December 20, 2008

The Dosin 'O the Hoggs - Part 1

Border Shepherding - Prevention of Braxy

By Clive Dalton

In our “Daft Laddies” book, on this blog Don Clegg and I report the story about “Braxy Mutton” in which our great friend, the late Willie Robson gives details of the performance when he shepherded ootbye at Willow Bog, to prepare a concoction of pig dung and fresh milk to dose the hoggs to prevent them dying of “Braxy”, a disease we now know is caused by the Clostridial group of bacteria.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the cause of the disease was a mystery, so anything was worth a try to kill whatever was in the sheep’s innards that caused such rapid death. Imagine the despair of a shepherd going out in a morning to find his best hoggets dead and blown up, because the nature of Clostridial diseases like Braxy is that it’s most commonly found in the better bigger hoggets that are doing well and it kills rapidly with large amounts of gas produced in the intestines. The runts in the flock never seem to be affected in the same way.

Goodness knows who ever came up with the idea of a pig-dung brew as a preventative – but anything would be worth a try.

So here’s it’s story which was both recited and sung at many a Shepherd’s supper in Northumberland and is still a well-loved party piece.

There seems to be no record of an author, so I’d be interested in any information about such this perceptive knowledgeable person who clearly understood the problem, the way to make the brew as well as local scepticism.
(Spiered – sought opinion)

Some magnificent Blackface ewe lambs/hoggs from Sundaysight at Bellingham mart in 2003. It was sheep like these that lived with the threat of Braxy before modern vaccines.
(Photo copyright of Helen Brown)

Acknowledgement: To Helen Brown for permission to use her material. She can be contacted at Burnbank Cottage, Tarset, Hexham, Northumberland, NE 48 1LY. Phone 240-427

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