Farm Animals in Illinois

Horseshoeing by Walter Paul Robinson
egg tempera on masonite, 1937
18 1/2 by 23 1/2 inches
Illinois State Museum Collection

The Euro-American settlers who came to Illinois brought with them cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, and other livestock. These animals helped them survive until the first crops were harvested. Livestock farming is still an important part of Illinois Agriculture.

Since the 1820s, farmers have tried to improve their breeds by buying and importing out-of-state and foreign animals and different breeds. One of the first southern Illinois farmers, George Flower, wrote of his father’s bringing in horses from Kentucky.

Early farmers lost many animals to disease and pests from which there was no protection. Science has also helped to improve livestock and to keep animals healthy. Breeders of animals formed associations to help one another improve their livestock.

This part of the History of Illinois Agriculture features historical photographs of animals that lived on farms in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries and tools and machinery associated with those animals and their care. Farmers talk about raising animals in audio-visual oral histories.