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Hist Med Vet. 2001;26(3-4):115-27.

Food on foot: long-distance trade in slaughter oxen between Denmark and the Netherlands (14th-18th century).

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Institute of Netherlands History, The Hague, The Netherlands.


This paper presents a short review of the long-distance trade in slaughter oxen in Northwest Europe. The long-term development of the trade is described against the social-economic background of the production and consumption areas. In the 14th century, the Danes obtained the right to sell cattle in certain Dutch cities. From 1500 onwards, the export of oxen from Denmark and the adjacent duchy of Schleswig-Holstein increased considerably. The export reached its peak in the first quarter of the 17th century; registered export in 1612 amounted to more than 52.000 oxen over land and, in 1624, about 10.000 oxen over sea. Part of that export was destined for the Dutch market. Protectionist tax measures taken by the Dutch government and the outbreaks of rinderpest put an end to the regular ox trade in the first half of the 18th century. By decree, local authorities tried to prevent the spread of contagious animal diseases. The history of international cattle trade and hauling, however, indicates that economic motives largely outweighed animal welfare issues. Thus, in addition to addressing the logistics of the trade, this paper also addresses veterinary aspects and animal welfare issues related to the transport of cattle.

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