Looking Back 4: Homestead Critters: The Good the Bad and the Ugly


Mosquito Mountain Montana HomesteadHave you ever tried to bury a dead horse? Think about it. When you own an animal you are responsible for it from "cradle to grave." And while animals are sometimes a source of pleasure, other times they are a burden you end up enduring.

I believe it was Scott and Helen Nearing who said that anyone who owned an animal was a slave to it. There's a lot of truth to that statement! Most homesteaders simply assume that animals should be a part of the homestead when what they should be doing is analyzing if they'd be better off without them. Sometimes critters on the homestead are useful, sometimes they're entertaining and sometimes they're an unmitigated disaster! Here are some of our experiences.


Many homesteaders can't wait to get a horse (or horses!). My father raised and rode horses most of his life. Some of our children own horses. We've also owned horses. I'm telling you this just to verify that we speak from experience when it comes to owning horses.

We like horses. But we sold the last one several years ago and, while I liked that horse a lot, I was happy to see it leave. Horses make great companions, but they eat prodigious amounts of hay, drink gallons of water per day, need routine medical care, and must have a home of their own whether it's just a covered shed and corral or a pasture for grazing. If you keep them in a corral they must have a way to get exercise or you may create additional health problems for the horse.

Horses can also cause a lot of human damage as well. My stepmother had a hand badly broken by a horse she was tying up. My wife sustained a broken wrist and a lot of bruises when a horse spooked at an unfamiliar noise. Horses only have one means of defense and that's to run. It wouldn't be so bad except that a horse is afraid of anything new.

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