Raking hay with horses
From the Library of Congress "Buckaroos in Paradise" collection
Old horse-drawn machinery, lined up along a fence, was a familiar sight when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s . Most farmers and ranchers had a few relics of horse-powered equipment, like this hay rake, that were quietly rusting away.
Rakes like the one above were used in hay-making. Step 1 in the hayfield was mowing the hay and letting it dry in the sun. Step 2 -- gathering the dry hay into a windrow -- was accomplished with the hay rake. Step 3 was gathering the windrows and either making a haystack or hauling the hay to a barn.
The hay rake was pulled by one or two horses, across the mowed, dry hay, with the long, semi-circular teeth lowered to the ground. When the rake was full of hay, the teeth were raised and a windrow of hay was dumped. Then the teeth were lowered again, and the rake continued across the field, until it was full enough to dump again.
The next time the rake came across the field, its rider dumped the hay each time he came by a windrow from his first trip. In this way, the windrows were made longer and longer, until finally, all the hay was raked into long lines that stretched across the hayfield.
The man on the rake lifted the teeth with a lever. Some strength was required to operate it. He also had to be attentive in order to dump the hay exactly at the end of the windrow.
This rake looks like it might be 10 feet wide. What a radical change the tractor made in the hayfield! With tractor power, dump rakes doubled and tripled in length, greatly reducing the time required to rake a field of hay.
Caring for Our Own
Hay in Art
Horse-powered Haying, 1880-1940s