Artist's interpretation of the Catherine Brown cow-pen.
Plan view of Brown cow-pen.
"From the Heart of the Settlements we are now got into the Cow-pens; the Keepers of these are very extraordinary Kind of Fellows, they drive up their Herds on Horseback, and they had need do so, for their Cattle are near as wild as Deer; a Cow-pen generally consists of a very large Cottage or House in the Woods, with about four-score or one hundred Acres, inclosed with high Rails and divided; a small Inclosure they keep for Corn, for the family, the rest is the Pasture in which they keep their calves; but the Manner is far different from any Thing you ever saw; they may perhaps have a Stock of four or five hundred to a thousand Head of Cattle belonging to a Cow-pen, these run as they please in the Great Woods, where there are no Inclosures to stop them. In the Month of March the Cows begin to drop their Calves, then the Cow-pen Master, with all his Men, rides out to see and drive up the Cows with all their new fallen Calves; they being weak cannot run away so as to escape, therefore are easily drove up, and the Bulls and other Cattle follow them; and they put these Calves into the Pasture, and every Morning and Evening suffer the Cows to come and suckle them, which done they let the Cows out into the great Woods to shift for their Food as well as they can; whilst the Calf is sucking one Tit of the Cow, the Woman of the Cow-Pen is milking one of the other Tits, so that she steals some Milk from the Cow, who thinks she is giving it to the Calf; soon as the Cow begins to go dry, and the Calf grows Strong, they mark them, if they are Males they cut them, and let them go into the Wood. Every Year in September and October they drive up the Market Steers, that are fat and of a proper Age, and kill them; they say they are fat in October, but I am sure they are not so in May, June and July; they reckon that out of 100 Head of Cattle they can kill about 10 or 12 steers, and four or five Cows a Year; so they reckon that a Cow-Pen for every 100 Head of Cattle brings about 40 pounds Sterling per Year. The Keepers live chiefly upon Milk, for out of their Vast Herds, they do condescend to tame Cows enough to keep their Family in Milk, Whey, Curds, Cheese and Butter; they also have Flesh in Abundance such as it is, for they eat the old Cows and lean Calves that are like to die. The Cow-Pen Men are hardy People, are almost continually on Horseback, being obliged to know the Haunts of their Cattle". "You see, Sir, what a wild set of Creatures Our English Men grow into, when they lose Society, and it is surprising to think how many Advantages they throw away, which our industrious Country-Men would be glad of: Out of many hundred Cows they will not give themselves the trouble of milking more than will maintain their Family."
"Extracts of Letters from an Officer" (London, 1755).