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FOOD FOR DOGS—THE METHOD OF
The food generally used for hounds is oatmeal or barleymeal, with horseflesh. The former is preferable, being of a less heating quality, and cheaper. They require preparing in a different manner. Oatmeal requires boiling, barleymeal scalding. If the former be made with care, and in the proper manner, there will be a great saving in meal, and the food will be more nutritious than if it were made carelessly and in haste; and as the manner in which it has been prepared can easily be detected by the master's eye, I will state how the porridge ought to be made, and the appearance which it ought to exhibit when properly manufactured, together with certain infallible indications when it has been carelessly made. These particulars, trifling as they may appear, will interest those who take a pleasure in looking after their dogs themselves.
In the first place, if flesh is to be used with the meal, it ought to be boiled in a boiler of sufficient size to hold food for two days' consumption of the kennel. If joints are to be boiled, the bones ought to be broken in several places before being put into the boiler. When the flesh is thoroughly boiled, the bones, and those lumps of meat which are not reduced to pieces, may be
taken out with a flat iron, open at intervals,— i.e. a strainer, — the remaining bits to be reduced to shreds with a sort of iron rake. When this is done, if the soup boils again, but not before, the oatmeal may be sprinkled in gradually, the maker continually stirring the whole with a small instrument made specially for the purpose. He will persevere in this operation till he finds the porridge sufficiently thick; and if it be perfectly made, and the flesh properly distributed, which will be visible by the glutinous and gelatinous appearance of the surface, the fire may then be withdrawn, and the food left to cool; but after the fire is withdrawn the stirring process must be continued for at least ten minutes, to prevent the porridge near the bottom from being burnt.
The quantity required for the day's consumption may be removed in a few hours, and placed in the feeding-troughs to cool. The remainder, if kept covered by the lid of the boiler, will be sufficiently warm for next day's use. If the porridge be properly made, it will be thick, glutinous, and of equal consistency, free from lumps, and, when cold, can be cut out with a spade or shovel, kept for the purpose. If this glutinous character be wanting, and there be lumps of meal, you may conclude that the porridge is badly made, having been manufactured carelessly, and in haste; the meal having been thrown in in large quantities, whereby the mixture is not only not so nutritive, but one-third more meal has been employed than was necessary.
To prepare barleymeal, the soup, after having been made as that above mentioned, must be poured, when boiling, upon the meal, stirring it, at the same time, till well mixed; when this is done, it may then be left to cool. It will swell and increase considerably in bulk, if it has been properly made. The feeder ought to take care to mix the flesh as equally with the meal as he possibly can. The lumps of boiled flesh which have been removed from the boiler may be reserved for those dogs which may happen to be low in condition, or who are bad feeders. Any large lumps adhering to bones, not wanted, may be reboiled. Where there are many dogs in a kennel, great care must be taken that no bones get accidentally into the food, as these would produce quarrels and fights, and serious consequences.
The shy feeders, and those in low condition, ought to be fed alone, before the other dogs are allowed to commence. In a kennel ef hounds each hound is called in by name, according to the judgment of the huntsman and feeder, and the utmost discipline adopted in this respect, otherwise his whole kennel would be in a state of confusion. If hounds were fed ad libitum, many would be overfed, and others half-starved. The effective management of a pack of hounds in the field is much influenced by the good discipline which is maintained in the kennel.
There is a wonderful difference in the feeding of dogs. Some are so voracious and expeditious, that they fill themselves in two or three minutes, so that they can scarcely walk to their benches; others require ten minutes, and encouragement and coaxing into the bargain. The food ought always to be ready the moment hounds or other hard-working dogs enter the kennel, so that they can satisfy their hunger before they get upon their benches. It interferes sadly with a dog's comfort, and with his condition, to allow him to take partial repose on his bench before he be fed. In fact, many dogs, when very tired, will not get off their benches to feed, if they have not been fed in the first instance, unless they be forced off; and then they will only take a partial and insufficient supply, being stiff and cold, and in a hurry to return to their rest. In a well-managed kennel the utmost attention is paid to these essentials.
The same food will answer for all shooting dogs when at work, although a change is beneficial to pointers and setters, in the shape of damaged biscuits, milk, and any scraps from the kitchen. However, when pointers and setters work hard on the moors, they must have strong nutriment to sustain them; and horseflesh, if thoroughly boiled, and mixed in moderate quantities with the porridge, will not interfere with their noses. If horseflesh cannot be had, then greaves may be used; these ought to be boiled by themselves for a length of time, and added to the oatmeal porridge, after it has been made in the usual manner: if the porridge be cold, then the greaves can be reheated before being mixed, as working dogs ought always to have moderately warm food on returning home after a hard day's fatigue.
Before greaves are put into a boiler to be reduced, they ought to be broken into small pieces and carefully examined before used; as there are often sharp pieces of bones, bits of wood, and pins in them, which, if not removed, and accidentally swallowed, might prove very injurious, if not fatal.
The average price of oatmeal of the very best quality (in Scotland) is from 15 to 16 shillings the bole; the bole contains 8 stones, a stone being 16 lbs.,—consequently a bole ought to contain 128 lbs. This meal is made from oats which have been kiln-dried previous to grinding, every particle of the husk being subsequently removed; and, as it is precisely the same meal which is universally used in Scotland for porridge, of course requires looking after. Greaves are about 12 shillings the cwt. With greaves and meal, a ken