The Great Cattle Plague

by Instant Noodle

The cow plague decimated the cattle population in the UK as well as across Europe.

Many governments delegated crack plans to research into preventatives. The high profile ones with big money were the homeopathic ones (see Don’t mix homeopathy and politics: a case study), but there were many others, such as this one,

In three hours, by the labour of four men, the cowshed was converted into a vapour bath by removing from the scullery the ordinary copper and cementing it on a furnace, which was extemporized with a few bricks, while three 4-inch stoneware drainpipes made a flue. Day and night the copper was kept boiling. In a few hours the atmosphere of the shed became warm and moist. Two men remained up all night giving phosphorus every two hours alternately with the arsenic. Towards morning the breathing became relieved. From 56 in the minute it fell in 12 hours to 40 (the next day to 32). On Friday we were in great hope, but on Saturday morning the cow calved, and the men thought her dying, if not dead. Then I got them to pour down her throat four bottles of Barclay’s stout in the course of eight hours. This the cow drank with infinite relish. To our surprise the calf was born alive. The poor cow seemed nearly dead, but, determined not to give her up, I ordered the gruel to be made with old ale, the bottled stout being also continued. Little by little she revived, and has gradually recovered.

[The Times, as reported by Dr. Kidd]

All this time, John Gamgee, a professor of veterinary medicine at in Edinburgh, had been unrelentingly appealing to the government to implement widespread culls. Eventually, after all else failed, they gave in in 1866, with impressive results.

Week ending February 23rd 17,875
March 23rd 9,388
April 20th 4,963
June 22nd 679
November 23rd 8

(17th February 1866)