Post by Wibs Post by firstname.lastname@example.org Post by Vance Mead
I've seen horses particularly described and references to mastiffs and spaniels, but I can't remember seeing any precise description of pigs.
My reason for asking is that I came across a bequest to a servant in a 1617 will of [in modern Engish] "a white two year old youngest of seven whites'. I was a bit suprised as I can't remember seeing anything before that described a pig by colour or proto-breed, and intend to check through my probate inventories for others that I may have missed. Hence, my thought that perhaps the records of an earlier age might turn up some more examples. I suppose that another source would be illuminated manuscripts.
As you imply, descriptions of more valuable animals are more common.
I have transcribed hundreds of probate inventories, and it is quite common for all manner of livestock to be described by colour or some other distinguishing characteristic, simply to identify which pig, horse or sheep is being willed.
I can't say that I've seen many detailed descriptions actually in probate inventories, but in wills, yes.
Unfortunately, in this case the will wasa written in 1617 (possibly because one of his sone died in 1616) and he seems not to have died until the famine and plague of 1623, so it's not possible to compare the will description of 'whites' with the farm inventory, His 1623 inventory has for animals the normal brief descriptions:
6 oxen & kine and bull
6 young beasts and two heifers
two oxen more
one nag more
16 sheep more
hens and one cock
No piga at all. This might reflect the famine, with beasts being killled off.
But I shall check other probate inventories of the period. Though I've read a vast number of probate inventories, I don't usually transcribe or annotate the farm stock, unless something looks especially interesting or unusual. Also, only a small proportion are late sixteneenth or early seventeenth century.
I suspect that there might be quite significant regional variations in how animals and objects were recorded in inventories. I'm only familiar with Cumberland ones.