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The Animal Breeds

Exchange Place : Animal Breeds : Gaines-Preston Farm : Historic 1850s
1850 Period Animals at Exchange Place Historic Farm

Did Mr. Preston really have Sheep, Milking Shorthorn Cattle, Suffolk Horses, Pigs, and Dominique Chickens? Good question!


The choice of animals representing those Mr. Preston owned in 1850 was based on the breeds known to be in existence at that time. They were the most often featured in farm journals, letters, diaries, and ledgers of the period in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and Western North Carolina. These were the areas from which the early settlers migrated. The only animals listed for breed in the Preston's comprehensive ledger were Durham Cattle.


Did Mr. Preston need all these animals
to be self-sufficient? Absolutely!! Food,
shelter, clothing - all the animals
provided their part.

Dominique and Leghorn Chickens

The Dominique (pronounced Domi-necker) Chickens were developed from fowl found in the very early settlement of New England. A very hardy breed, this black and white chicken was widely distributed in the Eastern half of the United States by the mid 19th century.

The Brown and White Leghorn (pronounced Leg-gern) were imported regularly and early in the 19th century from the city of Leghorn in Italy. They are a very stylish, active chicken and exceedingly hardy.


The sheep were a multipurpose sheep kept for their quality meat and fleece. Mr. Preston's flock would soon have had many Cotswold/Tunis/Merino crosses, but he might have kept some pure Tunis for the County Fair and "for show."

Durhams or Milking Shorthorn Cattle

Yes, all cows and bulls had horns in Mr. Preston's day. The Durhams were the most popular breed because of their ability to produce a fair amount of milk from grazing alone and still be "beefy" enough for meat.

Suffolk Draft Horses

Suffolk horses were prized for their durability and slower speed while pulling implements the farmer walked behind. The harness design depends on the implement being pulled. The collar is a piece common to all harnesses to distribute the pressure of pulling.

Belgian Draft Horses

Belgian horses (no longer at the farm) have a faster gait than Suffolk horses and were chosen to carry wagon loads of grain to town, for example. All draft horses are very strong, having wide bodies and large hooves.

Riding or Buggy Horse

All transportation to and from Exchange Place, if not on foot, was by horse travel of some sort. ALL 19th century vocabulary relating to travel referred to horses and the problems of getting stuck in the mud or crossing a flooded river.

American Guinea Hogs

The American Guinea Hog (not to be confused with the guinea pig) was one of the most common types of hogs found on homesteads in the antebellum South. Often called “yard pigs,” these hogs would roam around farms like wild children, eating snakes, grass, acorns, and whatever else they could root up. Guinea Hogs are solid black and small in size—rarely reaching over 200 pounds (though they are not a miniature breed). Extremely efficient foragers, Guinea Hogs require little supplemental feed when they are on pasture. They are active but mild mannered and well-suited to a hot climate. The Guinea Hog is recognized by the Livestock Conservancy as an endangered heritage breed.

Our Guinea Hogs are named Millie and Fillmore after the president of the United States in 1851 (Millard Fillmore).

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