Technology that Changed Chicago: Cattle

From DuSable’s dairy to the Chicago Bulls, cows have long been associated with Chicago.  Humans use cattle for three main purposes: oxen for drawing loads, for milk, and for meat and hides.

Wagon pulled by oxen
Madison and Dearborn in 1844, showing ox-drawn wagon with cows in the background. Source: Chicago and its Makers

Oxen are slow and require a lot of grass and hay.  They were soon replaced in the Chicago transportation business by faster and more efficient horses.  However, in 1872 a number of cattle on their way to the stockyards were drafted to pull streetcars and wagons. The great zooepidemic, a form of influenza, confined horses to their stables.  The horses recovered and the cattle were history.

Buildings with oxen and people pulling wagons
Cattle pulling wagons during the Zooepidemic of 1872. Source: Chicago and its Makers

According to Andreas’ History of Chicago, cattle were slaughtered in the spring. Pigs were slaughtered in the fall and winter. The slaughtering of cattle and the beef trade was a major Chicago industry.

Next:  Milk Cows