History of Livestock in Iowa

What are Livestock?

Livestock are useful animals raised or kept on a farm.


History of Livestock in Iowa

illustration of dog pulling travois1700 Ioway Farm

In 1700, the Ioway tribe did not have livestock. They hunted wild animals for food. However, many Native American tribes did keep dogs for help in hunting and pulling travois—a type of sled to carry heavy things when traveling long distances.

oxen at 1850 Farm1850 Pioneer Farm

The pioneer farmers that settled in Iowa around the year 1850, raised cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, and other animals for food. The pioneers relied on oxen for farm power.

sheep and cattle eating at 1900 farm1900 Horse-Powered Farm

Iowa farmers in 1900 also raised many kinds of animals, all on the same farm. Instead of oxen, farmers in 1900 had horses to do the heavy farm work. They may have also raised cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, and other animals as well.


Livestock Today

farmer holding pigToday, farmers tend to specialize in growing one kind of animal. A farmer may raise only pigs, or only chickens, or only turkeys, or only cows. Even farmers that raise cattle (cows) can specialize. Some might raise cows for milk (dairy farmers) and some might raise cows for meat (beef farmers).

Here is where Iowa ranks compared to other states:​

  • 1st: Hogs
  • 7th: Beef cattle
  • 6th: Sheep and goats
  • 9th: turkey
  • 12th: milk and dairy products from cows

(Source: 2012 State Agriculture Overview – Iowa, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service)


Ioway: Native American tribe residing in Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri.

Travois: A type of sled formerly used by Native American to carry goods, consisting of two joined poles dragged by a horse or a dog.

Livestock: Useful animals raised or kept on a farm.

Oxen: Large cattle that have been trained to work as draft animals.