It has been a cold January so far at Living History Farms! Many people ask how our horses, cows, sheep, and other farm animals stay warm when it is really cold outside. Farm animals do a great job at keeping warm with a little help from their farmers. In the winter time, horses, cattle, and sheep grow their own winter coats. As days get shorter, horses and cows grow long, coarse hair all over their bodies. The animals can fluff up these long hairs when they are cold. The long hair traps warm air against their bodies and helps to keep them warm. The horses and cows look very shaggy right now in their long winter coats!
Horses and cattle do need shelter from the wind and wet snow. When their hair gets wet, it is harder for the hair to trap warm air around them. At Living History Farms, there are sheds for the animals to go into when the wind is strong or it’s snowing hard.
Sheep also have their own winter coats. Sheep are covered in a fiber called wool. The matted wool strands in a sheep’s coat are very strong and thick. The wool strands create pockets of warm air around the sheep’s body. Wool can also soak in lots of water before it reaches the sheep’s skin, helping to keep them warm even when it’s raining or snowing.
All of our farm animals get lots of food that is good for them in the winter. Good food makes their body strong and gives them energy to keep warm. Pigs often eat more in winter when it is very cold. The work of eating can keep them warm too! When animals like horses and cattle eat oats and hay, their stomachs give off heat as they digest the food.
Pigs and chickens have their own houses to protect themselves from the cold. Museum farmers put hay in these houses for the animals in case they want to snuggle in and keep warm.
How about you, LHF Kids? Do the animals at your house like to be outside when it’s cold? Do they play in the snow? What do you do to keep them warm and safe?