Chapter XII: Of Cattle Kept For Profit

There is no kind of tame cattle usually to be seen in these parts of the world whereof we have not some, and that great store, in England, as horses, oxen, sheep, goats, swine, and far surmounting the like in other countries, as may be proved with ease. For where are oxen commonly made more large of bone, horses more decent and pleasant in pace, kine more commodious for the pail, sheep more profitable for wool, swine more wholesome of flesh, and goats more gainful to their keepers than here with us in England? But, to speak of them peculiarly, I suppose that our kine are so abundant in yield of milk, whereof we make our butter and cheese, as the like any where else, and so apt for the plough in divers places as either our horses or oxen. And, albeit they now and then twin, yet herein they seem to come short of that commodity which is looked for in other countries, to wit, in that they bring forth most commonly but one calf at once. The gains also gotten by a cow (all charges borne) hath been valued at twenty shillings yearly; but now, as land is enhanced, this proportion of gain is much abated, and likely to decay more and more, if ground arise to be yet dearer - which God forbid, if it be His will and pleasure. I heard of late of a cow in Warwickshire, belonging to Thomas Breuer of Studley, which in six years had sixteen calves, that is four at once in three calvings and twice twins, which unto many may seem a thing incredible. In like manner our oxen are such as the like are not to be found in any country of Europe, both for greatness of body and sweetness of flesh or else would not the Roman writers have preferred them before those of Liguria. In most places our graziers are now grown to be so cunning that if they do but see an ox or bullock, and come to the feeling of him, they will give a guess at his weight, and how many score or stone of flesh and tallow he beareth, how the butcher may live by the sale, and what he may have for the skin and tallow, which is a point of skill not commonly practised heretofore. Some such graziers also are reported to ride with velvet coats and chains of gold about them and in their absence their wives will not let to supply those turns with no less skill than their husbands: which is a hard work for the poor butcher, sith he through this means can seldom be rich or wealthy by his trade. In like sort the flesh of our oxen and kine is sold both by hand and by weight as the buyer will; but in young ware rather by weight especially for the steer and heifer, sith the finer beef is the lightest, whereas the flesh of bulls and old kine, etc., is of sadder substance, and therefore much heavier as it lieth in the scale. Their horns also are known to be more fair and large in England than in any other places, except those which are to be seen among the Paeones, which quality, albeit that it be given to our breed generally by nature, yet it is now and then helped also by art. For, when they be very young, many graziers will oftentimes anoint their budding horns or tender tips with honey, which mollifieth the natural hardness of that substance, and thereby maketh them to grow unto a notable greatness. Certes it is not strange in England to see oxen whose horns have the length of a yard or three feet between the tips, and they themselves thereto so tall as the height of a man of mean and indifferent stature is scarce equal unto them. Nevertheless it is much to be lamented that our general breed of cattle is not better looked unto; for the greatest occupiers wean least store, because they can buy them (as they say) far better cheap than to raise and bring them up. In my time a cow hath risen from four nobles to four marks by this means, which notwithstanding were no great price if they did yearly bring forth more than one calf a piece, as I hear they do in other countries.

Our horses, moreover, are high, and, although not commonly of such huge greatness as in other places of the main, yet, if you respect the easiness of their pace, it is hard to say where their like are to be had. Our land doth yield no asses, and therefore we want the generation also of mules and somers, and therefore the most part of our carriages is made by these, which, remaining stoned, are either reserved for the cart or appointed to bear such burdens as are convenient for them. Our cart or plough horses (for we use them indifferently) are commonly so strong that five or six of them (at the most) will draw three thousand weight of the greatest tale with ease for a long journey, although it be not a load of common usage, which consisteth only of two thousand, or fifty foot of timber, forty bushels of white salt, or six-and-thirty of bay, of five quarters of wheat, experience daily teacheth, and I have elsewhere remembered. Such as are kept also for burden will carry four hundred-weight commonly without any hurt or hindrance. This furthermore is to be noted, that our princes and the nobility have their carriage commonly made by carts, whereby it cometh to pass that when the queen's majesty doth remove from any one place to another, there are usually 400 carewares, which amount to the sum of 2400 horses, appointed out of the countries adjoining, whereby her carriage is conveyed safely unto the appointed place. Hereby also the ancient use of somers and sumpter horses is in manner utterly relinquished, which causeth the trains of our princes in their progresses to shew far less than those of the kings of other nations.