grasps the head
with his two hands: with the thumb of the
right hand he raises the eye-lid from above
the eye, and with the thumb of his left
hand pulls down the under eye-lid: he then
looks at the veins of the white of the eye:
if they are very apparent, if he finds them of
a lively red, if the flesh at the corner of
the eye, and at the side of the nose, is also
of a lively red hue, it is a sign that the animal
is in good health. To know if the ham
is good, the sheep must be seized by one of
his hind legs; if he struggles much to get
back the leg, if much force is necessary to
hold it, it is a proof that the animal is strong
and vigorous, in that part.
"Sheep are often seen in the market with
nose and eyes running, or, as we should say
of a horse, almost glandered. This happens
in consequence of wet layers during their
travel in cold windy seasons; a continuance
of such weather, with perhaps subsequent
neglects, contribute to lay the foundations
of diseases, of which, afterwards, the cause
is not suspected. Great caution is necessary,
during drifts, that the flock be not
suffered to rest on wet and boggy layers,
and that they are provided with dry lodging,
and sufficient keep to support their strength;
and if, on their arrival at home, any sinister
appearances should be visible, it will be a
great saving to nurse and recruit the sheep
a while, in a good dry sheltered yard."
On the most necessary Regimen for Sheep. Read
at the Meeting of the Royal Medical Society
of Paris, 31st August, 1779. By M. DAUBENTON.

"A GOOD regimen is necessary to the preservation
of the health of sheep; hence, too,
one of the best means of curing their disorders.
Attention should be paid to the
choice and quality of food placed in the
rack, as well as to that which they crop in
the fields; because from such is derived
their sole nourishment in bad seasons, and
because the most succulent pasturage is the
most dangerous.
"Tares, trefoil, lucern, clover, and all
those grasses equally relishing to sheep, and
favourable to health, may prove mortal if
taken in too great quantity. The air which
they engender, swells their greatest stomach
like a balloon, the tension obstructs rumination,
and the increase of the size of this
stomach compresses the large vessels, stops
the circulation of the blood, and causes
death, if speedy assistance be not administered
to facilitate the evacuation of air by
the bowels, or the passage of blood in the
large vessels.
"The richer and more succulent the pasture
is, the more should the shepherd be
distrustful of it. To such he should drive
his flock only when they are already partly
satisfied, suffering them to remain there but
a short time.
"Grasses, hurtful by their bad qualities,
are much less to be feared; sheep do not
eat of them, although pressed with hunger.
Of this I have to offer some convincing
"In a small space, formed by four hurdles,
I enclosed two sheep; for these animals are
so accustomed to herd together in numbers,
that if a sheep finds itself alone, it is always
restless, and endeavours to join company,
I caused to be placed successively in the
rack, for the two sheep confined within the
small space, plants of a noxious quality, or
supposed to be so, such as euphorbiums,
bryony, ranunculus sceleratus, tuberous ranunculus,
and many others. The euphorbium
and bryony remained untasted in the
rack from morning till night; the sceleratus
and tuberous ranunculuses, on the other
hand, were devoured with eagerness. During
eight days, only one of these plants
was given as their sole nourishment; and
every day water was brought them, of which
they drank very little, or refused to drink;
which evidently proves, that these plants
do not affect sheep, although very bitter,
the tubercules of the tuberous ranunculus
especially so. These proofs appear to me
decisive, since a sheep passes a whole day
without eating, and offers not to touch a
particular plant in his rack, he will never
eat this plant in the fields, where others
more to his taste are to be found. One
plant which has been the sole food of a
sheep for eight days without any apparent
bad effect, is still less an object of suspicion
in the fields; for we do not find that sheep
prefer it always to the other plants which
they there find.
"Shepherds, it appears, have little to
fear as to the regimen of sheep in a good
pasture, except the too great quantity of
succulent food which they may devour; but
the fodder given in the racks should be carefully
attended to.
"Sheep take a disgust to their provender,
when it has contracted a taste or a smell
disagreeable to them. Thus, hay suffered
to grow rusty in the fields, heated, or grown
mouldy in lofts, exposed to the exhalations
of dung, or tainted with rats, is bad aliment;
causing stronger ground for apprehension
when not quite so much spoiled as
to be absolutely rejected by the sheep, but
sufficient only to prevent them from taking
a proper quantity. In the latter case,
some do not think it necessary to give.
them better food, although they perceive
that they eat less than if in good condition:
They are not aware, perhaps, that
sheep quickly perish, and are exposed to
many distempers when they do not take a
proper quantity of food. It is then that
the animal languishes, becomes scabby,
and the best counteracting remedies cannot
avail, so long as the cause remains. The wool
takes a bad growth; the blood vessels, which
in a healthy state were of a lively red colour
on the white of the eye, grow pale, and
threaten serious and mortal diseases, if not
prevented by strengthening the sheep with
a supply of better fodder.
"Sheep require abundance of food, particularly
during their three first years; this
is requisite, not only to their subsistence,
but also to their due growth, and to the
production of the suet, which is peculiar to
these animals, and which contributes much
to the good quality of the wool.
"When the grass of the pasture, or the
fodder of the rack, are not in sufficient quantity
to furnish nourishment to all the sheep
of the flock, the more vigorous outdo the
weaker in the fields, and crop the best grass,
or drive them from the rack, greedily engrossing
the fodder to themselves. Thus,
those sheep already enfeebled with a bad
constitution, or the seeds of some distemper,
languish in want of provision; they daily decay,
they lose their wool, and soon exhibit
symptoms of many diseases, and chiefly of
that called the rot.
"All these evils might be prevented,
by giving a daily supply of food to the
sheep in want of it. These may be known
at night by the state of the belly, which
will be found not so much swelled as it
ought to be; but this is a doubtful and
precarious sign when only a small quantity
has been wanting in the day: Even such
trifling deficiency, however, is sufficient to
diminish the quantity of milk in ewes, and
to stint the growth of lambs. It is extremely
hurtful when it occurs repeatedly; and
may be almost always dreaded in countries
where the pasture or provision are not abundant.

"It is requisite then to know how to proportion
the number of sheep in a flock to
the quantity of food which can be furnished
them; this is an essential point in the
regimen of these animals: But what rule
are we to follow, in order not to be deceived
in this calculation, and consequently to
maintain as many sheep as can be well fed?
"I have endeavoured to resolve this problem,
which appeared to me as of no small
importance to the landed proprietor, to
agriculturists, and, in general, to the prosperity
of manufactures and of commerce.
"I confined in a small space two sheep
about twenty inches high, (the height of
most woolled animals in France). By way
of experiment, I caused the sheep to be
fed during eight days solely upon grass,
newly cut, and weighed before placed in
their rack. Care was taken to pick up and
place in it back again all that the sheep
let fall, and to weigh that which they would
not eat in consequence of its being too
tough, or because it possessed some bad
duality. From this trial, frequently repeated,
it appeared, that a sheep of the middle
stature eats about eight pounds of grass in a
day. The same experiments, conducted
with the same preciseness, in regard to the
fodders of hay or straw, have proved, that a
sheep of middling height likewise eats daily
two pounds of hay, or two pounds and a
half of straw.
"In order to ascertain how many pounds
of grass go to one pound of hay, I caused
the grass to be weighed as soon as cut; it
was then spread on cloths exposed to the
sun, so that none might be lost, though, at
the same time, well dried. Being thus converted
into hay, I found its weight reduced
to one fourth; eight pounds of grass had
only given two pounds of hay.
"Agriculturists know how many cart--
loads, or trusses, a field can produce; consequently,
they may judge how many sheep
it can maintain in hay or in grass. They
have a rule, then, for proportioning the
number of their sheep to the quantity of
pasture and fodder they can supply them
"Having determined the quantity of solid
food essential to the good regimen of
the woolled kind, I made other experiments
upon these animals, in order to know at
what time they should drink.
"It is well known that they seldom drink
when they feed upon fresh grass, but stand
in want of water when fed on dry meat.
Different opinions are pursued as to the proper
time for watering them; in some countries
they are taken to water once or twice
every day, in others, not for one, two, three,
or four, even five days. By the following
experiments, I have endeavoured to ascertain
which of all these regimens, so different
from each other, is entitled to preference.
"I shut up in a stable, in the depth of
winter, a small flock, of which all the sheep
were marked with a number. They were
kept night and day without being suffered
to quit it, and fed with a mixture of straw
and of hay, without any other aliment.
Each day a shepherd carried in his arms,
successively, some sheep out of the stable,
to let them drink in my presence, out of a
vessel, gauged at different heights, and then
took them back into the stable, when they
had either drank, or refused to drink.
"By this method, I knew how much water
the sheep had taken when presented
with it once, twice, or thrice each day, or
only once in two, three, four, or five days.
"Most of the sheep in this little flock
passed a month in the stable without drinking;
their appetite was always the same,
and they experienced no other inconvenience
than that of thirst, of which they gave
evident proof, by running to lick the moist
lips of those carried back to the stable, on
return from drinking.
"The result of these experiments, which
I cannot here detail, led me to conclude,
that sheep, with no other nourishment than
that of dry hay, and within reach of water,
could pass days without drinking; but they
would take a greater quantity of water the
following day, than if they had drank the
evening before; this quantity increases to
a certain degree, if they have been deprived
of water for many days together. They are
then tormented with thirst, for they are
eager to get a drop of water; if they could
find it in abundance, they would drink too
plentifully for their temperament, subject
as they are to effusions of serosity, which
produce mortal hydatides in the brain, and
the rot, a disease no less fatal.
"The best plan is to drive the flock every
day to the pond, and to make it pass slowly,
without stopping there; by this method
it will be found, that the sheep who really
want to drink, will be the only ones who
will drink.
"In countries where water is scarce, it
frequently happens that the pond is far distant,
and the flock cannot be driven to it
without being fatigued; in this case they
may pass many days without drinking, but
when fed only upon dry meat, it must not be
delayed too long.
This aliment differs much from fresh
grass, in consequence of the loss of moisture
by drying; yet sheep take daily the same
quantity of solid food, whether in grass
or in hay. In the experiments before
mentioned, I found their appetite perfectly
equal, for they eat eight pounds of
grass, or two corresponding pounds of hay,
which I found to be the product of eight
pounds of grass. The evaporation which
carried on during the making of the hay,
takes off three-fourths of the substance of
grass in fluid particles; thus the sheep,
which eats two pounds of hay, is deprived
of six pounds of liquid aliment, which it
would have had by eating eight pounds of
grass. It supplies a part of this deficiency,
by drinking about three pounds of water
when fed upon hay; but this water is not
in sufficient quantity, and possesses not the
same quality as the liquid of the grass evaporated
in drying.
"There can be no doubt that this difference
in regimen is productive of bad effects.
I shall mention some proofs of it, which are
indeed too evident, and too frequent.
"In countries where the snow remains
upon the ground for one or two months, the
cattle is reduced to dry fodder so long
as it lasts; then the weaker sheep, and
chiefly the lambs, the sheep of the second
year, the pregnant ewes, and those in milk,
languish and drop off. Shepherds denote
this miserable state by saying, they melt
their fat: they certainly grow very lean,
and fall off in great numbers.
"I have often reflected upon the cause
of this evil, and the means of preventing it.
After having prosecuted every enquiry I
could think of, it appeared to me to arise
solely from a change of diet too suddenly
effected. In one day, the sheep are reduced
from eight pounds of grass, to about
two pounds of dry fodder, and three pounds
of water. They are thus deprived, therefore,
all at once, of three-eighths of their
wonted nourishment, and these three-eighths
composed the half of the fluid part of it.
"According to my experience of the
quantity of water taken by sheep, it appears,
that their drink can only supply one--
half of the liquid which grass contains more
than hay. It would be dangerous to excite
them to drink a greater quantity of water,
because they are very subject to infiltrations.
We must, therefore, endeavour to
supply them with at least a small quantity
of fresh food every day, in order to correct
the bad effects resulting from dry meat.
"The most sensible of these bad effects
appears in the third stomach, composed in
the interior of a great number of membranous
folds, detached one from another, although
it is only from eight to ten inches in
circumference when filled with air. During
rumination, the food passes from the throat
into this third stomach, and spreads amongst
all these folds. I have there found it very
frequently parched, and almost withered, in
many sheep which I have dissected.
"This aliment, after having been ruminated,
receives, in the third stomach of the sheep,
and of other animals that chew the cud, a
preparation for digestion, which latter takes
place only in the fourth stomach. The aliment
is dry in the third stomach, not only when
the animal is fed solely upon dry meat,
which has not furnished sufficient liquid,
but also when attacked by some disease
causing too great heat, and consequently too
great evaporation of the liquids necessary to
digestion. In these two cases, bad digestion,
and the evils attending it, may be prevented
by giving some green food at least
once a day.
"At all times, when the ground is not
covered with snow, sheep find upon it sufficient
fresh food to render it unnecessary to
give them any in the rack, with their dry
meat, in a bad season. I have often stopped
in the midst of a flock, in fields half covered
with snow, where no grass whatever
was to be seen. The sheep, however, having
their eyes nearer to the ground, perceived
the points of some leaves, and scratched
with their feet to find more of the plant;
they then seized it with their teeth, and
sometimes pulled up the roots along with the
leaves. But when the snow entirely covers
the ground to a certain thickness, there is
no other resource than in the plants which
are high enough to enable the sheep easily
to remove the snow which covers them.
"There are some kinds of cabbages, such
as the fringed cabbage, which are very tall;
they resist the frost, and their leaves contain
much juice. These form an indifferent article
of food for sheep, in times when they
are not reduced to dry meat; but, if confined
to this aliment, a few of the leaves of
these plants will be found sufficient to obviate
its prejudicial effects.
"It is difficult to have a quantity of these
cabbages sufficient for numerous flocks;
they require to be sown, transplanted, and
watered for many days; and this culture
must be repeated every year, which is too
tedious and expensive for the husbandman.
Whatever advantages may attend the use of
cabbages as a diet for sheep, I would not recommend
this plant as fodder, had I not met
with a species of cabbage which may be reared
without sowing, without transplanting, or
watering. It is equally unknown to the
naturalist and to the agriculturist. Like the
fringed cabbage, it resists the frost; and,
for cattle, is preferable to it, being very easily
cultivated. It may be propagated by
cuttings; it is only necessary to slip off its
lateral branches, which are numerous, and
plant them in the earth, to have, in a short
time, new plants over the whole extent of
a well cultivated field. The leaves are less
than those of other cabbages; but the juice
they contain is as abundant; they are equally
good food for the shepherd, as well as his
flock; some handfuls of these leaves given
to a sheep, will correct the bad effects of
dry food.
"The regimen of sheep is one of the
most important branches of veterinary medicine.
This science is to be established
only by well-founded experience, with observation
and experiment frequently repeated
on these animals. An intimate acquaintance
with them in their natural state,
is necessary before attempting to cure their
(Petite Vérole, Claveleé, Claveau Clavin.)
THE Sheep-pox manifests itself by inflamed
pustules raised above the skin, especially
on the parts least covered with
wool; such as the belly, inside of the thighs
and shoulders, the nose, nipples, and beneath
the tail. The eruption is retarded
or accelerated, according to the temperature
of the air, the strength, age, and temperament
of the individual. It is commonly
completed on the fourth or fifth day.
* Médecine veterinaire, par M. Vitet Docteur et Professeur
en Medecine, 3 tomes 8vo. A Lyon, 1783.
The pustules are of several shapes, and of
different colours; being sometimes round,
sometimes oblong; at first they are always
red, they afterwards become white and soft,
suppurate, dry, and form a black crust,
which falls off spontaneously.
"This disease, which is peculiar to sheep,
communicates itself readily; the shepherd,
therefore, ought to be particularly attentive
to the symptoms announcing it, in order that
he may immediately separate the infected
animal from the flock. The loss of appetite
and depression, which precede it, are always
proportional to its violence; for the
more severely sheep are to he affected, the
less they eat. As soon as they are infected,
they cease to ruminate; their eyes become
heavy, swollen, and watery; the eyelids are
often glued together; sometimes the animal
remains in one place, drawn together
into as small bulk as possible, absorbed, the
head hanging to the ground, the tail between
the legs, their hind legs gathered towards
their fore legs; they are oppressed;
their sides beat; if they recover, the wool
falls off from the places on which the eruption
appeared; their fæces are nearly the
same as in health. When ewes with lamb
are infected with the sheep-pox, they are
apt to abort, the danger is very great, and
the pustules are small and few. It has
been observed, that the fœtus of ewes which
have died of the sheep-pox, had no external
mark of the disease; that a sheep once affected
by the sheep-pox, is never attacked
with it again; that three strong rams remained
during the epidemic in the midst
of the diseased sheep, without experiencing
any effect; and that none of the lambs of
infected sheep were attacked, although they
sucked their mothers.
"The same observers have always found the
lungs of sheep, carried off by the sheep-pox,
inflamed, covered with hydatids of a dark
purple colour, and marked with livid spots;
on drawing the finger along the exterior surface
of these organs, they distinctly perceived
small tubercles or knots; the liver
was studded with hydatids, and the vena
porta filled with fluke-worms.
If a flock begin to be infected by the
sheep-pox, the sick must be immediately
separated from the sound, and put into a
clean fold, well aired, and at a distance
from the other houses. If the heat be considerable,
they must be folded night and
day near a wood, and protected from the
sun; or they may be kept in a large and
well situated shed, and fumigated twice a
day with vinegar and frankincense. Two
ounces of blood may be taken from the
jugular vein on the first attack of the disease,
if the disease be confluent and malignant.
Once a day they must be made also
to drink water, with a little meal and salt;
and get for food only a very small quantity
of bran, moistened with water saturated by
sea salt. If the eruption be favourable, it is
unnecessary to employ any remedy; but if
the inflammation be too violent, the bleeding
must be repeated: they must get twice a day
a drachm of nitre, with a sufficient quantity
of honey to make it into a bolus; and
both evening and morning they must get as
drink, whey, or juice of lettuce, or meal
and water, holding in solution a drachm of
nitre in three pounds of fluid.
"If the eruption be tardy in appearing, or
if the pustules have in part receded, it is
proposed to give them once a day a bolus
of the size of a nut, made of equal parts
of assa fœtida and laurel berries reduced to
powder, and to feed them with hay, bran,
and oats, mixed with a spoonful of sulphur
to each animal each day.
"In this case, I would prefer the following
bolus: Take of gentian-root two
drachms, wood-soot one drachm, and honey
a sufficient quantity for a bolus; and I
would prohibit the sick all sort of food, and
allow for drink only barley-water more or
less saturated with sea-salt, and a little
bran moistened with water saturated with
sea-salt. If the cold be intense, collect all
the infected sheep into a clean fold, and
in which the air may be easily circulated.
Fumigate them with an infusion of sage
leaves in vinegar; add every day to the bran
given them for food half a drachm of gentian-root,
unless the inflammation be violent,
or the pox very mild.
Blisters applied to the bare and fleshy parts
may produce a serviceable derivation; though
certain authors have advanced, that they have
produced no sensible evacuation, even when
applied for fifteen successive days. A hellebore
seton, at the bottom of the breast, is attended
with a more evident and perspicuous
advantage. When the sheep-pox begins
to attack a flock, insert a seton of horse
hair into every sheep, however well it may
be. If the purulent matter which flows by
the seton does not preserve all the sheep
from the pox, at least they will not be exposed
to such evident danger.
SPECIES I. Mild and distinct, small-pox.
(The mild sheep-pox.)
"The eyes, the situation of the head and
ears, bespeak little sickness. The animal
eats, and continues to ruminate; the eruption
is complete, on the fourth day, and the
pustules are distinct. For four or five days
they continue hard and red; then they become
white, soft, dry, and are changed into
black crusts, which fall off spontaneously
sometime afterwards. The head is a little
swollen, and becomes heavy; the eye-lids
also swell, and the pustules appear particularly
on the nose, the cheeks, and even
the eyes, which last, though the eruption be
mild, are often destroyed by a rapid and
copious suppuration.
"This species of the disease is propagated
both by immediate contact with an infected
animal, and by the air when charged with
variolous poison. For if a sick flock meet
one which is sound, the infection is communicated
without actual contact; and it
sometimes happens, that the disease, although
mild in the former, becomes malignant
and confluent in the latter.
"The first and most essential remedy, is
to place the affected sheep under a shed, or
to confine them in a field; taking care at the
same time to guard them against the had
effects of the rain and the sun. Their food
must be moderate, a pound of bran moistened
with a small quantity of water; and
for drink, two pounds and a half of water,
with a drachm of sea-salt in solution.
Some practitioners recommend giving them,
during the whole course of the disease, as
much hay, oats, and bran, as they will take;
to which must be added, half an ounce of
flower of sulphur in powder, or two drachms
of nitre or sea-salt in the day. These medicines
are supposed to favour the eruption,
abate the inflammation, and expel a part of
the variolous virus by urine.
"If sheep were to eat only as much hay
and oats as is necessary to support their vital
strength, their aliment, in my opinion, should
be left to their own discretion; but as they
only consult their gluttony, they take always
too much food. It is therefore better that
they should suffer from deficiency, than from
excess. It is for this reason, that, in the
mild pox, we content ourselves with giving
daily a pound of soaked bran to each
sheep, and with making them drink once a
day barley-water mixed with a little salt.
"When the eruption is repelled or suppressed
by the action of too cold an atmosphere,
or by any other cause, such as
rain, the application of fresh water, the bad
qualities of air, aliment, and remedies;
when the pustules are small, whitish, pointed,
varicose, and few; when the head becomes
heavy, and the animal loses its appetite;
it is proper to give to each sheep a bolus,
made of fifteen grains of gentian-root, a
drachm of nitre, and two drachms of the extract
of juniper, and to add to the barley--
water allotted to each sheep a greater quantity
of salt. It is probably to suit this indication,
that Hastfer advises to separate
the sick sheep from the rest of the flock,
and to keep them in a house closely shut
up, and to give to each affected sheep a
grain of civet dissolved in a spoonful of
brandy or five drops of oil of wood-soot,
or six or seven drops of volatile alkali, or a
drachm of theriac, then to confine the sheep
crowded together, to make them sweat, and
not to give them that day any food till
three in the afternoon; and when the pox
are not abundant, to puncture them with a
pin, and to press out the pus, after which
they dry spontaneously. While the sheep
are sick, he prescribes a good diet, and half
a handful of salt, but no water. He informs
us, that in summer the best remedy is to
rub the limbs, the eyes, the ears, and the
mouth, both before they go out in the morning,
and when they return in the evening,
with the following decoction:— Take a
handful of alder leaves gathered in the spring
and beer two pounds and a half, and boil
to a viscous consistence. Strain and preserve
the liquor, and dip into it a pencil
or a brush to rub the affected animal. He
recommends in autumn lovage, and the root
of bastard female cupatory in powder; the
dose being a hatful for a hundred sheep,
mingled with thrice the quantity of salt.
During the whole course of the treatment
he wishes them to be pastured on dry soil
or in places covered with heath, and brought
home before the cold of the evening commences;
for it is better to keep them warn
in their folds, than to expose then to the
least cold, which is always prejudicial to
sheep attacked with this disease. When the
north wind blows with violence, and is attended
with snow and frost, the shepherd
ought to keep the affected sheep warm in
folds, vast, clean, and raised in the floor, to
keep them at a little distance from one another,
to prevent them from sweating, and
frequently to renew the air. In spring, summer,
and autumn, these precautions are unnecessary,
it is sufficient to preserve them
from the sun and the rain.
SPECIES II. Confluent Small-Pox.
Malignant Sheep-Pox.
"As soon as the sheep are affected with
the malignant pox, they lose their appetite,
and cease to eat; they become thirsty, and
leave off ruminating; their eyes are swollen,
full of tears, and obscure; the eye-lids are
often glued to one another, and the head
is considerably swelled; a humour flows
through the nostrils, thick, tenacious, for
the most part white, seldom yellow, The
eruption, in general, is so considerable, that
the body is covered with inflamed pustules,
confluent and numerous, especially the
cheeks, the nose, the eyes, and the inside of
the thighs and shoulders. If the animal be
touched, he appears to feel exquisite pain;
if he be seized by the neck, he falls, it may
be said, into convulsions; if he be caught by
the wool of the back, he falls down, and
cannot rise without difficulty; through loss
of strength, he is unable to follow the flock,
gets dull, and continues in one place, drawn
together into as small a volume as possible;
very great difficulty in breathing then supervenes,
and considerable palpitation of the
sides; the breath is insupportably fœtid;
the pustules become purple, die away without
suppuration, and become black. The
animal for the most part dies on the third
or fourth day after the eruption; but if it
survive the fifth or sixth day, a cure may be
expected, which however is seldom completed
in less than fifteen days or a month,
and very often two, after the eruption.
"To correct the bad qualities of the variolous
poison, to favour its efflux out of the
body, to hinder or diminish its action on
the parts essential to life, the following directions
must be observed:— For this purpose,
two ounces of blood must be first
drawn from the jugular vein, and the fold
in which the sheep are kept must be perfumed
with an infusion of the leaves of sage
and equal parts of spirits and vinegar. Barley-water
must be given them for their
food and drink; and if whey can be got, a
pound and a half must be given them each
day, adding to it a small quantity of sea--
salt. It is a mistaken idea that we ought
not to give sheep either aliment or remedies
in a liquid form; evening and morning,
therefore, you will make them take a glass
of barley-water, saturated with nitre; or the
bolus, so much esteemed in curing the inflammatory
diseases of sheep, must be given,
consisting of equal parts of nitre and wood--
soot, combined with a sufficient quantity
of honey.
"At the commencement of the disease,
two large blistering plasters must be applied
to the inside of both thighs, made of three
parts of Spanish flies, one part of mustard,
and two parts of dough. To facilitate the
effects of this, the inside of the thighs must
be shaved, the blisters changed every twelve
hours, or repowdered with the flies, until a.
suppuration be established, and the ulcer
then to be dressed with suppurating or digestive
ointment. A seton, with the root of
hellebore, powdered with Spanish flies, or
besmeared with ointment of beetles, is still
more essential than the blister, on account
of the speediness of its action, and the more
abundant suppuration which it produces.
"Sudorifics, purgatives, and the most celebrated
alexipharmics, such as orvietan heriaca,
and volatile alkali, are to be rejected.
They disturb the efforts of nature, they derange
the coction of the virus, and are inimical
to a favourable crisis.
"But to avoid the fatal effects of the malignant
pox, might not the purulent matter
contained in the pustules of the mild pox,
when they are whitening, be inserted into
a wound made in the integuments which
cover the legs or the breast? The advantages
of this inoculation would be evident,
if the greatest part of sheep were affected
with the pox; if a sheep attacked by
the mild pox had never communicated to
others the confluent pox; if the mild and
the malignant pox had never been observed
at the same time to affect individuals
in the same flock; if it could be proved,
in a satisfactory manner, that a sheep is
only affected with this disease once in its
life; if the inoculated sheep enjoyed as
perfect health as before inoculation; if it
were possible to prevent the greatest part
of the troublesome circumstances attending
this disease by a preparatory regimen, by
inoculating in spring or autumn, and by
chusing for this operation, only those sheep
which are young, vigorous, and healthy,
those who have lambed, or which have
ceased to give suck, &c.
"As none of these facts have been proved,
it may be presumed, that the inoculation
would do more harm than good; and
the rather, as the greater number of flocks,
inhabiting the mountains, are seldom affected
by the pox; as a flock attacked by
the mild pox, has often communicated the
confluent to another flock; as well informed
shepherds have assured me, that they
have seen sheep twice attacked in their life;
that they die on the second attack, and as
inoculated sheep are less healthy than formerly.
Observe any sheep attacked with
the mildest scab, does it ever acquire the
vigour of an unaffected one after its cure?
In fine, it is impossible to find means to
prepare the sheep for receiving the virus, so
as to experience the least possible evil from
it. The best means, if we may use the expression,
would he at the most, to seize the
moment when the sheep is in the highest
state of health."
"In the 25th volume of the Journal Generale
de Medecine, conducted by M. Sedillot,
there is an analysis of a report published
upon the vaccination of sheep, and
the sheep-pox, by a committee of the Agricultural
Society of the Department of the
Seine and Oise. From their experiments
on vaccination, clavellization, and counterproofs
of all kinds, it appears that vaccination
has, in general, produced upon sheep
only a local, feeble action, very much inferior
to that on the human body. It does not appear
ever to have affected the general system
of the sheep; nor to have excited the
slightest swelling in the vessels or glands in
the neighbourhood of the part inoculated.
But it was found impossible to communicate
the vaccine disease to sheep, which had
had the sheep-pox either recently, or at a distant
period, while those which never had
had the sheep-pox were very easily affected.
"Clavellization produces upon sheep an
action creating tumors and pustules, rapid
in its progress, though characteristical, and
accompanied with symptoms of general affection:
the effects of the sheep-pox virus
are more disorganizing, and present a more
malignant character, than those of the smallpox
virus. On sheep the vaccine disease
seems entirely to lose the energy which it
exerts on the human system; therefore," say
the committee, "we need not wonder at the
little advantage we have obtained from enendeavouring
to resist the sheep-pox by vaccination;
but although our attempt has not
succeeded in that respect, our attention and
experiments have not been unproductive of
advantage, since they have led us to positive
results, which were the principal objects
of our researches, and which are always
far better than uncertain conjecture.
"But in waiting until we discover if the
thing be possible, the means of giving the
vaccine disease in sheep the degree of energy
necessary to render it a preventive of
the sheep-pox, such as it is generally allowed
to be of the small-pox; we cannot but
recommend to the proprietors of flocks, the
practice of clavellization, or inoculating:with
the sheep-pox. This has appeared to us
to bear the same relation to the sheep-pox,
that variolous inoculation has to the smallpox;
for if our experiments had led us to
presume; that vaccination does not preserve
sheep from the most formidable of their diseases,
they have also satisfied us, that the
sheep-pox is rendered so mild by inoculation,
that it is perhaps possible to secure a
whole flock without the loss of a single individual.
If it be determined to put clavellization
in practice, the necessity of conforming
to the following observations, the
fruit of the experience which we have acquired,
will be recognised.
The inoculation of the sheep-pox has
given rise to putrid suppurations and gangrenous
eschars, which, on falling off, have
left large and deep sores; we must, therefore,
take care not to inoculate upon the
scrotum, upon the knee, or the nipples, or
upon muscles, tendons, or aponeuroses,
which are not separated from the skin by
much fat and cellular membrane; The
most proper places for this operation appear
to us to be at the fall of the shoulder,
behind the tail, and above the flank. To
clavellize with success, it is sufficient to
make superficial punctures without drawing
blood, between the cuticle and skin, with a
lancet or flat needle, armed with the matter
of sheep-pox, and to deposit in it a small
quantity of that matter. We have seen
forty-five sheep inoculated with the sheep--
pox indiscriminately mixed with others infected
by the contagion, without the effects
of the clavellization appearing to be greater,
or more malignant, upon these than upon
others which were kept apart after the
operation. This observation, which is important,
from the advantageous consequences
which may be derived from it, proves, that
the sheep-pox, communicated by inoculation,
is much more rapid, and much milder,
than that communicated in the ordinary
way by herding together, since the effects
of inoculation appear on the second day
after the insertion of the matter; while on
those that are naturally infected, it does
not appear till the fifteenth or thirtieth.
It is known, that when the natural sheep--
pox affects a flock, it is tolerably mild at
the beginning and end of the epidemic, and
that its effects are most fatal upon those animals
which are infected the second month,
or, as our shepherds call it, the second
round. There as soon as a few of a flock
are infected with the natural sheep-pox
they are sure of having time to preserve all
the others from its ravages, by not delaying
to inoculate them.
Therefore, when we consider, in the first
place, that the sheep in a flock infected
with the natural sheep-pox are successively
ill for at least four months, and that sometimes
the half of them die; while, on the
contrary, by means of inoculation, in twenty-five
or thirty days a flock may be relieved
from, and for ever rendered proof against
the most noisome, as well as the most fœtid
and most destructive disease of sheep, and
that in one hundred we do not perhaps run
the risk of losing one; and, in the second
place, that this operation, performed by a
dexterous sheep-doctor, would not require
from him three or four visits to superintend
its progress in a whole flock; it is impossible
to hesitate between a process so simple
and œconomical, and the anxiety, infection,
and immense loss to which proprietors expose
themselves by quietly submitting to the
epidemic ravages of the natural disease."
On the utility of encouraging the system of Sheep--
Farming in some districts of the Highlands, and
Population in others. Addressed to the Honourable
President and Members of the Highland
As many of the letters which I wrote to
you are rather of a light nature, and the
remarks on the farming of the Highlands
scattered and interwoven through a great
number of other subjects, trifling and whimsical
of themselves, and calculated rather
to afford amusement, than lead to any solid
disquisition; I think it proper, in a supplementary
essay, to take a retrospect of the
subject in a general point of view.
And certainly this subject, which comprehends
such an extent of valuable country,
and such a number of valuable people,
ought not to be treated with levity; but is
in a higher degree worthy of investigation,
than any other to which the tourist can direct
his attention, or the theorist his scrutinies.
It is a subject which, at this very
time, forms the principal topic of conversation
amongst thousands, and on which the
whole Highlands is divided, one district
against another, one family against another,
and even individuals of a family against
others of the same family, viz. What stock
is most proper for the Highlands? It is
a subject which may be entered into with
warmth, but not with prejudice. Where
the writer must produce a statement of facts,
and convince by reason, not by assertion;
and on which it is impossible to reason accurately
without a personal acquaintance
with the local situation of the different countries
in the north and west of Scotland,
with the manners and propensities of the
inhabitants, and indeed with every branch
of their rural economy.
"To attain this knowledge, and to be
certified of facts, without the assurance of
which it was impossible to throw a proper
light on the subject, the foregoing letters
will bear sufficient testimony, that I have
neither spared time nor trouble, nor even
expences, as far as my circumstances would
permit. I have traversed all the pasture
countries* betwixt the firths of Tay and
Dornoch, and visited every principal glen
and island between Cantyre, the heights of
Assynt,† and Butt ‡ of the Lewis. I have
conversed freely with every class of men,
* This is a term frequent through all the Highlands,
to denote a glen, or valley, or district, separated from
others by ridges of mountains.
† A country belonging to the Countess of Sutherland.

‡ The north-west corner of Europe, otherwise called
Oreby Point, in the isle of Lewis.
from the peer of the realm, surrounded by
his friends and menials, to the peasant who
wanders barefooted and half naked among
the Grampian deserts; and after all, I am
conscious of much deficiency in point of
"It will be expected, that, in the first
place, I shall state the proportional increase
and value of sheep and black cattle, with
the extent and nature of the land necessary
for the sustenance of each in the same proportion;
and I am certain that, in the
common way of reckoning, that of taking a
given number of sheep, against a proportional
number of cows, and counting the
profits and losses of each, without considering
the situation of the farm, they will come
very near to the same amount. I have tried
the estimate every way, and found it so;
however, we shall take the average prices of
last summer, and make the experiment.
"It is an established custom in the south
of Scotland, that one cow stands for ten
sheep; and where the black-faced sheep are
the stocking of the farm, the cow and calf
are reckoned the weightiest sum,* not so
much from the quantity that they eat, as
from their nicety in the choice of their food.
In the Highland districts, however, this thesis
will by no means hold, the cattle being
smaller, and even more than proportionally
easier maintained; and were the soil of the
Highlands as grassy as that in the south of
Scotland, I durst venture to state the proportion
as one to five. But as a mossy surface
prevails to such a degree throughout
the Highlands, and as the sheep will feed
more than three times as much on heather,
and such coarse herbage as is peculiar to
moss, as the cattle will, the statement must
be in a medium between the above: I will
therefore venture it as three black cattle
* Though this is properly an indefinite term, it is applied
in the south of Scotland to the grass of ten sheep,
one cow, or nineteen pecks of oatmeal; Edinburgh measure.
Of all these, a shepherd often gets his choice,
and they are called his sums.
for twenty sheep, which is certainly as near
the truth of the balance as reason or experience
can come, but this supposing them
to be confined to the same bounds. We
shall then place one hundred sheep against
fifteen cows, which we shall suppose all to
live and thrive, the risk of accidents and
diseases being much the same; as there are
a great many more lives in a stock of sheep,
there must of course more lives be lost; but;
as far as I could learn, there was a proportion
as one to five of the above numbers.
The trembling prevails amongst both sheep
and cattle on some seasons, and the blackspauld
* keeps at least up-sides with the
* This is a distemper to which the young cattle on
the Long Island, Sky, and others of the western countries,
are very much subjected. It commences by a painful
swelling on one of the limbs, which by degrees mortifies,
and commonly causeth immediate death to the
animal; it is besides very infectious; on attacking his
herd, the farmer commonly causeth the byres to be fumigated;
the flesh of the animal hath the very same
colour and effluvia with that of a sheep which dies of
the sickness or braxy.
braxy. We shall also suppose our sheep of
the black-faced Scottish breed, as it is still
a controverted point, whether the fine wooled
race are a suitable stock for that country,
and we shall, in the first place, begin
with them in lambs and calves.
"On the first year, viz. on the first year
of a lease, from Whitsunday to Whitsunday,
we have no returns from our sheep; on the
second year, they cast us a fleece each, and
no further profit; on the third year, they
again cast us a fleece each, and eighty
lambs, which is allowing every fifth gimmer*
to be eild.† That this is above an
average, the following instance may serve
to confirm: Mr Thomas Gillespie last year,
on the farm of Inchlaggon, in Glengary,
wintered for the first time 600 gimmers of
the finest Cheviot breed, and although a
* Gimmer is a term used to distinguish the females of
a stock of sheep, during the second year of their age.
The wedders of the same age are called Dinmonts. The
next year the females are denominated Twinters, being
a contraction, I suppose, for two winters.
† Eild is a Scotch word to denote a sheep without a
lamb, a cow without a calf, &c.
long course of experience hath given evidence
of the goodness of the soil, it hath
no better an appearance than many other
Highland farms, from off which the returns
are trifling. The sheep were in excellent
condition; the lambs were so good, that a
great part of them were fit for stocking, and
one twentieth gimmer was not eild. As
our eighty lambs are small, we shall reckon
them only at seven shillings per lamb: we
have besides fifteen stones of wool, which is
the common average of a stock of the black--
faced breed; they would indeed have considerably
more for the first two years if
smeared, but as they would probably have
as much less on the sixth and seventh years,
we shall take the fifteen stones for our standard
all along, and count it nine shillings
per stone. On the fourth year, the lambs
are as good, or nearly so, as ever they will
be, and we cannot suppose fewer than ninety
lambs, which we shall reckon at 9s. per
lamb. On the fifth year, it will be necessary
to sell twenty of the worst looking
ewes, and to replace them by keeping twenty
of the best ewe lambs: as ten of the sale
ewes are eild and in good condition, we
shall estimate them at twenty pounds, and
still we have seventy lambs at nine shillings
a piece. On the sixth year, one half of the
remaining eighty must be sold and replaced
by lambs, these ewes at eighteen shillings a
piece; and forty lambs, at nine shillings a
piece, constitute this year's profit; but we
have the wool each year over and above
this statement. On the seventh year, the
remaining forty old ewes must be sold off,
and their lambs kept in their place; and
this year we have nothing save the forty
ewes, and the wool to dispose of, excepting
a few gimmers' lambs, of which we shall
make no account, as we may be obliged to
buy our ewe lambs dearer than we sell our
wedder ones. Thus it appears, that at the
end of seven years, the clear profits from an
hundred lambs is 250l. 10s. from which we
must deduct 50l. laid out at first, as the price
of the lambs: after subtracting this, the remainder
is 200l. 10s. Our stock at the term
of Whitsunday, consists of forty hoggs,* forty
gimmers, and twenty twinters, which we
shall value at 1l. 2s. per sheep, which is
110l.; this, added to the remainder, makes
310l. 10s., the total value of stock and all;
as may be seen in the following Table:
"I have estimated every thing rather below,
than above the price of the present day,
besides making several allowances.
A Table of the Septennial Returns from an
hundred Lambs.
Years. Ewes. Lambs. Wool. Yearly Returns.
1 — — — — —
2 — — 15 L.6 15 0
3 — 80 15 34 15 0
4 — 90 15 47 5 0
5 20 70 15 58 5 0
6 40 40 15 60 15 0
7 40 — 15 42 15 0
250 10 0
Deduct as value of original stock 50 0 0
200 10 0
Add as value of remaining stock 110 0 0
L.310 10 0
*When lambs are smeared in October, they are denominated
hoggs until they are fleeced next June.
To make a proper estimate of the returns
of black-cattle during the same period,
is a much more difficult undertaking;
and what one farmer will view as an accurate
statement, others will view as the
greatest absurdity. Throughout the whole
Highlands this year I found the prices of
sheep to bear the most exact uniformity,
and in the most remote Highlands the
lambs were rating highest; but this was
far from being the case with respect to the
cattle. To such a degree have the Highland
breed of cattle been nourished and improved
by some persons, and so much neglected
by others, that in some places of
Argyleshire I found whole droves fetching
three tunes the price of others of the same
age farther to the northwards.* To steer in
a proper medium here is no easy task; but
* This assertion may seem an exaggeration; but the
Duke of Argyle's oxen, and those of Shawfield from
Islay, sold in Dunbarton at from 18l. to 24l.; at the same
time those of the Long Island were selling at from 7l.
to 9l.
it must be remembered that the pastures
which these prime cattle graze upon, being
of the finest description, are qualified to
breed as large and as fine sheep as any land
in Scotland, either in the north or south;
and consequently greater returns may be
anticipated from them, than the common
average price of Highland short sheep, which
is our standard. It is the prevailing custom
throughout all the more northern Highlands
and islands, to keep the male from their
young cows, until they are on outgone four
years of age; thus they calve for the first
time when they are exactly five. This is a
fact which was related to me by many of
the principal tacksmen, who added, that
one which had a calf a year sooner could
be distinguished all the rest of her life. On
some of the coasts of Argyleshire indeed,
and in the eastern parts of the Grampian--
hills, they suffer them to calve a year sooner;
therefore we shall suppose our fifteen cows
to calve when four years of age; but as
there is no possibility of disposing of them,
we must necessarily keep them through the
winter; and the fifth year likewise expires
before we can raise a farthing from them,
saving the small overplus of milk that is
saved from the calves. This, though rather
a convenience than a profit, should not be
quite overlooked, as it is the chief cause
why the black cattle have so long stood
their ground amongst all the poorer classes
of tenants in the Highlands. It is nevertheless
common with the principal cattle
farmers, to keep a certain number of hand,
some cows, which they denominate breeders:
these they pasture in a quiet place by themselves,
while the whole of their milk goes to
the nourishment of the young stock.
"Thus four years pass without any profits
from our cattle; at the end of the fifth
year we have fifteen steers to dispose of;
these, at four pounds each, is 60l.; on the
sixth and seventh summers we have the
same, and at the Whitsunday following we
dispose of our cows, and are just where we
began with twenty calves. Our cows at
9l. each is 1351.* Thus it appears by the
table, that on reckoning three cattle to occupy
the same proportion of land as twenty
sheep, the profits at the returns of certain
periods are the same. But let us consider
the soil and situation of the country in question.

"In the following description, I would
*A Table of the Septennial Returns from Fifteen
Years. Cows. Steers. Annual Returns.
1 — — —
2 — — —
3 — — —
4 — — —
5 — 15 L.60 0 0
6 — 15 60 0 0
7. — 15 60 0 0
180 0 0
To which add as the
price of cows 135 0 0
L.315 0 0
From the above statement, it would appear, that the
black cattle have rather the ascendancy; but the farmer
paying rent so long before he makes any profit of
his cows, more than doubly compensates for this; and
if the profits of Cheviot sheep were taken, they would
amount to a fourth more.
be understood as meaning the mountainous
parts of the Highlands only; for although
the whole country to the north of the rivers
Forth and Leven be vulgarly called the
Highlands, it is well known that the extensive
and fertile plains stretching all along
the shores of the German ocean, and often
extending far amongst the mountains, may
as properly be called Lowlands as either
the Merse or Lothians. By the Highlands,
then, I mean that vast range of stupendous
mountains, deep glens, trackless forests, and
populous isles, which break and intersect
the ocean and the plain from the neighbourhood
of Dunbarton to Cape-wrath:
where the Gaelic language prevails, and the
Highland garb is worn; where the hardy
race of the ancient Caledonians have taken
shelter from the incessant toils of agriculture,
as their fathers did from the devouring
"And at the first view of that country,
every man, even the prejudiced at modern
improvements and innovations, as he may
be pleased to call them, must acknowledge,
that nature never intended it for the rearing
of cattle, and no man will hesitate whether
sheep or goats are the most feasible
stock. For, in the first place, with respect
to black cattle, one third of the whole
country is out of the question, it being perfectly
inaccessible to these animals. Yet
amongst the rocks, where the cattle would
never go in search of it, there the sheep receive
the most nutritious of their food.
"The Highland hills are for the most
part of a pyramidal form, very high, and
commonly so steep and rugged, that to the
eye of the traveller they have an appearance
perfectly tremendous. The sides and
banks of the glens and rivulets are commonly
covered, or mixed, with a rich short
grass, intermingled with numberless aromatic
herbs and flowers. The extensive flats
and sloping declivities around the bottoms
and lower parts of the mountains, are covered
with a coarse mossy turf, interspersed
with thin sapless heather, which hath stood
in the same squalid form, since the time
that it first made its appearance on the retreat
of the universal deluge, mixed with
some of the moss stalks, called ling and deer--
hair. On some of these extensive tracks,
where there are small interpolations of sand,
or particles of granite washed from the sides
of the mountains, quantities of a short bluish
grass maketh its appearance, called mossprie,
or sword-grass. All from this upward,
from the place where the strait ascent of the
hills commence, and where they are free of
naked rocks, they are invariably covered with
fine heather, thick, green, and nutritious;
or else with a green thinnish grass, somewhat
more slender in the blade than that
on the valleys. This, from its sweetness, attaches
the sheep to it in great numbers, and
fattens them amazingly. From the beginning
of June until the beginning of October,
although such hills are stocked with
their usual quota of sheep, in traversing the
vales you will rarely see one of them, they
being at that season all ascended and lying
at their ease in the deep ravines and green
stripes amongst the rocks, which though
thin of soil, yet being frequently washed
with fresh showers from the Atlantic, and
the rocks refracting the rays of the sun,
have a rapid vegetation during the summer
months; and it is from these precipices
that they are brought in autumn so strong
and fat, that they are the admiration of
those who have seen the country, and now
see the sheep. This one circumstance, impartially
considered, is of itself a sufficient
proof of what I have long considered
as a fact, namely, that till the Highland
hills (I do not say valleys) are completely
stocked with sheep, they will never answer
the end for which the wise Author of nature
designed them, nor ever bring their value
to the generous and patriotic proprietors.
"But there is still another more powerful
objection to a black-cattle stock, if a
more powerful one can be, and that is the
difficulty of wintering them.; so that laying
aside one third of the ground as inaccessible,
yet the remainder will often summer
three, nay ten, for every one that it is possible
to winter. There being no such thing as
out-field hay, or even natural meadow, to
be met with in the most of that country,
they are obliged to manure small lots with
the dung of their cattle for that purpose;
and it is really astonishing what prodigious
extents of land some of them bring under
tillage by the most awkward and laborious
modes of agriculture imaginable, and often
on a soil the most unfriendly to vegetation;
and after all, it is next to desperate labour,
their crops of black-oats being poor, backward,
and uncertain; but all this is necessary
to meet the exigencies of their cattle
and families.
"This was chiefly, as many of them informed
me, what opened the eyes of sundry individuals
to the utility and propriety of a sheep
stock. They observed, that their few native
sheep, which wandered disregarded on their
mountains, made shift to live comfortably by
working off the snow with their feet, whilst
they were obliged to bestow their last pen
of fodder on their starving cattle; and that
the woolly coats of the former, resisted the
sleety showers and boisterous blasts of these
regions, keeping their possessors warm and
quiet, whilst the bare cattle stood snuffing,
shaking their heads, and setting up
their backs like dromedaries.
I was told by one ingenious islander,
who had adopted the sheep system, and
who declared that he had made more profit
by them than he had made by farming
all the rest of his life, that, if he could
have wintered one half of the cattle he
could have summered, he never would have
altered his plan; but that in order to raise
forage for them during the winter, he was
obliged to keep such a number of hands,
his land being all to till with the crooked
spade, that they ate up the whole of his profits,
and after all were pinched with hunger.
Even this same circumstance, the necessity
of keeping such a number of servants, is a
great grievance on the cattle farmer. How
easy and agreeable is it to give orders to
two or three shepherds, perhaps once or
twice in a month, compared with raging
and swearing in Gaelic, among a great retinue
of ragged, emaciated wretches, whose
natures did commence with sufferance, and
time hath made hard in it. I indeed saw
them working from light to night, subsisted
on two small pittances a day, a small cake
of black bread, and a little brochen at noon,
and the same at evening. Those who were
working at kelp devoured the shell-fish on
the shore raw and alive: Is it any wonder
to see the ladies of such houses loaden with
bunches of keys?
"There is but one loss that I can think
of, which affects the sheep-farmer only, and
that is the ravages of the foxes. Slight as
some may esteem this, in many places it is
of a serious nature; and although in Argyleshire,
and some places of Inverness-shire,
they have, by indefatigable assiduity, greatly
thinned them, yet in Ross-shire, Sutherland,
and the Isle of Sky, their ravages are dreadful.
The small tenants around the Loch--
Brooms, and on the borders of Sutherland,
take a most effectual way to prevent them:
they never think of hunting reynard through
the uncouth rocks, but they gather their
flocks into houses every night of the year;
by which plan, they not only deprive the
foxes of their breakfast, but the lambs also.
In the cots where they lodge them, they
have frequently two apartments, into one
of which they turn the lambs at night, and
then milk the ewes in the morning before
they release them. I argued with them,
that there was a probability of exterminating,
not only them, but the eagles, by the
use of poison: it is a fact, that they prefer
a piece of rancid flesh to any other; consequently,
I think, that to anoint a piece of
that description with arsenic or nux-vomica,
they would scarcely miss eating part of
it, if it were hid near roads and places
where they are known to haunt. The Long
Island is well freed of these destructive animals,
there never having any of the species
yet appeared on these coasts. I heard some
of the ship-masters of the Lewis threatening
to introduce a brood, to prevent the extension
of sheep-farming; it having been
begun there this season on a large scale, to
the expulsion of a few families. The above
evil is, however, one which perseverance
will greatly extenuate.
"To counterbalance this, and to encourage
the sheep-farmer, the Highland countries are
by no means harassed by storms of snow lying
long or deep on the ground, as those on
the south of Scotland and borders of England
are. The country of Badenoch, however, and
almost all those parts of the Grampian hills
that lie to the eastward of the Garry, are
exceptions to this general rule; in these
countries the storms of snow are long and
severe. But throughout all the rest of the
Highlands, from the Mull of Cantire to the
Pentland Firth, there are only a very few
farms where they either have removed their
sheep on this account, or are in danger of being
obliged to remove. The reason is obvious:
Every country on the whole western coast,
that is not really an island, is a peninsula
in a greater or lesser degree; and every one
knows the humid nature of the Due-Caledonian
sea, and that all those glens whose
openings are towards it, though at a great
distance, are every day released on their
lower parts from much of the snow that
falls during the night. And all beyond the
intended track of the Caledonian canal, the
country being narrow and intersected on
both sides by arms of the sea running a
great way into the country, the crown, or
rather back-bone of it, is never elevated to
any great degree above the sea's level.
"Another inestimable quality, with respect
to sheep-farming, and which is peculiar
to the Highlands, is the sea-ware growing
on the shores. Some will imagine, that
the farms which can be thus benefited, will be
few in number; but, as I said before, every
country, saving a few inland districts, being
either an island or a peninsula, the shores of
the Highlands become thus of an incredible
extent: for, besides the principal salt-water
lochs, the smaller inlets are perfectly innumerable,
and a country of twenty square
miles will frequently have above an hundred
miles of sea-shore: and although the
shores of the promontories are generally
bold and rocky, the bays, small and great,
never fail to terminate slaunting or level
shores, covered with sea-ware, and often in
extensive and valuable sea-marshes or carses,
as they are called in many places. These
being always green, and strongly impregnated
with salt, are uncommonly healthful and
nutritious; and being rather of a purgative
nature, are infallible antidotes against the
rot, as well as. the braxy or sickness.
look upon the possession of a part of these
coasts, by the sheep-farmer, to be the strongest
safe guard that he possibly can have; for
in the hardest winters, which causeth the
sheep to fasten best upon them, when the
inland farmers are fled from home with
their flocks, and in danger of losing numbers?
the sheep on these coasts are frequently
in the best condition. When the heather
is contiguous to the shore, which seldom
fails, the sheep spread outward on it while
the tide is full, and, as soon as it ebbs,
throng down to the shore to feed on the
ware. Thus the one being of a costive, and
the other of a laxative nature, while they
feed on each alternately, they thrive exceedingly.
And the ware being cut only once
every three years, in order to be manufactured
into kelp, and as it grows fastest in
summer, when the sheep do not feed on it,
they do it very little hurt for the manufacturer,
while the manufactuer does it as little
hurt for them. The sea-marsh, which keeps
an everlasting verdure, is noted for being
productive of large quantities of milk in
the sheep or cattle that graze, upon it.
"In the countries above mentioned, viz.
part of Athol, the whole of Badenoch, and
all the upper parts of Moray, Banff, Aberdeen,
and Angus-shires, the snows lying
long deep and frozen in winter, becomes a
serious concern. These districts lying far
off, and hid from the mild influences and
softening breezes of the Atlantic, and beside
their cold exposure, being situated
around the heads of long and rapid rivers,
their lowest vales are elevated to a great
height above the level of the sea. The
Spey, after leaving Badenoch, runs in a
straight line a distance of fifty miles, and
following its meanders upwards of ninety,
during a long track of which course it descends
with great rapidity, boiling and struggling
through rocks, and often falling from
considerable heights; consequently, at what
an amazing height the plains and meadows
of Badenoch lie. Although the descent of
the Dee be somewhat inure gentle, yet the
extensive glens and forests around it must
occasionally labour under the same visitation.
The head of Banffshire or Strathaven,
although not so far inland as any of the
others, is, I believe, as cold and as high as
any of them. The waters of Lochavon,
situated in the midst of a large glen of the
same name, are no less than 1700 feet above
the sea's surface; yet this glen is surrounded
by very high mountains, (of which the
famous Cairn-gorum is one,) excellently sheltered;
and, like almost every other glen in
these countries, finely interspersed with wild
"In this, as well as in sundry others,
there is no person nor living creature attempts
wintering; and the only benefit that
is derived from grounds which might rear
many thousands of excellent wedders, is the
summering a few hundreds of cattle on the
green spots in the valleys. Indeed his Grace
the Duke of Gordon, from an excessive lenity,
bath not only spoiled his people, but
lost, in a great measure, the profits of much
of his extensive possessions: but to leave
"I am not assaying to prove, that these
countries are the best pastures in the world
for sheep; my intent being only to show,
that sheep are the most suitable stock in
the world for these countries; and even
these of which we are treating at present,
although more precarious than the rest of
the Highlands, have some ameliorating opportunities,
which the rest have not, nor indeed
stand much in need of. On the respective
rivers descending from these, wild
extensive woods, both natural and planted,
adorn almost every mountain's brow: on the
intermediate spaces, which, though not large
enough to admit of keeping a perpetual
stock of sheep, are some of the finest wintering
spots in the island, being mostly a
mixture of small broom, fine heather, and
flowering shrubs. These the possessors are
very willing to let at a moderate rent for a
few months during winter; and, in fact,
there should no sheep-farmer, who occupies
land in these countries to any extent, venture
a full stock on his grounds without
having such a wintering in view. In the
head of Angus, and some parts of Perthshire,
this method is already much resorted
to by the cautious and experienced sheep--
farmer; and although the winter should
prove fresh and open, it lightens their walks
on the dead months of February and March.
"The soil and face of the country in
these districts are of such a nature, that the
winter will be-very hard indeed, if the sheep
fall much away before Candlemas; the heather
being of such a good quality, and
wholly mixed with salutary herbs. Besides,
the projecting brows of the mountains, commonly
forming semicircles, some parts of
them are always swept clean of the snow by
the winds, blow from what quarter they
will. But in the spring quarter, owing to
the dryness of the soil, coldness of the climate,
and high situation of the ground, it,
is not capable of maintaining nearly the
quantities of sheep that it will do through
the rest of the year: therefore a wintering
seems absolutely necessary to every farmer
who would stock his grounds to the full.
In the district of Badenoch, indeed,
there seems to be very little dependence on
a refuge of this nature. The country of
Lochaber to the west, and those of StrathErrick,
and the great Caledonian Glen towards
the north, are already stocked with
sheep; consequently have need of all their
low grounds themselves, neither is there
any feasible spot near them to the eastward.
The face of the country of Badenoch
is, however, almost peculiar to itself.
On the links of the Spey there are excellent
crops of natural hay, and which, by
water-fleeting, might be made exorbitant,
and nearly adequate to any exigency that
might occur in the depth of winter; and
the morasses being of great extent, and
many of them low lying, would suit very
well for spring pasture. It seems, then, to
be the only resource of the Badenoch farmer
to stock light, and to depend upon the
product of his own farm only. The management
of short-sheep* hath already made
* Short-sheep is the term vulgarly applied to distinguish
the Scottish black-faced breed of sheep in opposition
to the fine-woolled English breed, which are
termed long-sheep; these are descriptive of their seveconsiderable
progress in Badenoch; having
been introduced into the upper parts of it
with success, many years ago, by Mr Mitchel.
There was also once a good stock of
the same breed on Dalnaspidal, in the very
head of Athol, on one of the most bleak
and dreary situations in Scotland; a part of
the farm being formed by that high ridge,
called Drumochder: yet from this high situation,
the stock were very seldom to remove
on account of the storms in winter.
From want of being properly drafted in due
season, the stock on the farm is now much
"I may mention, once for all, that the
black-faced breed of sheep are the much
surest stocking on any of the last mentioned
countries; they being the most hardy and
shifty for such a climate, let theorists say
what they will. The Duke of Athol tried
ral shapes. The former are likewise known, in some
places, by the appellations of the Forest breed, and the
Linton breed.
a mixture of the fine-woolled breed on
Glentilt, which did thrive well enough, but
he always brought them into the well sheltered
parks about Blair during the spring.
The districts of Ranoch and Bredabine,
although opening to the eastward, yet being
of a westerly situation, and strongly
sheltered from the cold quarters by higher
hills, are very rarely visited by lying storms.
Excepting a few extensive flat morasses in
Sutherland, and the isle of Lewis, the rest
of the Highlands are so much alike in soil,
surface, and climate, advantages and disadvantages,
that the general description is applicable
to the whole. Of the northern pasture
countries, Sky and Kintail seem entitled
to the superiority.
"I know that some of the greatest and
most able speculators on the subject of
stocking the Highlands with sheep, have
always looked upon their distance from the
English markets as a great and insurmountable
difficulty. That they are at a great
distance from the English markets, no man
in his right senses will deny; but that they
are farther off for sheep than for cattle, as
few will venture to affirm. It remains, then,
only for us to enquire, whether a thousand.
pounds worth of cattle, or a thousand
pounds worth of sheep, are carried with the
greatest ease and least expence to the south;
which is now so well authenticated by the
corresponding testimony of drovers, both
from the south and north, that a minute
comparison seems as needless as it would
be tedious.
"Mr M'Intire, tenant in Letterewe, on
the banks of Loch-mari, in the west of
Ross-shire, assured me this year, that the
trouble and expence of taking sheep to the
southern markets was perfectly trifling, compared
with that of taking cattle; for although
the cattle were capable of marching
longer stages, they took a far greater
number of men to drive them; and that, besides
costing him three times as much expences
for grass as the sheep did, they were
much more harassed and wasted on the
road in proportion; as they were much more
destructive to the lands through which they
passed. He even assured me, that it was
very common, on most part of the roads,
for idle people to gather out in clubs, and
to waste and abuse his cattle, and quarrel
with his men, as a piece of most excellent
amusement; and if they could overturn or
knock clown a poor wearied Highlander,
they would boast of it all the rest of their
lives. I know from experience, that this
part of Mr M'Intire's information is strictly
conformable to truth; and the better protection
of these men, who bring so many
thousands of pounds into our country, seems
well worthy of the interference of the Scottish
legislature. I have known instances of
drovers having been attacked for the most trifling
offences by the way side, their cattle arrested
by force, and confined on a bare muir or
sand-bed, until they should satisfy an unreasonable
demand, as an indemnification for
the great loss sustained. The poor men, ignorant
where to apply for justice, and it being
hard to leave their drove in that condition,
until the right is determined by the
tedious jugglers of the law, are always obliged
to comply, which encourageth other
tygers to watch every opportunity of such
a slip. Surely the drovers privileges on
the high way should be searched into,
and made public; and the Justices of the
Peace directed to see them righted, which
I can assure you many of them are slack
in doing.
"Now when we are upon this subject, I
cannot resist the impulse of suggesting to
the Society, that a number of commons or
farms, appropriated solely to the accommodation
of drovers and farmers with their cattle
and sheep, here and there, upon the
great drove roads leading to the south, could
not fail in being of the utmost utility, for
ameliorating the anxiety and risk of that
useful class of men while on the high way,
and for the furthering and encouraging that
most necessary traffic. I know that the
funds of the honourable and patriotic body
of men, to whom I address this epistle, are
already considerable and fast advancing: I
know also, that their wish is to employ these
funds, for "the lawful procuring and furthering
the wealth and outward estate of
themselves and others:" neither is it by
theory, but by practice, that this can be accomplished;
and for this purpose, I would
propose the following plan to your maturer
consideration. That you would employ a
person of some discernment in these particulars,
to purchase, or take in lease, certain
spots for the purpose of resting places.
Coarse land, and of some extent, would be
preferable. Soft, grasses being very pernicious
to sheep or cattle when on a long journey;
and the dung which would be lodged
annually on them at the great trystes, would
soon fertilize a coarse spot to a high degree;
so that if it were a purchase, the Society
might. find their advantage in it, whilst, in
the mean time, they administered the most
signal advantage to an useful body of men.
"If such purchases or leases were obtained,
they might either be let to tenants
on the express condition, that no droves
were refused admittance on paying a certain
prefixed sum per score, which droves
should be restricted from resting longer than
twenty-four hours; or otherwise the charge
of the farm might be vested in a neighbouring
tenant, tradesman, or cottager, who, as
an equivalent for the rent, might exact a
certain toll on all such droves as chose to
rest there. Such a person might find his
advantage in having the following emphatic
inscription affixed to the wall of his house,
which I have seen in the Highlands: "Meal
and Whisky sold here."
"No man, who was never concerned in
exporting cattle or sheep from one part of
the kingdom to another, can comprehend
the ease and convenience resulting from
such an institution. At the approach of
every evening, the drover trembles to know
* Twenty.
how his weary and fatigued men and cattle
shall be accommodated during the night
which though far travelled, and worn long
on the market, are nevertheless confined on
the highway with dogs and staves for many
successive nights. Were it not for the accumulated
troubles attending the exportation
of sheep and cattle, many a grazier
would go north for them; who, rather than
encounter the confusion, chuseth to purchase
them dearer at home: and many a
Highland farmer, who drives his stock to a
dull or crowded market on the borders of
the Highlands, would carry them on to
England, rather than sell them at the reduced
prices, which generally prevail on
the eve of such markets. It would likewise
be a great relief for tenants by the way side;
the droves that now come from the Highlands
being so numerous, are really become
a great grievance, and in some degree justifies
the farmer's severity.
I have launched rather prematurely into
this subject; but to return. Mr M'Intyre
(than whom never man, I believe, hath
had the charge of bringing more of both
cattle and sheep from the north) told me,
that he drove great numbers of ewes and
wedders every year to Falkirk tryste, at
which place you would rarely have seen a
lame sheep among them. He said, he never
kept an exact account how much they cost;
but, as far as he could recollect, they did
not cost him above a penny per sheep. The
Earl of Carlisle's men told me, that they had
driven sheep to his lordship from the isle of
Mull, for the trifling sum of three-halfpence
per sheep. It is probable, indeed, that these
men employed their own shepherds; and
there being no tolls in the Highlands, saving
the men's maintenance, their expenses
are otherwise scarcely worth counting. Many
a farmer charges at the rate of eighteenpence
per score for cattle during the night on the
coarsest muirs, who does not exact any
thing for sheep.
"The accounts which I received of the
expences attending the exportation of cattle,
were so various and contradictory, that I
forbear mentioning them; it being now generally
understood, that the exportation of
grown sheep is much cheaper, and as safe
and easy, as the exportation of cattle.
"But, says the speculatist, suppose all this
is granted; if once the Highlands were fully
stocked with sheep, what shall become of
all the ewe lambs that are not necessary for
replacing the aged of the several stocks?
This, at first sight, bath some weight; and,
without a considerable change on the face
of the Highlands, may, some time or other,
appear to have been an argument founded
on consequences necessary and combined.
I can, however, confidently affirm, that the
time is yet far distant. The Highlands are
not nearly in such an advanced state of being
fully stocked, as many are apt to imagine.
For even in those districts, where the
sheep are the predominant stock, although
they may be adequate to the present rents,
are very far from being completely stocked:
and, although they have been stocking up
these fifty years, the demand hath still increased
as the stock increased; and the demand
was this year greater, and the prices
higher in the Highlands, than in any other
place in Britain; and I really do think, after
all, if we include the islands that the
Highlands are not yet half stocked. And
again: the scarcity of a breeding stock
makes the Highland farmer always to keep
his ewes until they are too old, which is the
very reason why the north country ewes sell
the cheapest, while their wedders sell the
dearest of any other Scots sheep. When
these are considered, we certainly cannot
compute the inconvenience of a stagnation
of our ewe lambs, to be nearer than the
space of thirty years distance. As there is
always such a demand for Highland wedders
to fatten on the southern pastures, there
is no danger, that there shall ever be a
failure in the demand for wedder lambs; I
shall probably make it to appear, that there
is as little danger of a failure in demand for
the ewe ones.
"It is a well known fact, that the old
proverb, "Scotland breeds and England
feeds," cannot so well be applied as it once
was; and that since the turnip husbandry
was introduced into Scotland with such
success, we can outsell the English in their
own markets for fat sheep. I am also informed,
by some old drovers, that it is their
opinion, there are ten lambs sold in Edinburgh
market, for every one that was sold
when they first frequented it, at which time
they were selling at from two to two and
sixpence per lamb. May it not as well be
presumed, that ere the time shall arrive,
when the Highlands are completely stocked
with sheep, the large and populous country
along the eastern coast of Scotland, in
which there are such a number of flourishing
towns and villages, may be adequate to the
consumption of the overplus of the lambs,
necessary for recruiting the live stock of the
Highlands? From past observations, it is
evident, that a general stocking with sheep,
influences particularly two articles of the
very utmost importance to this country;
mean the turnip husbandry, and the woollen
manufactories; and thus drawing the
population of the country unto those places,
which are fitted for bearing and maintaining
the population; and divesting the wild
inhospitable glens and islands of a burden,
which nature never intended they should
bear. Where thousands of hardy people
exist, doing no good either to themselves
or others, but merely in order to preserve
a wretched existence, contending with the
elements to force crops, which wise heaven
hath denied to these climates; and where
it can hardly be said, that they even maintain
the appearance of civilized life. It is
preposterous, even at this time, to affirm,
that there is no demand for lamb in the
large towns on the east of Scotland. how
can there be a consumpt of lambs where
there are no lambs to consume? They being
all bought so dear for stocking, that
were they bought at the same price for
slaughter, their flesh would far exceed in
price every other article of food; and it is
to suppose, that a great quantity of
lamb or mutton will sell above the price
of other articles of diet. I know, that the
butchers of Perth, notwithstanding its favourable
situation, are, during a great part
of the year, unable to procure mutton and
lamb at a reasonable rate, adequate to the
demands of the inhabitants and neighbourhood.

"But dropping all these arguments at once,
and supposing that the towns on the eastern
coast, notwithstanding of their advancing
population, trade, and manufactures, should
even fail to shed riches and luxury in their
respective neighbourhoods; and supposing
every suitable farm throughout the whole
Highlands, completely stocked with sheep
at this very time; still there are resources
enough, and which are almost in every farmer's
power. Let him kill a few of the
smallest, or worst-favoured of his lambs,
and keep all the others of his flock; and still
he hath two different experiments left in
his option, which he may reject or practise
as the times suiteth. He may either draft
his hoggs in June, and drive what he can
spare of them to the southern markets for
rough sheep; or otherwise, if he chuseth to
sell off his ewes when they are rising five
years of age, it enables him always to keep
the whole, both lambs and hoggs. This is
no vagary nor impracticable plan; it hath
been followed by Sir John Sinclair ever
since he began to rear the Cheviot breed on
such a large scale; finding that he could
not come near the border prices for his fine
lambs in Caithness, he kept them, and sent
off his ewes to the southern markets as fast
as they reached their prime; and I have
seen them cross the border so mighty and
little fatigued, that on penning them in a
fold, where our sheep would never have attempted
breaking, they would have leapt
the fence every one, and been feeding on
the hills at their will next morning. And
unless it be on farms where the braxy is
very destructive, I will maintain, that the
Highland farmer shall find this mode better
calculated for the country than the present
one, of keeping the ewes as long as they are
fit for breeding, when, on selling them in
autumn, they fetch him only a trifle.
"However, as the farmer, by this mode,
loseth the best year of his ewes, I would rather
approve of the following; which, on
bringing a stock into a proper rotation, becomes
the most easy and regular plan that
can be adopted. For an instance, we shall
suppose a farm to keep a thousand of a
breeding stock; and is there any difficulty,
or disproportion, in keeping one fifth of these
lambs, or hoggs, for they are both these in
the same year; and then his stock will consist
of, two hundred hoggs, two hundred
gimmers, with the same number of three--
year-olds, four-year-olds, and five-year-olds?
Thus he hath always a head, or age, of his
ewes to sell off when rising six years of age; a
proper and suitable time to sell them, when
they will bring him a price little short of
wedders. Out of the above stock, it will
be very fair, if he have seven hundred lambs,
one half of which are males, still he hath
three hundred and fifty; but ere the small
ones be killed for the use of the family, and
the loss during winter extracted, he cannot
be supposed to have above three hundred
in June following, when he can draft one
third of them for sale: they will then drive
to the south with the greatest ease; and if
the sale of hoggs be dull at that season, he
may keep them occasionally, and sell an
hundred of his next head of ewes on the
autumn following.
"It can only be objected to this, that
such shoals of ewes and hoggs coming annually
from the north, will overstock our
markets, and cause a stagnation, which may
be attended with ruinous consequences to
many. This hath always been surmised;
but the result hash been very different from
the conjecture. How many thousands of
wedders come now from the Highlands,
where not very long ago there was no such
thing? And still the demand hath increased,
in more than equal proportion. The
cause is obvious: The great improvements
now carried on by cropping with turnips
and artificial grasses, causeth a proportionally
greater demand for live stock; and the
pastures which are yet used for fattening
the Highland cattle, will be open for their
successors, the sheep.
"Thus, I think, if my arguments are admitted,
I have proved beyond a doubt, that
sheep are the most eligible stock for the
greatest part of the Highlands; for the proprietor
and farmer, they certainly are so.
In a political point of view, however, the
scheme must certainly be prosecuted with
leisure, caution, and tenderness; nor must
we drive the people from their poor, but
native huts and glens, until some other
source of industry is opened to them,
which, by persevering in, they may become
more useful members of the commonwealth.
"I know that it is argued by some, that
the product of sheep, with one cow or two,
is as capable of maintaining a family as
that of cattle. These maintain, that the
making of the wool into yarn, furnisheth
employment for the females at seasons when
they would otherwise be idle; thus keeping
up a continual, though small, influx of money
into the family. This seems reasonable:
but facts are stubborn proofs; and it
must be acknowledged, that in every district
already stocked with sheep, in proportion
as they advanced, the people have been
by degrees expelled, and America hath been
the resort and grave of too too many of
"It will most readily be asked; what
shall be done to accommodate them at
"My Lords and Gentlemen, — There seems
to me to be but one method, which, if executed
on a liberal and extensive plan, I will
pawn my life, shall be successful. It is that
"And certainly it is to you, that we must
look for the accomplishment of this great
national object: an object every way worthy
of you; and which may be extended on
a good footing, without being materially
detrimental to your funds. There are many
circumstances, wherein even an individual
can be of great service to numbers, without
injuring himself: how much more, then, is
it in the power of your body to accomplish,
with whom all the power and interest of the
north is conjoined and concerned? And, although
the Society is yet in its infancy, the
encouragement held out by you to perseverance
and industry, is already beginning
to give life and vigour to sundry beneficial
undertakings; and I anticipate, with joy, the
approaching period, when you shall be more
at the helm of Scottish manufactures, fisheries,
and rural affairs, than any branch of
our legislature; and when you shall have
more influence thereon, than all our members
at the British Parliament.
"Although, in my peregrination through
the north, I apprehended I met with sundry
spots, excellently adapted for the purpose
of feuing; yet, as these may not be attainable,
and as there certainly are enough attainable,
it is needless to point them out;
but there are large fields of red loam, in almost
every place adjacent to the eastern
coast, and some too on the west and inland
districts. These, though accessible to the
plough with the greatest case, and in the
immediate neighbourhood of limestone and
other manures; yet, from the barren appearance
which they exhibit in their natural
state, are strangely neglected. These
are sometimes covered with a thin scurf of
moss, and sometimes they are not; but whereever
this soil abounds, it is certainly a spot
calculated for this purpose; because improvement
will make it an excellent soil,
and it can be afforded at a small rent. After
the soil which the Highlander is employed
in tilling at present, no soil upon earth
will daunt him. And let him live but his
own way, in the stile that he was brought
up in; let him have a prospect of a little
milk, and a crop of potatoes; and no man
under heaven will do more, and suffer more
to make ends meet than he will. Besides
you will find it an invariable rule, that the
greater number of people there are upon a
flat arable country, the better will the land
be, and the more rents will be paid; while
it is the very reverse on a hilly pasture
"Before entering farther on this subject,
as the parson says, we shall pause a little,
and endeavour to give some idea of the
manners and customs of the native Highlanders.
Of the lower order of people I
mean; for they are actually divided into
two distinct classes, I had almost said species
of people. Those of the first order, are
certainly the best educated, the most polite,
and the most genteel people that inhabit
any country under the British dominions;
whilst the other are the most homely
and vulgar, both in their persons, manners,
and way of living, that the fancy can
well conceive. They are, however, possessed
of passions and affections, strong and
warm; are true to one another; passive to
their superiors; but often guilty of dissimulation
and insincerity to strangers.
"This seemed to me to be their general
character; but, in point of temperance and
patience under labour, there is certainly a
very great difference betwixt the inhabitants
of the inland glens, and those on the coasts
and islands; the latter being greatly superior
in these particulars. I remember reading,
how Dr Johnson asked one of the ministers
of Skye, "Who were the most barbarous
clans in the Highlands?" He answered,
that "they were those bordering upon the
Lowlands." This asseveration the Doctor
treated as absurd, and occasioned by prejudice.
I am convinced, however, that Mr
M'Queen was perfectly right at least it
appeared to me, that the inhabitants on the
western coast and Hebrides, were the most
indefatigable, and the most abstemious, people
that I ever saw in my life; whilst those
of the interior, on the contrary, were much
given to idleness, tippling, and lying. They
all take a concern in the brewing of whisky
and still a deeper concern in the drinking
of it; and I was a witness, not to my profit,
of some very good specimens of their activity
in taking possession of what was not
their own. Of this description, the Duke
of Gordon's people are none of the best;
the same may be said of their neighbours
on the eastern parts of the Grampian Hills,
and of sundry of the glens in the interior
of Ross-shire and Sutherland; and indeed
wherever the brewing of whisky is winked
at. There being rarely such a thing attempted
in the Hebrides, or on the western
coast, is certainly productive of the superior
industry and morals visible in the inhabitants.

"There is another thing observable in
the Highlanders, which really appears paradoxical.
Wherever the small tenants have
been indulged with leases of their land
at the old rents, there they are as poor as
ever; but where the rents were raised, nay
screwed up a while ago, many of the tenants
have made considerable fortunes. It
is their custom to enter into matrimony
when very young, consequently they have
large families, and the species thus multiplies
uncommonly fast. In the former case,
where they got their farms at the old rents,
they never having had any riches saving
their cattle, and if they had a prospect of
supporting life, it was all that they looked for.
Thus, the times growing better, enabled them
to keep their children still in the families,
often nearly idle; and when they married,
the farm and cattle were portioned out
among them. They were again subdivided
to the children of these, and the marches
were grown so intricate, that without a long
residence on the spot, it was impossible to
distinguish the rights of each family; and I
often found glens so overstocked, that I was
astonished how such numbers of people
could find means to support themselves,
even though they had paid no rent whatever;
the huge mountains around them being
quite waste, saving a few cattle straggling
on the green spots by the sides of the
rivers and streams. On visiting sundry of
the glens, I could not help borrowing a proverb
from the old one, "No money no
Swiss," mine was, "No haughs no Highlandmen."
In sundry of these, which would
have formed fine sheep walks, I found no
living creature saving wild beasts. Such
were Glen-Avon, Glen-Orre, and Monar.
"In the latter case, again, those whose
farms were raised, found it necessary to dismiss
their children to service, to the sea, or
to the army; where, beside the chance which
they had of earning something, those at
home finding they must strain every nerve
to raise the rent, necessity found means at
first barely to do it, but the times mending,
they began to find, that these means produced
a little overplus. This they were
careful to lay by to answer emergencies;
but happily the great rise in the price of
cattle, bath enabled them still to add to
their little store; and many that I saw of
a most wretched appearance, would have
a score or two of pounds lodged in good
hands, while their children were serving
their king, or their masters, with credit and
ability. And what I thought extremely
praise-worthy; in such an abstemious way
are they brought up when young, that I actually
met with some men, who had saved
a competency adequate to every exigency
of life in their native country, merely from
their pay as privates in the army.
"Such, then, are the outlines of the people's
characters, for whom you are to provide
an asylum. They are the hardiest watermen
in the world; and, though drench
ed in brine, will plunge through the waves
in open boats with the greatest unconcern.
They are so inured to want, that many of
them know not on one day what they are
to live on to-morrow. Those of them who
have the manufacturing of the kelp taken
by the ton, will persevere night and day
when the tide is out; and you will scarcely
know what many of them subsist upon.
They are patient of labour, and will till
ground with the crooked spade, and raise
crops where no other men would attempt
it. They are submissive and obsequious to
their superiors to the last degree; and though
extremely ignorant, are, nevertheless, possessed
of good natural parts. They are brave,
jealous, and resentful; and indeed most of
their vices, or rather failings, seem to be
founded on latent virtues. Surely such
men might be made useful members of society:
but what is their use at present?
"When conversing with the tacksmen
and clergymen residing amongst them, who
certainly are the best judges of the people's
temper and disposition, some of them mentioned
one plan, and some another, as the
most effectual for keeping the people from
choice in their own country. A few of these
were: Further encouragement to prosecute
the fisheries, with the duty being entirely
taken off the salt carried coastwise into the
fishing districts. Others, and not a few, were
for the most unreasonable plan of all, namely,
that they should continue at the expence
of the proprietors, and have their
leases extended at the old rents, and that
such proprietors should rather be favoured
with a repeal of certain taxations and public
"Most of them viewed the great public
works set on foot in the Highlands this year
as but a temporary and unequal resource;
stating, that they were only suitable for single
men, and that few who had families at
any distance would be persuaded to engage
in them. They added, that crops,
milk, and fish, were always more the object
of the Highlander's pursuit than money;
that in attaining the former, every individual
of the family lent a hand, but that
whilst the head of the family was absent at
the roads, the rest were idle; and that supposing
he were possessed of a little money,
there were many seasons of the year when
he could not have it exchanged for the necessaries
of life.
"They all agreed, that there was no
cause for being alarmed at the spreading of
the sheep, on account of the emigrations:
it being a circumstance which must necessarily
take place at certain periods, to some
place or another, whether the country were
stocked with or not, owing to the glens and
islands being already overstocked, and the
people being so prolific; and that the remainers
looked on it as a great relief. But
I never mentioned the scheme of feuing to
one of them, neither rich nor poor, who did
not acquiesce in its efficacy with enthusiasm;
nor were they slack in expatiating on
the happy effects which would result from
it. They assured me, that if the native
Highlanders had the offer of a permanent
residence in their own country, a residence
where they might lead the same manner of
life, and pursue the same avocations which
they had been used to, they would prefer
it to all other things. And they added,
that, when once they were collected into
bodies, such places would naturally become
a centre for the barter and exchange necessary
in every country; and the want of
which is, in many instances, severely felt;
and that till once they were collected into
bodies, they never would be able to prosecute
the fisheries on a scale of any extent;
but that their southern neighbours would
still reap the profits of that valuable branch
at their doors.
"They stated likewise, that many of their
children entering into manufactures, would
return and set up business in their native
village; which, in the woollen line, can be
carried on by individuals much to their advantage,
and that of the country around
them: all of which things are not only possible,
but very probable.
"It would be presumption in me to suggest
the very places, or the very plan, where,
and how, these feus ought to be set on foot.
The large uncultivated muirs adjacent to
the eastern coast, are in many places uncommonly
adapted, as are some places on
the isles; but it certainly would be of utility,
to draw as large a population as possible
into the vales of Glen-more-na-h'-ala--
bin, on the sides of the great canal, and to
have markets established there, corresponding
with the great trystes on the line of the
Forth and Clyde; and there is one spot particularly
on the south-east side of the river
Lochy, belonging to the Duke of Gordon,
that might accommodate a great number of
families; it being a necessary appendage,
that a head-room of some extent be annexed
for the accommodation of their cattle,
the value of this spot hath never yet been
"As to the scheme itself, it should be on
the most liberal plan. Every man should
be accommodated with a part proportionable
to his abilities, not exceeding a certain
value. An overseer should be appointed to
see them all ditched, hedged, and tilled properly.
A lease of nine years or so, should
be granted them at first to settle themselves;
and according to the dimensions of the
houses which they had built on the premises
at the end of that term, their leases
should be extended from fifty to eighty
years. Such members of the Society as are
in possession of the lands which may be
pitched on, will surely give them up to the
Society, either by the way of purchase, or
lease, for such a beneficial end.
"With respect to the proprietors of Highland
estates, who wish to let their land for
sheep-grazing, I would recommend the perusal
of the following hints: I think it is
hard, that the adventurer should be obliged
to pay the whole of the first year's rent at
the term of Martinmas first following his
entry to the farm. It is a custom very discouraging
to south country farmers, who are
not used to it in their own country. With
respect to the substantial farmers of the
south, the Highlands is somewhat similar to
a profession of religion; they betake themselves
to it when every thing else fails them;
consequently a great many of those who
take lands in the north are younger sons,
and men rather of circumscribed fortunes;
and being obliged to pay the first year's
rent, and a good part of the second, from
off his capital, if his credit survive this, it
incapacitates him for laying on a stock sufficient
to make the best of the lands. As
such men will prove often the best of farmers
when indulged, would it not be better
to suffer them to make something of the
land, before they were obliged to pay any
rent? The Honourable Lord Seaforth, when
laying his excellent grazings of Glenshiel
under sheep, encouraged his tenants by this
indulgence; the happy effects of which were
soon seen in the farmers stocks, and in giving
his lands the character which they so
justly deserve; and there is every reason to
expect, that, on the expiry of the present
lease, they will let as high, if not higher,
than those of his neighbours in Glengary
and Glen-Elg. The former of these, Macdonald
of Glengary, gave his original sheep--
farmers two or three years respite from paying
rent, and what an enormous value hath
he now raised his lands unto!
"But again: as such lands cannot be expected
to let at their full value on the first
experiment, I see no reasons why the proprietors
should be obliged to let their lands
on such long leases without some consideration.
The value of money hath continued
to decrease ever since the commencement
of our annals; nor is there the
smallest doubt, that, perplexed at times
with small fluctuations, the same series of
diminution will continue, if not a still
more rapid one. The most of our writers
on this subject seem all to have taken their
ideas from the circumstances attending the
leases granted to farmers on arable ground,
which is quite a different thing; no farmer
can be expected to bring arable land into
a proper heart without a long lease; but
where are the expences attending pasture
lands? Consequently, I think they should
grant the farmers as long leases as they desired,
with a freedom to give it up every
seventh year; but with the express condition,
that they should pay twenty per cent.
of advanced rent for the next seven years
if they retained it, which, if they refused to
do, the laird was at liberty to conclude a
new bargain, either with them, or with any
other person.
"This plan seems well calculated for
keeping both parties safe; the farmer from
being ruined by any unforeseen revolution,
and the proprietor from losing half the product
of his lands, by such a rapid decrease
in the value of money as the nation hath
experienced these some years past.
"To the sheep-farmer I must only observe,
that, if it is not quite inconvenient,
he will do better to suffer his sheep to feed
mixed, than to keep the young ones by
themselves; and, that he take particular
care that his flocks are not heated, as the
half of the diseases to which they are subject
proceeds from nothing else, and that
they be careful to have them frequently recruited
by a proper breed of rams from the
south. Even the black-faced sheep are
not the natives of the Highland hills, and
the Cheviot breed are still farther removed
from it; and both kinds, but especially the
latter, soon degenerate in size, strength,
and wool, if not timeously recruited by a
proper breed of rams.
"This is a subject in which I feel my
mind so deeply interested, that I could
write on it for ever; but I see I must draw
to a conclusion, for my paper is exhausted,
my time gone, and I am but multiplying
words without wisdom. Perhaps you will
say, I have not been decisive respecting
the parts and proportion of the Highlands
suitable for retaining stocks of black-cattle
upon. To enumerate these, would be a
difficult task, and so intricate as to be unintelligible;
but I have already laid it
down as a rule, that where one fourth, or
at least one fifth of a farm is not arable and
meadow, cattle are neither the most suitable
nor the most profitable stock, and the
farmer will find his advantage in the change;
and where a farm is partly arable and partly
pasture, black cattle should only be kept
in proportional conformity to the above.
It is an ill concerted argument, which
many go upon, that sheep must weaken
the strength of the nation, and gradually
eradicate the human species. When applied
to a few mountainous districts, quite inadequate
to the maintaining of a numerous
population, this is undeniable; but when
taken in a national point of view, it is ill
founded and absurd; else, why are such
numbers of our neighbours enriched by
the manufacturing of Scottish wool? And
why does Scotland yet expend such large
sums for cloth made of her own wool? Is
it because the people of this country are
incapable of succeeding in that branch?
Or, is it for want of hands to be employed
in it? Or, is it not rather, that the enterprising
spirit of the people is, by such as have
the leading thereof, directed to more unprofitable
"I maintain, then, that it requires only
a change of situation, a simple adherence to
the dictates of reason in placing the population,
and a few efforts to open the people's
eyes to their own advantage, to arrange
the affairs of the nation in such a
manner, that the sheep system shall prove
conducive to the employing of one half
more people than the cattle-farming, and
to better advantage. The cattle hold people
employed a great part of the year in
procuring for them that food which the
sheep procure for themselves; being endowed
by nature with sagacity and powers
sufficient to remove, with ease, the snow
which covers the ground, while the cattle
must starve or be fed with the hand. And
I shall leave it to you, or any thinking person,
to judge, whether people are most
profitably employed in manufacturing our
wool, or in forcing crops on untoward soils,
and raising and winnowing hay. In the latter
case, the whole profits or hopes of it
are concentered in the bodies of the animals;
whereas the sheep-farmer can afford
to pay triple rents from the bodies-of his
animals, and still a prodigous source of
wealth and industry, flowing from thence,
is opened to every one who will engage in
"But as this would lead me into a tedious
argument, I shall finish with this conclusion:
That it is your interest, and the interest
of the nation at large, which two are
inseparable, to stock your mountains with
sheep, and your valleys with men and cattle;
— with men who are capable of manufacturing
the wool of these sheep into cloth,
and thereby tripling the already great sums
received annually for the raw material; —
with men ready and able to avail themselves
of the inestimable sources of wealth,
conveyed yearly to their shores in immense
shoals of fishes; — with men who will defend
their native mountains, though the
world combine in arms against them. It
is thus, and thus only, that the real value
of the Highlands of Scotland shall ever be
thoroughly known, when, like a well finished
machine, one wheel always sets another
in motion.
"I have thus endeavoured, in as few
words as possibly I could, to elucidate some
of the most striking features of this great
national object. The facts which I have
stated, and amendments I have proposed,
were taken from an actual survey, or from
information gained on the spot; nor have I
advanced any thing which I do not wish
every Highlandman to peruse and discuss."
THE following Tables, and letter on sheep, were put
into my hands by General Dirom of Mount-Annan, to
whom they were communicated by the late ingenious
Mr Malcolm, tenant of Burnfoot.
In the Tables may be seen, at one view, the gradual
rise of sheep and wool, from 1750 to 1795; as well as
the profits arising from every sheep on so many farms
at an average; and we have thus a short and accurate
history of the effects of different seasons, and different
political views, peace, war, &c. upon the rural economy
and manufactures of this country.
From 1796, the last in Mr Malcolm's tables, though
the prices of sheep have been continually fluctuating,
yet the average price of each two years has been nearly
the same. Since that period, I have seen the last
lambs on the same farms sold at fifteen shillings, and
at the half of that sum on other seasons. The wool
has been always advancing, and the average price in
that country last year (1806) was 1l. 12s.
In the letter, though some of the observations may
be thought trite, yet it being the production of a man
of so much experience and accuracy of observation, I
could not think of curtailing it. The whole are printed
from his own manuscript, without the alteration of a

An Account of the Prices of top Walter Lambs, Ewes, and
Wool, Burnfoot Farm, from 1750 to 1796 inclusive.
S. d
1750 Lambs, 2 7
Ewes, , 5 5
Wool, 6 2
1751 Lambs, 2 7
Ewes, 4 5
Wool, 7 0
1752 Lambs, 2 6
Ewes, 4 1
Wool, 6 0
1753 Lambs, 3 1
Ewes, 5 3
Wool, 5 6
1754 Lambs, 3 9
Ewes, 5 3
Wool, 6 0
1755 Lambs, 3 1
Ewes, 5 3
Wool, 6 0
s. d.
1756 Lambs, 2 10
Ewes, 5 9
Wool, 6 0
1757 Lambs, 3 2
Ewes, 6 2
Wool, 6 0
1758 Lambs, 3 6
Ewes, 6 11
Wool, 6 8
1759 Lambs, 3 10
Ewes, 6 11
Wool, 8 4
1760 Lambs, 3 2
Ewes, 6 8
Wool, 8 4
1761 Lambs, 2 6
Ewes, 5 9
Wool, 6 0
s. d.
1762 Lambs, 2 3
Ewes, 4 9
Wool, 5 3
1763 Lambs, 2 9
Ewes, 5 3
Wool, 6 0
1764 Lambs, 3 7
Ewes, 6 8
Wool, 6 6
1765 Limbs, 3 9
Ewes, 7 7
Wool, 7 0
1766 Lambs, 4 2
Ewes, 10 0
Wool, 7 0
1767 Lambs, 4 6
Ewes, 8 7
Wool, 7 0
1768 Lambs, 3 1
Ewes, 7 2
Wool, 6 8
1769 Lambs, 3 7
Ewes, 7 4
Wool, 7 0
1770 Lambs, 4 5
Ewes, 6 8
Wool, 6 8
1771 Lambs, 4 7
Ewes, 7 8
Wool, 7 2
s. d.
1772 Lambs, .5 0
Ewes, 9 3
Wool, 8 2
1773 Lambs, 5 0
Ewes, 9 6
Wool, 7 6
1774 Lambs, 4 10
Ewes, 9 2
Wool, 7 9
1775 Lambs, 4 3
Ewes, 9 0
Wool, 8 0
1776 Lambs, 3 9
Ewes, 9 0
Wool, 8 9
1777 Lambs, 4 8
Ewes, 9 0
Wool, 8 9
1778 Lambs, 3 6
Ewes, 8 2
Wool, 6 10
1779 Lambs, 2 7
Ewes, 6 2
Wool, 5 0
1780 Lambs, 2 10
Ewes, 6 6
Wool, .5 9
1781 Lambs, 3 3
Ewes, 5 8
Wool, 6 0
s. d.
1782 Lambs, 3 10
Ewes, 6 5
Wool, 7 4
1783 Lambs, 4 3
Ewes, 7 7
Wool, 8 4
1784 Lambs, 6 0
Ewes, 8 6
Wool, 9 0
1785 Lambs, 5 9
Ewes, 8 6
Wool, 9 9
1786 Lambs, 5 4
Ewes, 9 4
Wool, 9 9
1787 Lambs, 5 8
Ewes, 11 0
Wool, 11 8
1788 Lambs, 5 11
Ewes, 12 0
Wool, 12 0
1789 Lambs, 5 3
Ewes, 10 6
Wool, 12 6
s. d.
1790 Lambs, 5 0
Ewes, 9 6
Wool, 13 6
1791 Lambs, 4 3
Ewes, 8 7
Wool, 14 6
1792 Lambs, 5 0
Ewes, 9 0
Wool, 17 0
1793 Lambs, 4 7
Ewes, 7 6
Wool, 14 6
1794 Lambs, 5 4
Ewes, 8 6
Wool, 14 0
1795 Lambs, 6 10
Ewes, 12 6
Wool, 18 2
1796 Lambs, 8 3
Ewes, 15 0
Wool, 23 4
In 1796 some lambs
sold at 9s.
An Account, shewing the produce of one Sheep on the Farms
of Burnfoot and Douglan, from 1756 to 1796; of Eurslees
and Byrecleughwater, 1764 to 1781, (being the period
I possessed them); of Craig, 1773 to 1788, (being
also the period I possessed it); and of Hegell, from 1756
to 1796.
Douglan Hegell. Eurslees and
water. Craig
s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d.
1756 2 6½ 2 11
1757 2 3½ 2 8
1758 3 3 3 3
1759 3 9 3 3
1760 3 5 2 11
1761 2 2½ 2 1
1762 2 2½ 2 2
1763 2 6½ 2 9 2 0
1764 3 2 2 11 2 6
1765 3 0 3 8 2 11½
1766 3 11 4 3 3 6
1767 3 6 3 5 3 8
1768 3 2 4 3 2 6
1769 3 2 3 0 2 6
1770 2 8½ 2 11 2 6
1771 3 2 3 0½ 2 8
1772 3 9 3 6 2 7½
1773 3 9 4 6 3 6½
1774 3 6 3 4½ 3 8 3 4
1775 4 4 3 3½ 3 5 4 1
1776 3 8 3 9 3 4½ 2 10
1777 3 7 3 2 2 5½ 2 10
1778 3 0 2 8 2 8½ 2 9½
1779 2 3 2 3 1 11½ 2 4
1780 2 4½ 2 4 1 11 2 3
Douglan Hegell. Eurslees and
water. Craig
s. d. s. d. s. d.
1781 2 4 2 4 2 3
1782 2 8 2 10 2 9
1783 3 2 3 4 3 9
1784 3 5 3 4 3 6
1785 4 2 4 2 3 11
1786 4 1½ 3 7 3 9
1787 5 2 5 4 5 0
1788 5 1 5 6
1789 5 1 4 10
1790 4 11 4 10
1791 4 8 4 6
1792 5 3 5 9
1793 4 3 4 1
1794 6 1 6 0
1795 6 1 6 0
1796 7 10* 9 4
1797 5 8 5 11
1798 6 0 5 2
1799 6 0 5 10
1800 6 0 5 10
1801 9 6 10 0
You will observe a considerable variation on the produce
the same year. This is owing to more loss happening
in one farm than in the other farms. It also
sometimes happens, that more ewes are sold off one
year than another, owing to the stock requiring a
greater draught.
* The great difference was owing to an extraordinary death of
hoggs in Burnfoot.
"As your almost unequalled patriotic zeal for the good
of your country, has made you turn your attention, among
other things, to the improvement of sheep in
Scotland, principally with a view to meliorate the wool,
I am convinced, that all information on that subject
will be acceptable to you, though much of it may
be little to the purpose. I am one of the Duke of
Buccleuch's farmers in Eskdale. If any of the following
observations on farming with sheep shall be in any
respect worthy your approbation, I have to ask the favour
that my name may not be mentioned, nor any
public notice taken of what I write. Give me leave to
say, it is upon this condition I take the liberty of writing
this letter to you. Farming has been part of my
business through life; I am now an old man, and have
retired from the world.
"There are many different kinds of grass which grow
on hills, which afford food for sheep in different seasons.
There is a considerable quantity of moss soil on most
hills: this soil produces heath, ling, moss, and deer--
hair: sheep eat heath, or heather as we call it, from the
beginning of summer to Candlemas; they only like it
when it is young; it is frequently burnt in the spring.
Ling grows all the year, and is excellent food for sheep:
they do not crop it with their teeth, but draw out the
root along with the stalk. Moss begins to grow in February;
sheep eat it in the same manner they do ling.
Deer-hair grows about the end of April, and is eat
through summer. Sheep could not be well maintained
on the hills without these grasses, because the lay grass
does not come sooner than the first of April. Where
a farm does not produce all, or most part, of the above
grasses, but only lay, the sheep for the most part are
very low in the spring, and many of them die of poverty
if they have suffered a hard winter.
"There is a great quantity of bog, or marshy land, on
some hills. It is not much eat in summer by sheep,
but it is of great use to them in winter. It is a great
improvement to drain those bogs; it makes the grass
wholesome, increases its quantity, and makes it eatable
in frosts when they are one sheet of ice in a natural
state. It is proper to mow these bogs every third year;
when they are not mowed, they grow up into little hillocks,
which sheep will scarce touch. They produce
good hay for sheep and black cattle, and draining
makes a great improvement on it. A proper proportion
of all the different kinds of grass I have mentioned,
makes the most complete sheep-farm; but such a
farm is difficult to be got. It is a great advantage to
have moss-land on the low parts of a farm, because
sheep can have easy access to it in every kind of weather.
Where that soil is only on the tops of hills, it is
very convenient when they are neither high nor steep,
because sheep, particularly young ones, find great difficulty
in getting to it, when they are in low condition
in the spring; and besides, the influence of the frosts
continues longer, which prevents the ling and moss from
springing, by binding the ground. It is a great advantage
to have a farm well sheltered from the winds,
particularly from the cold points. It is very convenient
to have stone march dykes, but it is impossible that
the farmers can generally be at the expense of them;
it is an improvement well worth being done by the proprietor,
and no sensible tenant will refuse to pay interest.
Where there are no march dykes, marches
ought to be on the waterfalls, that is, on the summits
of the hills. Where burns are marches, two flocks will
not feed with ease together. It is still worse when a
march is along the side of a hill.
"There are several farms in Eskdale which will maintain
a sheep on an acre, most of them will take between
one and two acres, and some two acres and rather more.
They are not the worst farms which take most to maintain
a sheep; they only have a great quantity of moss
soil, which, though very fit to raise sheep to a good
size, yet it requires a much greater quantity.
Through all Scotland sheep are only divided into
two different kinds, which are called the short and the
long. It is a question among farmers, whether long
sheep will answer every ground; I am of opinion that
they will: They have the best kind of long sheep on
and near the Cheviot hills, which are as cold and
stormy as any in Scotland. There has long been a
dispute, before the long sheep wool rose to its present
high price, which of the two kinds were most profitable;
the long dinmont and weather in general sell highest,
as also the ewe and lamb. The advocates for the
short sheep allege, that they take less pasture; but I
doubt the fact, from the opinion of one of the most
sensible farmers ever knew, who stocked with both
kinds, and who was at first prejudiced in favour of the
short sheep; he affirmed, that they eat as much as the
long sheep. A short hogg of character will generally
sell above the price of a long hogg, because they have
a much more extensive market for them. They will
buy no other hoggs through all the dales of Yorkshire,
for the other commons in England, and for the Highlands
of Scotland: I am of opinion, that they have.
only the superiority in the sale of the hogg; and on
account of the above great consumpt, the produce of
short sheep on most farms in Tweeddale, Annandale,
and Nithesdale, is hoggs. They have a great advantage
over us in breeding hoggs; they live as well as
their old sheep; whereas, for the most part, from a
fifth to a fourth of our ewes die. Hoggs should be
bred on a land where there is a good quantity of
heath and spring ground, that is, moss and ling; dry
ground, which has a good proportion of lay, and which
is well sheltered from the north and east, is most suitable
for ewes; cold, wet, and high grounds, suit dinmonts
and weathers best, because they can bear the
greatest hardship. This makes it convenient sometimes
to have more farms than one, which suit the different
sheep, hoggs, ewes, and weathers. It must be a just
opinion, that the farm which produces most, must be
of most use to the community, provided, that it does
not diminish the number of inhabitants: I am convinced,
from experience, that a farmer who possesses what
is called led farms, can make more of them together
than if they were separate; and I believe it is a fact,
that the number of people are not diminished by it.
Though grazing appears to be a much more simple business
than tillage, from having far less detail in it, yet
it is as difficult to understand; the errors in the one
are attended with much worse consequences than those
of the other; therefore it is necessary they should be
more guarded against. Within these twenty years,
great improvements have been made in sheep-farming,
and there is still much to be learnt. It is only men
who can throw aside old prejudices, and who have capitals,
who can undertake improvements of any kind.
If farms are divided and curtailed without distinction,
no enterprising man will choose to follow the business.
I am of opinion, that a landlord ought not to lay down
to himself any fixed rules, with regard to the extent of
his farms, and that it is his interest to give a farmer,
who excels in his business, all encouragement. I am
of opinion, that where the pasture answers a ewe stock,
whose produce is lambs and old ewes, it is the most profitable,
especially when the demand is good; when
sheep are at a low price, weathers sell better in proportion,
because there is a more extensive market for them:
we sell our ewes and lambs mostly into Northumberland
and Yorkshire, and of late a considerable number
are disposed of in Scotland: weather-sheep are sold
chiefly in Yorkshire and farther south.
"The diseases to which sheep are liable are many; I
shall only mention some of the most mortal. The rot
carries off the greatest numbers: We attribute it to
three causes; hunger, wet seasons in the months of September
and October, and new laid out ground which
has been scourged with crops. When we have long
storms in winter, and no hay given, they are very apt
to be infected with the rot; draining has the best effect
in preventing this disease. It is much the interest of
farmers not to overstock. It is one of the best preventatives
against this disease, and always makes a great
addition to the value of the produce. There is a disease
called the sickness, to which hoggs chiefly are liable;
it attacks them from about Martinmas to the
spring; it swells them much, and they are costive;
hoggs which feed on turnips are not subject to it, because
that food keeps their bodies open. There is one
other disease which is very mortal, and which we call
the louping ill: It seems to be a kind of palsy, as they
lose the power of their limbs: It prevails from about
the beginning of April to the end of May; hoggs are
most subject to it. There are many other diseases, but
not so general as those mentioned.
"Salving of sheep is universally practised in this country;
we find, after repeated trials, that they cannot go
white as many flocks do in the east border; when white,
they do not keep their wool, and begin not to thrive.
The great use of tar is to kill the vermin, with which
sheep are much infested: It is necessary to make the
divisions narrow in salving; when they are wide, all the
vermin lodge where the tar does not reach, which is
very apt to scab the sheep. The more butter which is
mixed with tar, the better the wool will be. It enables
the manufacturer to wash out the tar in a great measure.
In the east of Tiviotdale, some of the farmers
mix 40 English pounds of butter with 16 quarts of tar.
The common quantity in this country is only 24 lb.
Sheep do not agree with being much disturbed, therefore
a shepherd ought to use his dog with much caution:
the great art of herding is to eat the ground properly:
it requires both much attention and skill to
lodge the flock at night in such places as will afford
them the best shelter: a shepherd ought not to have
under his care above 800 sheep at most.
"In this part of the country we have much improved,
and are still improving, our wool, by bringing
east border tups. Some think we are making our breed
too fine for our pasture; I am not of that opinion. No
doubt we ought to go on with caution; for it is a just
maxim, that a farmer's stock should rather be below
the quality of his pasture than above it. At present,
wool is a very great object to us; but it ought only to
be improved so far as is consistent with the good of
the sheep, that is, the carcase ought to be our first consideration.
I am glad to hear the Spanish breed has
done so well in the east border; but that is not enough
to encourage a farmer to bring his sheep into that kind,
until we are certain that it will not hurt the sale. The
opinions of the persons who buy from us, must regulate
our stocks; and I should suspect, that it will take a considerable
time before they would be reconciled to almost
a total change of breed. I have much reason to
ask your pardon, for presuming to write to you so long
a letter. What I have said on the subject are only
common place observations, which are well known to
all sheep farmers; but perhaps some of them may be
new to you, and not unacceptable."
July 1. 1792.
Printed by James Ballantyne and Co.


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The Shepherd's Guide - A Practical Treatise on Diseases of Sheep

Document Information

Document ID 98
Title The Shepherd's Guide - A Practical Treatise on Diseases of Sheep
Year group 1800-1850
Genre Instructional prose
Year of publication 1807
Wordcount 56443

Author information: Hogg, James

Author ID 234
Forenames James
Surname Hogg
AKA The Ettrick Shepherd
Gender Male
Year of birth 1770
Place of birth Ettrick, Selkirkshire, Scotland
Occupation Author, farmer, journalist
Father's occupation Farmer
Education Little formal schooling
Locations where resident Ettrick, Edinburgh