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horses, salt, eggs, bacon, cheese, brown sugar, bread, Pennsylvania Dutch dialect


Handwritten manuscript entitled, "Horses: Peculiar Habits and Tastes", by Victor C. Dieffenbach, dating from circa 1952. Within, Dieffenbach details some of the eating habits he's seen horses possess, describing stories of horses who eat eggs, cheese, bread and other items.

Corresponds to:

Packet 577 a-200-71 to a-200-75



Peculiar Habits and Tastes

I remember that my parents had hired a young girl, as house-maid, or assistant to my mother, she being an invalid. The girl had been staying with an aunt in the country, and her uncle, as often as he went to town, would come home half-drunk. Then his wife had to kill and dress a chicken for him, and give his horse a whole loaf of bread. One Sunday I drove to their home, taking the girl along as she had some errand with her aunt. “Billy” - was lying aside a big strawstack, the end of the previous nights session. When the effects of his spree had somewhat subsided, and once he could get up, he went into the house, and soon came back and had a big loaf of bread - home-baked too. Once he was sober he was a real genial chap. He said “Now will Ich deer mull weissa we my goul brode fresst; de Lillie hut meer gsawdt os do daitscht’s net glawva”. (Now I will show you how my horse eats bread. Lillie told me that you did not believe it.)

So he got out a big pocket-knife and cut big hunks off the loaf, and the horse at all of it and would have ate more.

“Sell iss goot fer ihm”, - (That is good for him) Billy - said. “Awver net won er TSU feel fresst. Ich hob tsu feel cot - usht kew brode”. (But not if he ate too much of it - I had too much, only not bread.) Then he said - “Awver meer gleicha 's”. (Only we like it.)

I’ll never forget what my father said one day when he came home with a new horse - one he had bought from a neighbor. “Dar goul fresst kase”, (This horse eats cheese) he said, as he put him in the stall. The horse was eleven years old, was called “Harry” and was recommended to be a single-line leader. It was what we needed at the time. The horse, having only been used for field-work, had never been shoed on his hind feet; and we had planned on a trip to the mountain for posts or rails. So, after dinner, we put him in the shafts, and drove to Millersburg to the black-smith shop; old Levi Frantz was the farrier, and he was a good one; and his shop was always full of horses awaiting their turn to be shoed. So, when we came in, immediately after an early dinner, so as to avoid the afternoon rush, we found a farrier with several of his horses, left over from the forenoon. This often happened. So, when Levi started to work on one of those horses he told me I could pull the old shoes off of our horse a while, and save a little time.

The man owning the other horses had gone up town to the store; he now came back and had a paper bag of pretzels, and a big wedge of cheese in the other hand, and sat down on a box, and started to eat his lunch. He reached inside his overalls and got out a bottle of beer and opened it, and said: “Ich bin fro os ich doe waurta hob missa; Ich gleich evva pretzel un beer, un no case datsu”. (I am glad I had to wait here. I like pretzels and beer, and some cheese to go with it.) Just as he had said that, Harry reached over and grabbed that hunk of cheese where the farmer had set it down, and he ate it all. Old Levi laughed and said: “Desamohl gate der case net mitt em beer.” (This time the cheese don’t go with the beer.) Then the farmer first saw what had happened. He gaped at the horse and he got red in the face and he hollered: “Wos fer en fer dommter goul husht do doe?” (What kind of a damned horse have you here?”)

“Ainer os kase gleicht”, I said, and we all laughed. He was the only horse that I ever saw that liked it so much.

Eggs are good for a horse.

One day while we were cleaning out the stable, I saw Dad go into the feed entry the time the old Plymouth Rock hen started to cackle. I could not imagine what she wanted. We used to have a hired-hand would eat eggs raw; but Dad never cared much for them in any form. Soon I heard something plop into Topsie's trough, and I saw she was eating an egg. Dad said: “Sell mocht see shay glott!”

From there on, whenever Topsy was in the stable and he wasn’t around, I’d see to it that she had plenty of eggs; she would readily eat three or four, and soon she was smooth and glossy. One rainy day old Dan Gerber came up with a saw to get it filed, and he came into the horse-stable where we were doing some repairs. He looked at the black mare, petted her, and asked Dad what he fed her. Dad told him that I did most of the feeding. Thereupon old Dan started to scratch back of his ear, and started to hum. “H-m-m-m-mhmmm! Huh-hm-mmm!” He didn’t say one word; but we all of us knew what he meant.

When a horse has a bad cold and coughs, the best remedy is very dark brown sugar; if it is just placed on the feed, (a hand-full or two won’t hurt him) he will eat it, and perhaps cough for some more. It is also good to feed anytime, if not too much is given at one time; and too much isn’t good for the person giving it - i.e. if he is very fond of sugar. I should know.

Along towards Spring, a handful of whole rye if added to the rest of the grain, several times a week to get it started, and then once a day, and then you can see the old winter coat coming off of the horses.

There also used to be a saying when someone seemed to be over-fond of bacon: “Er fresst der schpeck os we em Moardy Dubbs sei heugscht!” But I never heard if the horse really ate any bacon, or why, or how much. Horses will at certain times eat at any wood within reach, even the bark of trees; but when their feed will be examined it will be found to be deficient in some important minerals or vitamins.

The Indians caught many of their horses at the salt-licks; so we can see that if salt is necessary to the horses in the wild state, it is of much more importance once they are stable-fed and deprived of their natural sustenance. Salt should always be accessible; while a horse may be in reasonable shape for a certain length of time, when he is not given any salt, yet finally he will be found to be lacking in stamina and unable to compete with horses that are well cared for.

While farm or heavy draft horses were not subject to many of the ills of modern times, yet such as there were had often to be dealt with drastically and having to resort to home-made remedies and what ever means were to be had; these were oft-times home-made simples; and the cures they effected would do credit to their college-bred brethren of today.

Following is a list of diseases and of the home-remedies for the same. Also anecdotes showing humorous situations while administering some of these remedies. Magic, pow-wowing, and various and diverse ways of arresting disease are given.


English and Pennsylvania German

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Dieffenbach on Horses: Peculiar Habits and Tastes



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