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New York Folklore Quarterly, Vol. VII, No. 1, Spring 1951

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NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. VII, No. 1, Spring 1951

YORK STATE FARM LORE
Selected, edited, and written by Edith E. Cutting
LIVESTOCK

In early New York, farmers had to depend on their own judgment in buying stock, rather than on pedigree or production records. Few farmers had any scientific training, and there was little literature to guide them in the care of their animals. Often they had to doctor the stock themselves. They developed, consequently, a fund of sayings embodying both observation and tradition.

One of the best-known rhymes for judging a horse is:

One white foot, buy him;
Two white feet, try him;
Three white feet, deny him;
Four white feet and a snip on his nose—
Take off his hide and feed him to the crows.

Charlie Root of Elizabethtown, who “teamed it” to and from Westport for years, begins the verse the same way but ends it:
Three white feet, look about him;
Four white feet, do without him.
John Hinds; Jr., of Madison County, a farmer and blacksmith, says that often the white feet are much softer, wear down more easily, and will not hold shoes as well as dark feet do. He adds that 95 per cent of the time “pin ears” (set close together and pointed toward each other) indicate a horse that will not be true. A “dish-faced” horse is nearly always a troublemaker, likely to have a poor disposition, and a “pig-eyed” one (eyes small and set back) is one to leave alone. Finally, he says, a horse should be wide between the eyes and have a head a little full above the eyes to have “room for brains.”

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