A big horse story

Few horses were in Iowa in early times because they were too expensive and not strong enough for breaking prairie sod. Instead, oxen were used to pull the prairie schooners and for farming. Farmers went to northern European countries to bring back larger horses, able to work in agriculture and industry. Percherons and other French draft breeds were early imports.

Mules and horses eventually replaced oxen. In the 1850 census there were over 38 thousand horses, mostly in southern and eastern Iowa.

In the 1880s the first Belgians were imported. A famous Iowa horse, Farceur, a Belgian, who was a San Francisco World’s Fair Champion, was purchased in 1917 by C.G. Good. He was a service stud who died in 1921 and is buried in a stall at Oakdale Farm, near Ogden. See page 83 in Iowa Barns yesterday and today for a photo of Farcour’s barn.

Farcour’s great-grandson, Brooklyn Supreme, weighing 3,200 pounds, was the world’s largest horse at one time. He was bought by C.G. Good, who hired Ralph Fogleman to travel with the horse around the country, charging spectators 10 cents. He died in 1948 at age 20.

Below is a postcard sold to spectators. C.G. Good is on the right and Ralph Fogleman is on the left. The background is typical of postcards of the time.

A candy-striped barn

Look for this red-and-white striped barn northwest of Waverly on Highway 218. Built in 1919, it originally housed a dairy herd. However, if the barn could speak, it would tell you it was first the home of Belgian draft horses, then for Percherons for decades.

Bill Dean, now deceased, and his wife Elsie bought the Waverly Sales Company in 1975 and held draft horse sales. It was the largest draft horse sale in the world at one time. His six-horse Percheron draft horse hitch was seen in parades and shows in many states.

Percherons were used extensively during World War I in Europe as “war horses.”  They were first imported to the U.S. in 1839 and were used in farming and industry. By the 1930s they accounted for 70% of purebred draft horses in the U.S. When use of tractors became more common after World War II their numbers declined.

Elsie Dean now owns the barn, although it is not in use. Can you imagine how much it would cost to paint it today? Its legacy lives on as a famous barn, recalling the days when draft horses were common on almost every farm. Once can almost imagine these horses grazing in the field next to their candy-striped home. The spring horse sale will be March 29-31, 2023. (2022 photos)

Happy New Year!!

Pigs! Pigs! Pigs! If you are a “pig farmer” you know that Iowa is the number one pork producer in the country, with over 23 million pigs raised each year. A new survey indicates there are over seven times as many pigs as people in Iowa! They’re everywhere!

Most hog farms have confinement buildings, not referred to as barns, raising thousands at a time.  There aren’t many farms in Iowa where ordinary barns are in use for raising pigs, at least not in great numbers.

In German folklore, there is a notion that a pig is a sign of good luck in the New Year. In honor of the New Year, here is a postcard with a German message that was mailed over 100 years ago.