Stone Arch Bridges

Stone Arch Bridges

Do you love those picturesque stone arch bridges in Cowley County, Kansas? Do we know the website for you to visit!

StoneArchBridges.com is a unique blend of history, physics, how-to, and photography. It offers well-researched information about bridges in Kansas (and other places, as well!) that can be extremely difficult to find anywhere else.

Just to give you a flavor of what this site is about, past topics have included:

One of the many things we love about this site is that the author has really taken the time to get to know the subject. He has traveled Kansas extensively, dug through old newspaper clippings for obscure information, and even built a small stone arch bridge in his own backyard.

Whether your interest is architecture, Kansas tourism, or backyard masonry, you are sure to find something of interest here. (And be sure to browse around for some great photos!)

While you’re at it, you may also be interested in the reading the posts the stone arch bridge expert has written for Homestead on the Range. Enjoy!

Cornish

CornishDue to its bulldoggish appearance, some fear that the Cornish was originally bred for the cruel sport of fighting. Thankfully, this is not the case. Although descended from fierce birds such as the Asil, the Malay, and the Old English Game Fowl, the Cornish was specifically produced for the tables of Cornwall during its earliest years, hence its squat, broad-breasted physique. During the 1840s, crossing local chickens with gamefowl was a common method of improving the vigor of the former in England.

From its humble beginnings as the Sunday supper of the Cornish mining folk, the Cornish soon spread across England. Subsequent crossbreeding to improve its table qualities involved Dorking, Orpington, and Light Sussex chickens.

By the 1880s, the Cornish was falling out of favor in Great Britain as a meat bird due to its yellow skin. About that time, however, it was introduced to North America, where it enjoyed a considerable degree of popularity.

The original Cornish was the handsome dark variety. Subsequent breeding produced the white-laced red for show and the white for fast-growing broiler production.

Ironically, the development of the growthy White Cornish dealt a severe blow to the breed as a whole, as it was this variety that eventually became the basis of the crossbred broiler industry, reducing the need and demand for pure Cornish chickens for meat. Today, there are relatively few Cornish chickens in the United States.

CornishUses

The Cornish can be divided into three distinct types these days, each with a slightly different genetic background:

  • The commercial type, used for breeding crossbred broilers.
  • The exhibition type, kept primarily for show.
  • The traditional type, still raised as a home meat bird on some small farms and homesteads.

A commonly overlooked use of the Cornish hen is as a pet. These birds are surprisingly affectionate.

Temperament

The Cornish hen is a delightful bird to have around due to her docility and friendliness. She is easy to tame and will amply reward any attention given to her. Cornish hens usually tend toward the bottom of the pecking order in mixed flocks.

The Cornish rooster is another story. He is rather aggressive and may not be suitable for families with small children.

Keep in mind that all Cornish chickens, male or female, are quite active and need plenty of space to move. This is not a breed that will be happy in confinement.

CornishHealth

The Cornish does not do well during times of extreme heat or cold. Hot weather may prompt a heart attack, and the breed’s short, sparse feathering makes keeping warm a challenge in a cold wind. On the whole, however, the Cornish is better suited to cold than heat. Its tiny comb is almost impervious to frostbite. When provided with snug, draft-free housing, it should do well in all but the coldest temperatures.

Also keep in mind that Cornish chickens, due to their heftiness, are prone to reproductive difficulties and heart attacks. They generally have a short lifespan. Restricting their feed intake may help.

Pros

  • Predator savvy.
  • Good winter egg production.
  • Large egg size.
  • Firm eggshells.
  • Large quantities of white meat.
  • Excellent meat texture.

CornishCons

  • Unsuitability for extreme climates.
  • Hefty appetite.
  • Slow maturity (especially compared to commercial broilers).
  • Short lifespan.
  • Inability to breed naturally unless kept on a lean diet.
  • Low egg production overall.
  • Poor success rate when brooding.
Complete Series

Chicken BreedsChicken Breeds

Which Draft Animal is Right for You?: Donkeys

What Draft Animal is Right for You?: DonkeysThose who are considering draft animals generally find themselves comparing oxen, horses, and mules. Donkeys do not receive nearly as much attention in the draft world, but that is not to say they can’t pull their own weight around the farm!

The donkey breed best suited to farm work is the American Mammoth Jackstock. Larger burros can do a surprising amount of draft work, as well.

Pros

  • Low purchase cost. Donkeys are typically very inexpensive, sometimes even free. A trained team may be a little more expensive (when locally available), but not by all that much.
  • Hardiness. While perhaps donkeys are not quite as hardy as mules, they are certainly extremely hardy. Parasites should not present any great difficulties, and neither should overeating. Hoof and leg problems are also rare in donkeys.
  • Low feed costs. Donkeys can thrive with very little feed (probably less than any other draft animal). They require supplemental feed if working hard on a regular basis, but less than a draft horse would. If they work only sporadically, they may not require any feed at all. Either way, donkeys do not require the same level of pasture quality that horses do.
  • Minimal hoof care. Out of all the draft animals, donkeys require the least attention to their hooves. As long as they have room to walk around and access to some rougher ground that will wear down their hooves a bit, they should not require trimming. But even if your circumstances make trimming a necessity, shoes are not necessary for donkeys.
  • Simple harnesses. Draft harnesses for donkeys and burros are typically quite simple, involving little more than a padded collar. This reduces the amount of time spent getting the donkey ready for work and then maintaining the harness.
  • Sure footing. Donkeys are well suited to working on uneven fields or smaller properties with hard-to-reach corners.
  • Versatility. A male work donkey could potentially be kept for breeding mules, as well. As an additional bonus, donkeys make good guard animals for sheep and goats. Some bigger donkeys can be ridden, although there aren’t too many donkeys with the size and back strength for this purpose (another point in favor of the American Mammoth Jackstock).

Cons

  • Small size. Most donkeys are too small for heavy draft work, and even a good-sized donkey cannot pull loads as heavy as an ox or mule can (although it might be able to outperform a horse of the same size). Nearly any donkey can pull a small cart loaded with firewood, but for heavier farm work you will want to consider a large donkey. You may also want to plan on two donkeys for every one horse that the job in question would require due to the donkey’s smaller size.
  • Variable availability. While donkeys in general are rather common, draft donkeys are not. Your ability to find a sturdy draft donkey will depend on where you live.
  • Independent nature. Donkeys can be difficult to train and work. They are more like cats than dogs when it comes to obedience, and they can be extremely wary, especially when young. Be prepared to earn their trust and to exercise a great deal of patience when dealing with potentially frightening situations. Also keep in mind that they will never allow themselves to be overworked or placed in danger. For most beginners, starting with a trained team is probably the best bet.

Conclusions

Donkeys are well suited to work on smaller farms. Even a miniature donkey can pull a small cart of vegetables or firewood. And donkeys also have the advantages of being versatile and quite economical to keep.

That said, most donkeys are not big or sturdy enough for heavier draft work. For this purpose, you will likely want an American Mammoth Jackstock, which may or may not be readily available in your area. But if you are considering serious logging or other very heavy work, you may be happier with something with more pulling power, such as an ox or a heavy-breed horse.

Also, not everyone gets along well with donkeys. Those who prefer a more docile animal will likely prefer oxen or horses. Donkeys are more focused on self-preservation—like a mule, but ever so much more so. But some people truly appreciate the intelligence of donkeys. It’s largely a matter of personal preference.

Which Draft Animal is Right for You?: Mules

Which Draft Animal is Right for You?: MulesThe mule has long been used as a draft animal, but it has been particularly associated with the hot climate of the South. It is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse.

While there aren’t exactly breeds of mule, not all mules are created equal. The build of both the jack and the mare involved are key factors in determining whether their offspring will be big and husky enough for draft work. Many mules are bred for saddle purposes these days, which means that they often have a lighter physique.

When selecting the parents of a future draft mule, you will want to look for sturdy, strong-boned donkeys and horses of the larger breeds. You will also want to select both parents, but particularly the mare, for good disposition. One of the best donkey breeds for draft mule breeding is the American Mammoth Jackstock. The horse can be of just about any desired draft breed.

Pros

  • Superb heat tolerance. Historically, the mule was typically the draft animal of choice in the Deep South. The reason was its exceptional tolerance of heat and humidity.
  • Exceptional health and hardiness. Few domestic animals are as tough as the mule. It rarely gets sick, and it almost never goes lame. It has a high degree of parasite resistance. Its hooves are exceptionally sturdy and generally don’t require shoes unless it is being worked on pavement or very rocky ground.
  • Self-preservation instinct. Mules have an unrivaled ability to look out for themselves. They rarely make themselves sick by eating or drinking too much all at once (cases of founder are usually restricted to mules from pony mares). They will not allow themselves to be overworked, either.
  • Calmness. Mules are not prone to panic the way horses are. They may bolt out of wilfulness, but rarely out of fear.
  • Low maintenance requirements. Even when working, the mule requires very little supplemental feed (albeit more than a donkey). It does not require a pristine pasture or top-quality hay to stay in peak form. A draft mule is estimated to require about a third less feed than a working horse of the same size.
  • Longevity. Draft mules have long working lifespans, up to nearly 20 years with proper care.
  • A balance of speed and stamina. Speed and stamina are typically mutually exclusive, but the mule provides a very reasonable compromise. On a continuum with horses representing the most speed but least stamina and oxen representing the most stamina but least speed, a mule would be right about at the balance point.
  • Sure-footedness. Out of all the draft animals, mules are among the most sure of their footing, which is a plus on uneven ground or when working in tight quarters as when cultivating. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the mule has a narrower body and smaller hooves than a horse of the same size. The second is that it is always on the alert and acting as circumstances require.
  • Versatility. Your draft mule can also perform other work around the farm! It can be broken to ride just a like a horse, and when it is not otherwise employed, keep it in the pasture as a guardian for sheep and goats.

Cons

  • Prevalence of low-quality mules. Too many people try to make a fast buck by breeding a cull jack to an inferior mare. While miracles do happen, in everyday life any mule that results from such a breeding is highly unlikely to exceed its parents in quality. Purchasing a mule takes some research to avoid picking up somebody else’s nightmare. A docile mare and positive human interaction from birth are two ingredients necessary to make a good mule.
  • Expense. If you are starting out with a trained draft team (and you should give it some serious consideration if you are thinking about buying mules), a good mule team can be rather pricey.
  • Noise. This should not be much of an issue for anyone who has enough land to be considering draft mules. That said, those of you who are considering a mule for tilling the garden in a more populated area may want to factor in your neighbors’ feelings on the subject.
  • Training challenges. Mules aren’t exactly stubborn—they’re just super independent, and they have an exceptional ability to spot a person who isn’t really in control of a situation. But this independence, admirable though it may be in many situations, is not something most beginners want to deal with. Training mules for draft work is extremely challenging, and it requires a fair but firm hand, not to mention a considerable amount of time. Mistakes have long-term ramifications, and bad habits are extraordinarily difficult to weed out. (This is exactly why trained mules are so expensive.)
  • Complex harness. Although there are differences, the harness used for mules is much like that used for horses with respect to complexity. It takes time to get it on the animals, and it requires a good degree of maintenance.
  • Intelligent disobedience. Even a well-trained mule will disobey if it feels the need, and it will insist on taking time to look over any and all dubious situations before proceeding. This is precisely due to its beneficial self-preservation instinct. That said, not everyone can handle the independence of mules. Horses are more like dogs, mules are more like cats (although not quite to the same degree as donkeys). There is a reason why many people would rather train dogs than cats!
  • Sterility. The mule is the only draft animal that cannot replicate itself (with the caveat that most oxen are steers). Granted, your mule team should last for many years. But if you ever need to replace or expand it, you must purchase new animals or keep both horses and donkeys on hand to raise more yourself.

Conclusions

Mules can make a superb team for use in challenging conditions, and they are the epitome of low-maintenance draft animals. Add to that their nice balance between speed and stamina, and you have an excellent choice for serious farm work.

However, there is probably a good reason that draft mules are not more common than they are, and that is their temperament. Not everyone is going to enjoy working with mules. Beginners in particular may find mules to be too much of a challenge when learning the ropes, even when dealing with a trained team. (And an untrained team can be a nightmare for all but the most dedicated and experienced teamsters.)

When it comes to mules, there is no question that they are superb in low-input farm situations. The question is whether or not you are one of those special people who can get along with a mule.

Next week: Donkeys

Helpful Resource

Mule
More information on the history, uses, temperament, health, and pros and cons of the mule, from our guide to horse and donkey breeds.