One of the longest book titles reviewed in High Plains Journal offers a fun summary of the origins of farmyard animals.

The book’s official title “Know Your Hobby Animals: A Breed Encyclopedia—172 Breed Profiles of Chickens, Cows, Goats, Pigs, and Sheep” aptly givers a quick read with a photograph of each animal. The chapters are easy to follow and appropriately feature the European origin of most animals and it also takes note of several breeds that did have original roots in the United States, South America and the Pacific Rim.

Book Review cover.jpg

Know Your Hobby Animals: A Breed Encyclopedia

By Jack Byard

192 pages, $18.99 softcover

Publisher Fox Chapel, 800-457-9112

The author, Jack Byard, noted in his foreword that many areas are not accessible by agricultural machinery and farm animals can provide the most efficient way to maintain those areas. It was important for small stakeholders to help keep the stock viable for future challenges. Even stock that has lost luster still needs to preserved as a testament to their value to past, current and future generations.

Each section has an introduction to the subjects in the order provided in the title. While chickens may not exactly fit the definition of farm animals Byard correctly notes they continue to be an essential source of protein for the masses. The topic of backyard chickens has trended up in the past decade and in recent months there has been a spike in interest from people who desire to raise their own eggs.

The other sections look at the more traditional High Plains animal agriculture of cows, goats, pigs and sheep. One of the great fascinations is how the size of the animals in each category can vary in weight and size.

Byard’s book provides a quick read to show how many of the successful breeders from centuries ago identified favorable such as hardiness, nursing qualities and temperament. The breeders also had an eye on localized factors such as humidity and elevation. Those matters might not seem as important to an untrained eye that merely lumps individual breeds into a one-size-fits all category. Byard’s writing style gives a quick glimpse into why that is not the case.

Animals that are adaptable to any number of qualities the consumer wants, whether milk, meat or fleece, seem to rise up to the top. How man’s study of crossbreeding has left an important mark on expectations of future animal production and Byard touches on that subject with the right level of perspective. After all, if this book delved too much into that factor it would detract from the essence of the book.

“Know Your Hobby Animals: a Breed Encyclopedia—172 Breed Profiles of Chickens, Cows, Goats, Pigs, and Sheep” is a worthy read to introduce someone who is fascinated into common and uncommon origins of farmyard animals and a book to keep handy if he or she wants to further explore an individual breed.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or


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