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capital invested can be so readily increased or diminished according to increased or diminished demand, none where so little labor of body or mind is required, and none where the returns are so frequent and sure.
Wool makes a healthier clothing than cotton, and mutton is a very cheap and wholsome meat. This is a consideration worthy of fixed attention from each inhabitant of every agricultural town in the “Union.” The owner of a flock of sheep can have fresh meat, of the best character, throughout the year; he can at any time, kill a lamb or wether, without damage or loss, and have a pelt to sell, with meat that becomes more palatable from keeping, and in quantity sufficient, without his being encumbered by its weight, or annoyed about its disposal, so frequently the case of the farmer who butchers a neat animal. It is believed that this substitution of fresh lamb and mutton for the vast quantities of salt pork now consumed in our farming communities, would be as happy an innovation here, as it proved in England. "The farmer raising wool can have, at his own door, cash at prices not more than from five to ten per cent. lower than at the best markets, and if wool happens to be unusually low, can store it for one per cent. of its value, with an assurance that he loses nothing of weight.” By instituting and encouraging the system of “wool depots,” which has already gone into successful operation in Vermont and New Hampshire, a still less per centage off the best market price, even, may be obtained, and equal prices, according to quality, might be had throughout the country. Without such institutions, wool raisers must continue to rely upon the integrity and knowledge of the few isolated, woollen factory owners and wool pullers, scattered about the country, who now name their own prices, and frequently evince a want of discrimination which tells against either one or the other of those desirable qualifications.
The design of this report, is not to dictate nor even to recommend in detail, a definite course of action, but in calling thoughtful attention to the subject of sheep breeding, to lend such aid as it may, to farmers looking in this direction; to offer a word of encouragement, and perhaps, to open up some unsettled questions for general discussion among able and experienced men.
The Board of Agriculture has signified its intention, not to be committed to the advocacy of either breed of the several kinds of
live stock. While the writer of this report hopes that nothing here, will warrant a thought on the part of any one, that there is a departure from so judicious a determination, still, it has seemed to him no more than just, that where the whole field of Maine has been allotted to a particular breed upon the mere ipse dixit of one individual, however learned he may be, the action of the Board should open the gate for a fair and free discussion among its members and the farmers of the State, so that if the theory, which militates against the practice of a general experience, be correct, those who have unfortunately been making money in so unwarrantable and unscientific a course, may be able to obtain reasons for the substitution of a single breed in place of those which, for aught they can see, are every way well suited to their markets, their climate, and their soil.
In an essay upon Sheep breeding, published in the Patent Office Report for the year 1851, P. A. Brown, L. L. D., maintains that there are two distinct species of sheep—the woolly and the hairyeach of which has its appropriate place, where the other must not intrude. And to but a dozen or so of all the sheep which there are in Maine, would he accord an abiding place upon the earth, because they have hair mixed with their wool, and by that same token, according to his theory, are hybrids. He says, “There is a place for all natural things. There is a place to breed and raise the hairy sheep; and there is a place to breed and raise the woolly sheep; but for the hybrid sheep, which is not a natural, but an unnatural production of man's making, there is not any place in the United States; and therefore their propagation ought not to be encouraged. If a line be drawn diagonally through the United States, beginning at the south east corner of New Hampshire, pursuing pretty much the course of the line of tide water, and ending in Texas, it will be found that every where north west of it, the woolly. sheep may be bred and will thrive, provided the blood of his specics be kept pure; and every where south east of this line, the hairy sheep may be bred and will thrive, provided the blood of his species be kept pure; but that neither will thrive on the other sides, respectively, of that line, nor will they if the species are crossed.”
Dr. Brown illustrates his argument for this distinction of species
by referring to the general similitude of the horse and the ass, the zebra, the quagga, the onagga, the dziggatai, the two species of camel, the two species of rhinoceros, the several species of the deer kind, of monkeys, of sloths, and of lizards; but none of these change in those particulars which causes distinction between them, whereas there exists realiable and abundant authority to prove that the wool and hair of sheep do change from either one to the other, under the influences of climate and cultivation.
Dr. Nichols, in his “ Catechism of Natural Theology,” page 144, says, "what art does for man, nature has in many instances, done for those animals which are incapable of art. The clothing of its own accord changes with their necessities. This is particularly the case with that large tribe of quadrupeds which are covered with furs. Every dealer in hare skins and rabbit skins, knows, how the fur is thickened by the approach of winter. It seems to bo a part of the same constitution and the same design, that wool, in hot countries, degenerates, as it is called, but in truth, (most happily for the animal's ease,) passes into hair; whilst on the contrary, that hair, in the dogs of the polar regions, is turned into wool, or something
very like it."
Dr. Blacklock, in his " Treatise upon Sheep,” p. 85, says, "in tropical countries we find the fleece approaching more to hair than wool, as in the sheep of Thibet, so celebrated for the silky nature of their coat."
In Saxton's edition of Youatt upon Sheep, p. 11, is the following: “The change from hair to wool, though much influenced by temperature, has been chiefly effected by cultivation."
Prof. Low, in his “Domestic Animals,” p. 42, says, “By frequent shearing of the fleece, the hair diminishes in quantity, and the wool is proportionally developed, until at length, under the influence of continued domestication, the essential covering of the animal becomes wool, of greater or less tenuity and softness."
Charles L. Fleischman, Esq., in the Patent Office Report of 1847, p. 308, says, “The wool of the very same sheep, which furnish in Germany an eminently fine and valuable product, on their being transplanted to other countries, can scarcely be recognized, and is hardly worth half its former value."
And D. J. Browne in the Patent Office Report for 1855, p. 2,
says, “If sheep are carried from either of the temperate zones to the burning plains of the tropics, after a few years, material changes take place in their covering.”
[Dr. Browne, quoting Prof. Agassiz, (Prin. of Zoology, p. 43,) infers therefrom, " that the hair of the hairy sheep, and the wool of the woolly sheep, according to his (Agassiz') notion, depend upon an immaterial principle, which no external influence can prevent or modify.” It is to be regretted, that in a matter of such importance, the opinion of that eminent naturalist was not obtained directly touching the point, so that it need not have been left to an inference which—craving Dr. B's. indulgence-might to some, seem rather "remote."]
Dr. Brown asserts, that “this change of coat never happens to either the pure hairy sheep, or the pure woolly sheep, but is a condition of those hybrids which have already hair and wool.”
Fleischman again says, (P. O. R., 1847, p. 275,) “But besides the peculiar wool, all sheep have, in particular places of their bodies, real hairs, some more, some less." And it may be fairly deduced from the teachings of all the essays and treatises to which the writer of this Report has had access, that there are no sheep bearing fleeces composed exclusively of either hair or wool; but that on the shanks and about the heads of the finest wooled sheep of Saxony, there may be found filaments approaching very closely to true hair ; and that it is only by the greatest watchfulness and care, even where the climate is the most uniform, that the constant and thorough' character of their fleeces is maintained; and that some mature merino sheep, with woolly fleeces of the most perfect integrity, exhibited when they were lambs, very hairy indications; and that wherever neglected, or where the climate is variable and they are exposed to sudden vicissitudes of temperature, they will deteriorate, and occasionally a hairy sheep will appear in the flock. Reliable authority also informs us, that we may sometimes observe one end of the same fibre to be wool, with its spiral form and felting properties, while the other end is true hair; and that clothing and greasing are resorted to with a very evident effect upon the quality of the wool.
To men of ordinary judgment, the case of the South Down sheep, which Dr. Browne, citing, speaks of as an hybrid between the hairy
and the woolly sheep, seems a notable instance against his theory; for they not only have become a distinct and self supporting breed, but have been for years improving in form and constitution; an improvement effected within the breed itself, by abstaining from intermixture with or draft from what he calls the pure species. And according to Lyell, (Prin. of Geology, p. 579,) "the celebrated John Hunter has observed, that the true distinction of species must ultimately be gathered from their incapacity of propagating with each other and producing offspring capable of again continuing itself.” And Lyell from many eminent authorities and much close reasoning, draws several “ inferences in regard to the reality of species in nature;" the following being a part of the fifth : (Ibid p. 589.) “It does not appear that true hybrid races have ever been perpetuated for several generations, even by the assistance of man; for the cases usually cited relate to the crossing of mules with individuals of pure species, and not to the intermixture of hybrid with hybrid.”
Again Dr. Browne argues against crossing together different varieties of the same species, and in this connection he asserts, "the Arabian is the finest race (of horses) in the world; in his own country no one ever thinks of crossing the breed; on the contrary, the pure blood has descended, uncontaminated, through successive generations; but in this and other countries, where the practice of amalgamation with other races prevails, they have endless varieties of this noble animal, but no pure Arabian race.""
Would it not be pertinent and in accordance with fact, if we should assert that we have none of the pure Arabian race merely because our climate changes the animal here into an Americo Arabian, without the capacity, and every way unfit for the requirements of our people? But has not each section of our country a breed of horses admirably suited to the wants of the respective localities, produced by this very amalgamation of races and breeds ? From a conscientious belief in its reliability, this is assumed as fact; and it is proposed to apply the same process to sheep breeding in Maine, with a thorough persuasion of its ultimate success. It cannot be reasonably doubted, that we may obtain equally favorable results from the various breeds of sheep prevailing in different parts of the State, by selecting such as appear to thrive best in each section,