When we think of the equipment used in modern farming, many of us likely think of mechanical equipment like tractors, combines, sprayers, rippers, and the list goes on. Modern equipment can be used without the need for some source of strength to pull them. Historically, this was not the case. Before we had farm equipment powered by engines, farmers had to rely on animals to assist with their daily tasks. Horses and oxen were a necessity for many aspects of farming, from clearing land to plowing the fields and harvesting, these heavyweight animals were used to pull and sometimes help with operating equipment, and with the transportation of the goods that were a product of farming. Without the assistance of these animals, crop farming at a large scale was not very feasible.

Along with crops, animal products are of course another form of sustenance for humans, from milk to eggs and animal meat, humans rely on animals for a lot of our food. We also obtain other useful and essential products from animals, such as wool from sheep used in clothing. Oxford County is known for one specific type of animal product: dairy. Oxford County is famously the “dairy capital of Ontario”, surpassing all other regions of Ontario in dairy production. This has also led to cheese production becoming an essential industry in Oxford County, and playing an important role in local tourism and the economy.


Little Mary Davidson with chickens, on a farm in West Zorra, after 1910.

Reward poster for the return of stolen cattle and the arrest of the thief, Dereham Township, late 1880s - early 1900s.

A group of women plucking chickens at The Oxford Farmer's Co-operative in Woodstock. Circa 1950. Photograph taken for the Woodstock "Sentinel-Review" newspaper.

Unidentified local turkey farm, circa 1950. Photo taken for the Woodstock "Sentinel-Review" newspaper.

A group of boys observing a pig sty, circa 1948 - 1953. Photo taken for the Woodstock "Sentinel-Review" newspaper.

Two unidentified little girls in a barn with kids (baby goats), circa 1950. Photo taken for the Woodstock "Sentinel-Review" newspaper.

An unidentified man posing with a sheep, 1940s. Photo taken for the Woodstock "Sentinel-Review" newspaper.

An unidentified man milking a cow, 1940s. Photo taken for the Woodstock "Sentinel-Review" newspaper.

Peter Rosenberg, age 6, watering cows , 1967. Source: Princess Elizabeth W.I. Tweedsmuir No. 6.

A breeding calendar from William Stone Sons Ltd. in Ingersoll, Ontario. The company provided a livestock removal service to farms, and could remove "old, disabled, or dead" horses, cows, and hogs. 1949.

The cover of the official Canadian records of Ayrshires, revised to May 1, 1917.

A Performance Certificate from the Canadian Ayrshire Breeders Association. Awarded to a cow named "Scotch Lassie 2nd" owned by John A. Morrison of Mt. Elgin, Ontario. 1917.

Harvest corn in West Oxford, circa the mid-1900s. Source: West Oxford W.I. Tweedsmuir volume 1.

An annual report from the Red Star Cheese Factory in West Zorra, for the 1949 season.

A recipe book from the Ingersoll Cream Cheese Company, circa 1920s-1930s.

A postcard featuring a farmer plowing a field with draft horses.

Information on exchange rates on American currency from Keewadin Dairy in Tillsonburg, Ontario.

Mrs. Stewart and her daughter Bessie making soap and surrounded by chickens in the farmyard, Plattsville, circa 1908-1912. Source: Plattsville W.I. Tweedsmuir volumer 3.

A Ralston-Purina staff photo from Woodstock's Centennial publication, 1954. Ralston-Purina was a company that specialized in making animal feed.