The Book of Household Management, by Isabella Beeton

Chapter XII.


General Observations on Quadrupeds.

585. BY THE GENERAL ASSENT OF MANKIND, THE EMPIRE OF NATURE has been divided into three kingdoms; the first consisting of minerals, the second of vegetables, and the third of animals. The Mineral Kingdom comprises all substances which are without those organs necessary to locomotion, and the due performance of the functions of life. They are composed of the accidental aggregation of particles, which, under certain circumstances, take a constant and regular figure, but which are more frequently found without any definite conformation. They also occupy the interior parts of the earth, as well as compose those huge masses by which we see the land in some parts guarded against the encroachments of the sea. The Vegetable Kingdom covers and beautifies the earth with an endless variety of form and colour. It consists of organized bodies, but destitute of the power of locomotion. They are nourished by means of roots; they breathe by means of leaves; and propagate by means of seed, dispersed within certain limits. The Animal Kingdom consists of sentient beings, that enliven the external parts of the earth. They possess the powers of voluntary motion, respire air, and are forced into action by the cravings of hunger or the parching of thirst, by the instincts of animal passion, or by pain. Like the vegetable kingdom, they are limited within the boundaries of certain countries by the conditions of climate and soil; and some of the species prey upon each other. Linnaeus has divided them into six classes; — Mammalia, Birds, Fishes, Amphibious Animals, Insects, and Worms. The three latter do not come within the limits of our domain; of fishes we have already treated, of birds we shall treat, and of mammalia we will now treat.

586. THIS CLASS OF ANIMALS embraces all those that nourish their young by means of lacteal glands, or teats, and are so constituted as to have a warm or red blood. In it the whale is placed — an order which, from external habits, has usually been classed with the fishes; but, although this animal exclusively inhabits the water, and is supplied with fins, it nevertheless exhibits a striking alliance to quadrupeds. It has warm blood, and produces its young alive; it nourishes them with milk, and, for that purpose, is furnished with teats. It is also supplied with lungs, and two auricles and two ventricles to the heart; all of which bring it still closer into an alliance with the quadrupedal species of the animal kingdom.

587. THE GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MAMMALIA have been frequently noticed. The bodies of nearly the whole species are covered with hair, a kind of clothing which is both soft and warm, little liable to injury, and bestowed in proportion to the necessities of the animal and the nature of the climate it inhabits. In all the higher orders of animals, the head is the principal seat of the organs of sense. It is there that the eyes, the ears, the nose, and the mouth are placed. Through the last they receive their nourishment. In it are the teeth, which, in most of the mammalia, are used not only for the mastication of food, but as weapons of offence. They are inserted into two movable bones called jaws, and the front teeth are so placed that their sharp edges may easily be brought in contact with their food, in order that its fibres may readily be separated. Next to these, on each side, are situated the canine teeth, or tusks, which are longer than the other teeth, and, being pointed, are used to tear the food. In the back jaws are placed another form of teeth, called grinders. These are for masticating the food; and in those animals that live on vegetables, they are flattened at the top; but, in carnivora, their upper surfaces are furnished with sharp-pointed protuberances. From the numbers, form, and disposition of the teeth, the various genera of quadrupeds have been arranged. The nose is a cartilaginous body, pierced with two holes, which are called nostrils. Through these the animal is affected by the sense of smell; and in some it is prominent, whilst in others it is flat, compressed, turned upwards, or bent downwards. In beasts of prey, it is frequently longer than the lips; and in some other animals it is elongated into a movable trunk or proboscis, whilst, in the rhinoceros tribe, it is armed with a horn. The eyes of quadrupeds are generally defended by movable lids, on the outer margins of which are fringes of hair, called eyelashes. The opening of the pupil is in general circular; but to some species, as in those of the Cat and Hare, it is contracted into a perpendicular line, whilst in the Horse, the Ox, and a few others, it forms a transverse bar. The ears are openings, generally accompanied with a cartilage which defends and covers them, called the external ears. In water-animals the latter are wanting; sound, in them, being transmitted merely through orifices in the head, which have the name of auditory-holes. The most defenceless animals are extremely delicate in the sense of hearing, as are likewise most beasts of prey. Most of the mammiferous animals walk on four feet, which, at the extremities, are usually divided into toes or fingers. In some, however, the feet end in a single corneous substance called a hoof. The toes of a few end in broad, flat nails, and of most others, in pointed claws. Some, again, have the toes connected by a membrane, which is adapted to those that are destined to pass a considerable portion of their lives in water. Others, again, as in the Bat, have the digitations of the anterior feet greatly elongated, the intervening space being filled by a membrane, which extends round the hinder legs and tail, and by means of which they are enabled to rise into the air. In Man, the hand alone comprises fingers, separate, free, and flexible; but Apes, and some other kinds of animals, have fingers both to the hands and feet. These, therefore, are the only animals that can hold movable objects in a single hand. Others, such as Rats and Squirrels, have the fingers sufficiently small and flexible to enable them to pick up objects; but they are compelled to hold them in both hands. Others, again, have the toes shorter, and must rest on the fore-feet, as is the case with dogs and cats when they wish to hold a substance firmly on the ground with their paws. There are still others that have their toes united and drawn under the skin, or enveloped in corneous hoofs, and are thereby enabled to exercise no prehensile power whatever.

588. ACCORDING TO THE DESIGN AND END OF NATURE, mammiferous animals are calculated, when arrived at maturity, to subsist on various kinds of food — some to live wholly upon flesh, others upon grain, herbs, or fruits; but in their infant state, milk is the appropriate food of the whole. That this food may never fail them, it is universally ordained, that the young should no sooner come into the world, than the milk should flow in abundance into the members with which the mother is supplied for the secretion of that nutritious fluid. By a wonderful instinct of Nature, too, the young animal, almost as soon as it has come into life, searches for the teat, and knows perfectly, at the first, how, by the process of suction, it will be able to extract the fluid necessary to its existence.

589. IN THE GENERAL ECONOMY OF NATURE, this class of animals seems destined to preserve a constant equilibrium in the number of animated beings that hold their existence on the surface of the earth. To man they are immediately useful in various ways. Some of their bodies afford him food, their skin shoes, and their fleece clothes. Some of them unite with him in participating the dangers of combat with an enemy, and others assist him in the chase, in exterminating wilder sorts, or banishing them from the haunts of civilization. Many, indeed, are injurious to him; but most of them, in some shape or other, he turns to his service. Of these there is none he has made more subservient to his purposes than the common ox, of which there is scarcely a part that he has not been able to convert into some useful purpose. Of the horns he makes drinking-vessels, knife-handles, combs, and boxes; and when they are softened by means of boiling water, he fashions them into transparent plates for lanterns. This invention is ascribed to King Alfred, who is said to have been the first to use them to preserve his candle time-measures from the wind. Glue is made of the cartilages, gristles, and the finer pieces of the parings and cuttings of the hides. Their bone is a cheap substitute for ivory. The thinnest of the calf-skins are manufactured into vellum. Their blood is made the basis of Prussian blue, and saddlers use a fine sort of thread prepared from their sinews. The hair is used in various valuable manufactures; the suet, fat, and tallow, are moulded into candles; and the milk and cream of the cow yield butter and cheese. Thus is every part of this animal valuable to man, who has spared no pains to bring it to the highest state of perfection.

590. AMONG THE VARIOUS BREEDS OF THE OX, upon which man has bestowed his highest powers of culture, there is now none takes a higher place than that known by the name of Short–Horns. From the earliest ages, Great Britain has been distinguished for the excellence of her native breeds of cattle, and there are none in England that have obtained greater celebrity than those which have this name, and which originated, about seventy years ago, on the banks of the Tees. Thence they have spread into the valleys of the Tweed; thence to the Lothians, in Scotland; and southward, into the fine pastures of England. They are now esteemed the most profitable breed of cattle, as there is no animal which attains sooner to maturity, and none that supplies meat of a superior quality. The value of some of the improved breeds is something enormous. At the sale of Mr. Charles Colling, a breeder in Yorkshire, in 1810, his bull “Comet” sold for 1,000 guineas. At the sale of Earl Spencer’s herd in 1846, 104 cows, heifers, and calves, with nineteen bulls, fetched £8,468. 5s.; being an average of £68. 17s. apiece. The value of such animals is scarcely to be estimated by those who are unacquainted with the care with which they are tended, and with the anxious attention which is paid to the purity of their breed. A modern writer, well acquainted with this subject, says, “There are now, at least, five hundred herds, large and small, in this kingdom, and from six to seven thousand head registered every alternate year in the herd-book.” The necessity for thus recording the breeds is greater than might, at first sight, be imagined, as it tends directly to preserve the character of the cattle, while it sometimes adds to the value and reputation of the animal thus entered. Besides, many of the Americans, and large purchasers for the foreign market, will not look at an animal without the breeder has taken care to qualify him for such reference. Of short-horned stock, there is annually sold from £40,000 to £50,000 worth by public auction, independent of the vast numbers disposed of by private contract. The brood is highly prized in Belgium, Prussia, France, Italy, and Russia; it is imported into most of the British colonies, and is greatly esteemed both for its meat and its dairy produce, wherever it is known. The quickness with which it takes on flesh, and the weight which it frequently makes, are well known; but we may mention that it is not uncommon to tee steers of from four to five years old realize a weight of from 800 to 1,000 lbs. Such animals command from the butcher from £30 to £40 per head, according to the quality; whilst others, of two or three years old, and, of course, of less Weight, bring as much as £20 apiece.

591. LONG-HORNS. — This is the prevailing breed in our midland counties and in Ireland; but they are greatly inferior to the short-horns, and are fast being supplanted by them. Even where they have been cultivated with the nicest care and brought to the greatest perfection, they are inferior to the others, and must ultimately be driven from the farm.

592. THE ALDERNEY. — Among the dairy breeds of England, the Alderney takes a prominent place, not on account of the quantity of milk which it yields, but on account of the excellent quality of the cream and butter which are produced from it. Its docility is marvellous, and in appearance it greatly resembles the Ayrshire breed of Scotland, the excellence of which is supposed to be, in some degree, derived from a mixture of the Alderney blood with that breed. The distinction between them, however, lies both in the quantity and quality of the milk which they severally produce; that of the Alderney being rich in quality, and that of the Ayrshire abundant in quantity. The merit of the former, however, ends with its milk, for as a grazer it is worthless.

593. SCOTTISH BREEDS. — Of these the Kyloe, which belongs to the Highlands of Scotland; the Galloway, which has been called the Kyloe without horns; and the Ayrshire, are the breeds most celebrated. The first has kept his place, and on account of the compactness of his form, and the excellent quality of his flesh, he is a great favourite with butchers who have a select family trade. It is alike unsuitable for the dairy and the arable farm; but in its native Highlands it attains to great perfection, thriving upon the scanty and coarse herbage which it gathers on the sides of the mountains. The Galloway has a larger frame, and when fattened makes excellent beef. But it has given place to the short-horns in its native district, where turnip-husbandry is pursued with advantage. The Ayrshire is peculiarly adapted for the dairy, and for the abundance of its milk cannot be surpassed in its native district. In this it stands unrivalled, and there is no other breed capable of converting the produce of a poor soil into such fine butter and cheese. It is difficult to fatten, however, and its beef is of a coarse quality. We have chosen these as among the principal representative breeds of the ox species; but there are other breeds which, at all events, have a local if not a general celebrity.

594. The general Mode of Slaughtering Oxen in this country is by striking them a smart blow with a hammer or poleaxe on the head, a little above the eyes. By this means, when the blow is skilfully given, the beast is brought down at one blow, and, to prevent recovery, a cane is generally inserted, by which the spinal cord is perforated, which instantly deprives the ox of all sensation of pain. In Spain, and some other countries on the continent, it is also usual to deprive oxen of life by the operation of pithing or dividing the spinal cord in the neck, close to the back part of the head. This is, in effect, the same mode as is practised in the celebrated Spanish bull-fights by the matador, and it is instantaneous in depriving the animal of sensation, if the operator be skilful. We hope and believe that those men whose disagreeable duty it is to slaughter the “beasts of the field” to provide meat for mankind, inflict as little punishment and cause as little suffering as possible.

595. THE MANNER IN WHICH A SIDE OF BEEF is cut up in London, is shown in the engraving on this page. In the metropolis, on account of the large number of its population possessing the means to indulge in the “best of everything,” the demand for the most delicate joints of meat is great, the price, at the same time, being much higher for these than for the other parts. The consequence is, that in London the carcass is there divided so as to obtain the greatest quantity of meat on the most esteemed joints. In many places, however, where, from a greater equality in the social condition and habits of the inhabitants, the demand and prices for the different parts of the carcasses are more equalized, there is not the same reason for the butcher to cut the best joints so large.

596. THE MEAT ON THOSE PARTS OF THE ANIMAL in which the muscles are least called into action, is most tender and succulent; as, for instance, along the back, from the rump to the hinder part of the shoulder; whilst the limbs, shoulder, and neck, are the toughest, driest, and least-esteemed.

597. THE NAMES OF THE SEVERAL JOINTS in the hind and fore quarters of a side of beef, and the purposes for which they are used, are as follows:—


  1. Sirloin. — The two sirloins, cut together in one joint, form a baron; this, when roasted, is the famous national dish of Englishmen, at entertainments, on occasion of rejoicing.
  2. Rump — the finest part for steaks.
  3. Aitch-bone — boiling piece.
  4. Buttock — prime boiling piece.
  5. Mouse-round — boiling or stewing.
  6. Hock — stewing.
  7. Thick flank, cut with the udder-fat — primest boiling piece.
  8. Thin flank — boiling.


  1. Five ribs, called the fore-rib. — This is considered the primest roasting piece.
  2. Four ribs, called the middle-rib — greatly esteemed by housekeepers as the most economical joint for roasting.
  3. Two ribs, called the chuck-rib — used for second quality of steaks.
  4. Leg-of-mutton piece — the muscles of the shoulder dissected from the breast.
  5. Brisket, or breast — used for boiling, after being salted.
  6. Neck, clod, and sticking-piece — used for soups, gravies, stocks, pies, and mincing for sausages.
  7. Shin — stewing.

The following is a classification of the qualities of meat, according to the several joints of beef, when cut up in the London manner.

First class. — includes the sirloin, with the kidney suet (1), the rump-steak piece (2), the fore-rib (9).

Second class. — The buttock (4), the thick flank (7), the middle-rib (10).

Third class. — The aitch-bone (3), the mouse-round (5), the thin flank (8), the chuck (11), the leg-of-mutton piece (12), the brisket (13).

Fourth class. — The neck, clod, and sticking-piece (14).

Fifth class. — The hock (6), the shin (15).

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31