Churning Butter With Dog Power on a Nebraska Homestead

Dog power helped with churning butter on the Nebraska homestead.

| Good Old Days

As a boy I did churning butter many a time by churning with barrel churns. They came in different sizes: 5, 10 and 15 gallons. On each side of the wooden churn were two metal spindles that fitted in the top of a V-shaped frame. One spindle was squared on the end to take a crank or pulley – a crank if powered by hand, the pulley if powered by animal.

At the bottom was a plug to drain off the buttermilk after the butter had gathered. The lid fastened with three clamps. A peep hole in the lid was fitted with a glass about the size of a nickle so the operator could see when churning was done; the glass would become clear. The churn was also equipped with small petcock to relieve pressure during churning.

The treadmill had two rollers spaced three to four feet apart with a pulley on the end of one roller. One roller was about a foot lower than the other. The floor of the chute, which was large enough to accommodate a big dog or a goat, was a continuous belt which ran over the rollers. The harnessed dog or goat was led into the chute, and as the animal pulled, the pressure of its feet on the belt caused it to move the pulley, creating the necessary power to turn the churn. 

Tom Oldham
Orleans, Nebraska

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community. 


mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: October 13-14, 2018
Topeka, KS

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!