Date Awarded

Winter 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Neil L Norman

Committee Member

Joanne V Bowen

Committee Member

Marley R Brown

Committee Member

Kathleen Bragdon

Committee Member

Carter C Hudgins


This dissertation argues that working oxen, horses, and mules contributed to the physical and social landscapes of eighteenth-century plantations in the Chesapeake and the Lowcountry. This research embraces an animal landscape approach, exploring how humans and animals were both active agents in shaping animal husbandry strategies, social interactions, and power negotiations on plantations. This exploration utilized archaeological and historical sources, predominately faunal assemblages from Oxon Hill Manor, Maryland, Mount Vernon, Virginia, Drayton Hall, South Carolina, and Stobo Plantation, South Carolina; articulated equine skeletons from Jamestown Island, Virginia, and Yorktown, Virginia; and probate inventories from plantations within the eighteenth-century Upper Chesapeake and Lowcountry. Working oxen and equines were identified from the archaeological record through pathological and osteometric analyses. Probate inventories supplied complementary information on the number of working oxen and equines in each region and the types of labors these animals performed. In the eighteenth-century Chesapeake, laboring oxen and equines were essential to the plowing and carting required by the shift from tobacco to mixed grain production. Working livestock were husbanded in a manner which relied on producing excess grains which could then be fed to the livestock. In the eighteenth-century Lowcountry, oxen were used sporadically throughout the region to ready fields or to cart products. Horses in the Lowcountry were essential to personal transportation, as many wealthy planters frequently travelled between their multiple estates. Compared to the Chesapeake, livestock in the Lowcountry was husbanded in a more passive manner; working animals were corralled while some of the non-working livestock ranged freely in the woodlands in their natural herd structures. In both regions, interactions between humans and animals combined with the physicality of the plantations to create landscapes of domination and resistance. In the Chesapeake, planters depended on working livestock to increase their wealth and to symbolize that wealth to others. In the Lowcountry, livestock represented large landholdings, and planters used horses to symbolize their mobility and active involvement in those landholdings. In both regions, enslaved laborers relied on working livestock to increase their mobility and their standing within the enslaved community. Additionally, enslaved individuals worked with animals to subvert the social order of the day through active and passive revolt. Rather than being static members in the background of human activity, working oxen and equines actively contributed to the economic, cultural, and social spheres of eighteenth-century plantation life.




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