There was a time in the City of St. John’s when it was not unusual to see cows, sheep and pigs wandering the streets. Cows in fact had become such a nuisance that the street cars in St. John’s were equipped with “cow catchers.”
In December 1914 city officials declared that they had enough and decided to try and take control.
In the local media in December 1914 the Municipal Council of St. John’s posted a notice reminding citizens especially farmers that there were regulations that had been on the books since 1903 and that they must be abided. In May 1903 the Municipal Council published in the Royal Gazette regulations that were very specific:
“Horned cattle, sheep or swine shall not be driven through Water Street at any time or under any circumstances except for the purpose of crossing said street, when going too or coming from a waterside premise then the shortest possible distance shall be taken.”
In December 1914 the Municipal Council agreed that the regulation might be too harsh.
“the regulation …. bear harshly upon certain citizens and especially those engaged in procuring the meat supply of the city, thereby causing unnecessary loss, expense and inconvenience to them in their trade and business and a less stringent measure will fully protect the rights and ensure the safety and convenience of all citizens in this respect.”
The city decided to compromise, no accommodation would be made for sheep and pigs, there was no place for them on Water Street, but the Council decided they would make accommodation for horned cattle.
The primary concern was the “safety and convenience of all citizens” given that Water Street was the commercial heart of the city; it was decided to devise a schedule when cattle could be herded and driven down Water Street. Council proclaimed:
“Horned cattle shall not be driven through the streets of St. John’s in numbers or herds of more than 10, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., from the first day of April until the first day of October, in any year, and from the first day of October until the first day of April, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.”
The new regulations also demanded when driving herds of 6 to 20 cattle, four competent drovers were required. When driving one single horned cattle the owner or one competent drover had to be present.
As an incentive the Municipal Notice stated if the regulations were not observed a penalty of $25.00 for each offence would be imposed by a Magistrate if convicted.
Recommended Reading: Cows don’t know it’s Sunday: Agricultural life in St. John’s; by Murray, Hilda Chaulk. ISER Books; 2002
Lost Word: Drover: The person responsible for moving livestock over long distances by walking them “on the hoof”.