A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

Livestock Keeping

by Peter Lang
Translation by Brad Schwebler

     In the years before the people fled mainly horses were used as draft animals (domesticated animal used in drawing heavy loads).  There were about 800 horses in Beschka before the people fled and  indeed very capable, beautiful Arabian and Nonius were kept.  At the  time of settlement oxen were also used as draft animals.  Cows were never harnessed as draft animals.  About up to the year 1922 bulldogs were also used, however mainly to drive the threshing machines and only for field cultivation.  Up to the turn of the century the white Hungarian horned cattle.  With these the oxen were indeed good, but the dairy cows were bad, so they gradually switched over to the Swiss horned cattle.  The milk output of a cow which was freshly milked was about 17 liters a day.  The cows were driven to the “Kuhhalt” (cow hold) by the “Kuhhalter” (cow keeper).  In the cow hold the cows were also “gestiert”?  This event was announced to the farmer for which he received a schnaps.  The farmer marked the event on the calendar.  At the time the people fled there were about 1000 cows in Beschka.

     Pigs were kept by all households for slaughtering as well as for supply.  Until the turn of the century predominantly the frizzy haired Hungarian race was kept, called the Mangolica.  After that they went more for the black, the so-called Pfeiffer” race which were bred nearby on the Gladnos property by Baron Pfeiffer.  The Mangolica was a small pronounced lard race.  The Pfeiffer provided more meat.

     The breeding sow was called “Los” by us.  They were driven to the “Sauhalt” (sow keep) by the “Sauhalter” (sow keeper) daily.  There were also community boars.  When the “Sauhalter” (sow keeper) announced the boar the “rollige Los rollte” to the farmer, the farmer received a schnaps and marked it on the calendar just like the cow.  The sow keeper and the cow keeper were employed by the community and indeed there was one per street.  These were driven through the streets and made themselves noticeable with a primitive zinc metal trumpet and a cracking whip.  The farmers simply let the livestock out on the street where the sow keeper and the cow keeper took over.  Per head of population about 80 kilograms of the pigs were slaughtered annually in the home.  In addition to this there was the slaughtering by the butcher.  The pigs were fattened by corn.  The slaughter weight lay between 120 and 150 kilograms.  A castrated male pig was called a “Barch” by us (from Barge).  The specialist, who neutered the female pig was called a “Gelser”.  For Beschka the Gelser responsible was a Hungarian man from Slankamen.

     In each household chickens were kept.  The egg money was the savings of the housewife, and indeed by all occupations.  The “Kluck” (chicks) were hatched in each house from the month of March each year.  From a particular brood there were at least 20, but for the farmers there were far more laying hens for the egg supply to be reared.  Other poultry were slaughtered and a huge number were prepared to eat.  Also from the brood a competent “Hohn” (rooster) was selected to breed, then when the rooster was well “raierte” (from Reiher), many “Hinglchr” (chicks?) hatched out.  Occasionally there were also breeding machines.

     The breeding of ducks and geese depended less on the availability of water than on the amount of the daughter’s linen because each mother, whether poor or rich, provided in time bed feathers for the daughter’s trousseau.  For the slaughter the geese and ducks were “gestopft”, ie. force fed (stuffed), in which one pressed the feed into the beak so far until the crop was nicely bulging.  Turkeys stuffed with walnuts were valued as a special delicacy.

     Sheep were essentially kept only by the Serbs.  The Germans kept sheep in numbers worth mentioning only in war times to provide them with wool.  Woolen socks and stockings as well as shawls and “Pätschkercher” (from Hungarian bocskor – light shoes) knitted themselves.

     Recently wild animals consisted of rabbits, wild ducks, quail, wild geese, badgers, and foxes.  Once a roebuck got lost on Danube Island.  There were still wolves at the beginning of the 19th century.  Wild animals which were not hunted were the hamster (called “Kritsche” from cricetus, there were 1,935 hamsters massed together, 42 hamsters on 6 yokes), polecats, weasels, field mice, crows, larks, jackdaws, orioles (Goldamschel), three to five pairs of storks, owls, buzzards; in the 19th century there were also eagles, house swallows, smoky swallows, as well as sparrows.  In the winter songbirds also came to Beschka from the distant forests.  In May there were also cuckoos.

     In the Danube there was carp, catfish weighing up to 150 kilograms, pike, and other fish.  The catfish were called “Schadel” by us.  In Austria they were called “Waller”.  The infrequent example of a 150 kilogram catfish was injured by a ship’s paddle wheel around 1870 and then caught.

     In the few swamps lived an enormous amount of frogs, which gave a beautiful concert each evening.  On the Danube Island the Gelsen (mosquitoes) are troublesome.  Common houseflies were the plague of the land.  Crickets could be troublesome in vineyards at night.  There were always fleas, but during World War II they were the plague of the land which were mistakenly warded off because people didn’t know they increase in down trodden stable dung.  Lice could only be received from the environment and indeed there were three kinds (head, clothing, and felt).  There were bugs only in the cities.  There were no longer any poisonous snakes.


[Published at by Jody McKim Pharr, 2005]

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