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A Common Sheep

Scary Books: Scottish Ghost Stories

That the keeping of choice breeds of animals, and the cultivation of a high taste for them, is no vulgar 365 matter, with even the most exalted intellects, and of men occupying the most honorable stations in the state, and in society; and that they concern the retired gentleman, as well as the practical farmer, it is only necessary to refer to the many prominent examples in Great Britain, and our own country, within the last fifty years.

The most distinguished noblemen
of England, and Scotland, have long bred the finest of cattle, and embellished their home parks with them. The late Earl Spencer, one of the great patrons of agricultural improvement in England, at his death owned a herd of two hundred of the highest bred short-horns, which he kept on his home farm, at Wiseton. The Dukes of Bedford, for the last century and a half, have made extraordinary exertions to improve their several breeds of cattle. The late Earl of Leicester, better known, perhaps, as Mr. Coke, of Holkham, and the most celebrated farmer of his time, has been long identified with his large and select herds of Devons, and his flocks of Southdowns. The Duke of Richmond has his great park at Goodwood stocked with the finest Southdowns, Short-horns, and Devons. Prince Albert, even, has caught the infection of such liberal and useful example, and the royal park at Windsor is tenanted with the finest farm stock, of many kinds; and he is a constant competitor at the great Smithfield cattle shows, annually held in London. Besides these, hundreds of the nobility, and wealthy country gentlemen of Great Britain, every year compete with the intelligent farmers, in their exhibitions of cattle, at the 366 royal and provincial shows, in England, Scotland, and Ireland.

In the United States, Washington was a great promoter of improvement in farm stock, and introduced on to his broad estate, at Mount Vernon, many foreign animals, which he had sent out to him at great expense; and it was his pride to show his numerous and distinguished guests, his horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs. Henry Clay, of Kentucky, was among the first promoters of the improvement of domestic animals in the fertile region, of which his own favorite Ashland is the center; and to his continued efforts in the breeding of the finest short-horns, and mules, is the state of Kentucky greatly indebted for its reputation in these descriptions of stock. Daniel Webster has introduced on to his estate, at Marshfield, the finest cattle, and sheep suited to its soil and climate, and takes much pride in showing their good qualities. Indeed, we have never heard either of these two last remarkable men more eloquent, than when discoursing of their cattle, and of their pleasure in ranging over their pastures, and examining their herds and flocks. They have both been importers of stock, and liberal in their dissemination among their agricultural friends and neighbors. Public-spirited, patriotic men, in almost every one of our states, have either imported from Europe, or drawn from a distance in their own country, choice animals, to stock their own estates, and bred them for the improvement of their several neighborhoods. Merchants, and generous men of other professions, have shown great liberality, and the finest 367 taste, in importing, rearing, and distributing over the country the best breeds of horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs. Their own beautiful home grounds are embellished with them, in a style that all the dumb statuary in existence can not equal in interest—models of grace, and beauty, and utility, which are in vain sought among the sculpture, or paintings of ancient time. And many a plain and unpretending farmer of our country, emulating such laudable examples, now shows in his luxuriant pastures, and well-filled barns and stables, the choicest specimens of imported stock; and their prizes, won at the cattle shows, are the laudable pride of themselves, and their families.

Nor is this laudable taste, confined to men alone. Females of the highest worth, and domestic example, both abroad and at home, cultivate a love for such objects, and take much interest in the welfare of their farm stock. We were at the annual state cattle show, in one of our large states, but a short time since, and in loitering about the cattle quarter of the grounds, met a lady of our acquaintance, with a party of her female friends, on a tour of inspection among the beautiful short-horns, and Devons, and the select varieties of sheep. She was the daughter of a distinguished statesman, who was also a large farmer, and a patron of great liberality, in the promotion of fine stock in his own state. She was bred upon the farm, and, to rare accomplishments in education, was possessed of a deep love for all rural objects; and in the stock of the farm she took a peculiar interest. Her husband was an extensive farmer, and a noted breeder of fine animals. 368 She had her own farm, too, and cattle upon it, equally as choice as his, in her own right; and they were both competitors at the annual exhibitions. Introduced to her friends, at her request, we accompanied them in their round of inspection. There were the beautiful cows, and the younger cattle, and the sheep—all noticed, criticised, and remarked upon; and with a judgment, too, in their various properties, which convinced us of her sound knowledge of their physiology, and good qualities, which she explained to her associates with all the familiarity that she would a tambouring frame, or a piece of embroidery. There was no squeamish fastidiousness; no affectation of prudery, in this; but all natural as the pure flow of admiration in a well-bred lady could be. At her most comfortable, and hospitable residence, afterward, she showed us, with pride, the several cups, and other articles of plate, which her family had won as prizes, at the agricultural exhibitions; and which she intended to preserve, as heir-looms to her children. This is not a solitary example; yet, a too rare one, among our fair countrywomen. Such a spirit is contagious, and we witness with real satisfaction, their growing taste in such laudable sources of enjoyment: contrary to the parvenue affectation of a vast many otherwise sensible and accomplished females of our cities and towns—comprising even the wives and daughters of farmers, too—who can saunter among the not over select, and equivocal representations, among the paintings and statuary of our public galleries; and descant with entire freedom, on the various attitudes, and artistical 369 merits of the works before them; or gaze with apparent admiration upon the brazen pirouettes of a public dancing girl, amid all the equivoque of a crowded theater; and yet, whose delicacy is shocked at the exhibitions of a cattle show! Such females as we have noticed, can admire the living, moving beauty of animal life, with the natural and easy grace of purity itself, and without the slightest suspicion of a stain of vulgarity. From the bottom of our heart, we trust that a reformation is at work among our American women, in the promotion of a taste, and not only a taste, but a genuine love of things connected with country life. It was not so, with the mothers, and the wives, of the stern and earnest men, who laid the foundations of their country's freedom and greatness. They were women of soul, character, and stamina; who grappled with the realities of life, in their labors; and enjoyed its pleasures with truth and honesty. This over-nice, mincing delicacy, and sentimentality, in which their grand-daughters indulge, is but the off-throw of the boarding-school, the novelist, and the prude—mere leather and prunella. Such remarks may be thought to lie beyond the line of our immediate labor. But in the discussion of the collateral subjects which have a bearing upon country life and residence, we incline to make a clean breast of it, and drop such incidental remark as may tend to promote the enjoyment, as well as instruction, of those whose sphere of action, and whose choice in life is amid the pure atmosphere, and the pure pleasures of the country.