One of the most interesting illustrations of the design of our benevolent Creator in establishing the family state is the nature of the domestic animals connected with it. At the very dawn of life, the infant watches with delight the graceful gambols of the kitten, and soon makes it a playmate. Meantime, its outcries when hurt appeal to kindly sympathy, and its sharp claws to fear; while the child's mother has a constant opportunity to inculcate kindness and care for weak and ignorant creatures. Then the dog becomes the outdoor playmate and guardian of early childhood, and he also guards himself by cries of pain, and protects himself by his teeth. At the same time, his faithful loving nature and caresses awaken corresponding tenderness and care; while the parent, again, has a daily opportunity to inculcate these virtues toward the helpless and dependent. As the child increases in knowledge and reason, the horse, cows, poultry, and other domestic animals come under his notice. These do not ordinarily express their hunger or other sufferings by cries of distress, but depend more on the developed reason and humanity of man. And here the parent is called upon to instruct a child in the nature and wants of each, that he may intelligently provide for their sustenance and for their protection from injury and disease.
To assist in this important duty of home life, which so often falls to the supervision of woman, the following information is prepared through the kindness of one of the editors of a prominent, widely known agricultural paper.
Domestic animals are very apt to catch the spirit and temper of their masters. A surly man will be very likely to have a cross dog and a biting horse. A passionate man will keep all his animals in moral fear of him, making them snappish, and liable to hurt those of whom they are not afraid.
It is, therefore, most important that all animals should be treated uniformly with kindness. They are all capable of returning affection, and will show it very pleasantly if we manifest affection for them. They also have intuitive perceptions of our emotions which we can not conceal. A sharp, ugly dog will rarely bite a person who has no fear of him. A horse knows, the moment a man mounts or takes the reins, whether he is afraid or not; and so it is with other animals.
If live stock can not be well fed, they ought not to be kept. One well-wintered horse is worth as much as two that drag through on straw, and by browsing the hedgerows. The same is true of oxen, and emphatically so of cows. The owner of a half-starved dog loses the use of him almost altogether; for at the very time - the night - when he is most needed as a guard, he must be off scouring the country for food.
Shelter in winter is most important for cows. They should have good tight stables or byres, well ventilated, and so warm that water in a pail will only freeze a little on the top the severest nights. Oxen should have the same stabling, though they bear cold better. Horses in stables will bear almost any degree of cold, if they have all they can eat. Sheep, except young lambs, are well enough sheltered in dry sheds, with one end open. Cattle, sheep, and dogs do not sweat as horses do; they "loll;" that is, water or slabber runs from their tongues; hence they are not liable to take cold as the horse is. Hogs bear cold pretty well; but they eat enough to convince any one that true economy lies in giving them warm styes in winter, for the colder they are the more they eat. Fowls will not lay in cold weather unless they have light and warm quarters.
Cleanliness is indispensable, if one would keep his animals healthy. In their wild state all our domestic animals are very clean, and, at the same time, very healthy. The hog is not naturally a dirty animal, but quite the reverse. He enjoys currying as much as a horse or cow, and would be as careful of his litter as a cat if he had a fair chance.
Horses ought to be groomed daily; cows and oxen as often as twice a week; dogs should be washed with soapsuds frequently. Stables should be cleaned out daily. Absorbents of liquid in stables should be removed as often as they become wet. Dry earth is one of the best absorbents, and is especially useful in the fowl-house. Hogs in pens should have straw for their rests or lairs, and it should be often renewed.