Guides

Agricultural produce and livestock

Woman with cow

Background information

Common agricultural terms for produce

Common agricultural terms for livestock

Further reading

Background information

The majority of inventories in testaments written between 1500 and 1750 contain references to agricultural produce and livestock. Scotland was an agrarian country at this time and, therefore, many testaments from this period are for people connected to agriculture (for example tenant farmers, rural craftsmen, and labourers). In addition, these terms appear in the testaments of the landowning classes (because rent was paid in agricultural produce in many cases), and because the better off also kept horses and other livestock. Even merchants and craftsmen in towns usually had a plot of land, where a small crop could be grown, or some animals kept, such as a milk-cow or a few pigs, or a horse. A list of the most common terms appear below, with examples from testaments. Note the varying spellings - words were spelt phonetically at this time; there was no 'correct' spelling.

Common agricultural terms for produce

  • Oats - often spelt aitts or aittis
  • Corn - often spelt corne
  • Barley - usually spelt bere, bear or beir
  • Meal - usually spelt meil, or meill
  • Peas - sometimes spelt pease
  • Straw - often spelt fodder, and occasionally futter
  • Ferd corne (literally fourth corn) - was an estimate of the value of grain for sowing

Extract from an inventory

Extract from an inventory: 'thrie B[ollis] beir estimat to the ferd corne pryce of the boll with the fodder V li. Inde xv li.' (Transcription: 'three firlots barley, estimated value at harvest to be 5 pounds per boll, including straw for fodder, in total 15 pounds').

Common agricultural terms for livestock

Cattle - sometimes ky, or the plural kyne, a quey (or coy, or quoy) was a heifer, stirks were heifers which had been weaned (2 or 3 years old), stots were bullocks, halket kyne were spotted cows, a tidy ky or tydie ky was a cow which was pregnant or lactating, a ky and followers was a cow with calves.

Many other terms relating to cattle may appear in testaments:

  • Sheep - often spelt scheip
  • Goats - often spelt gaits or gaitis, a minchak or minschok was a young female goat
  • Horses - lots of terms for horses appear, including mares or mairs, mairis, foals, foalis, fillys, and nags or naggis
  • Pigs - often spelt pigges, piggis, hogges or hoggis

Extract from an inventory

Extract from an inventory: 'twa thrie yeir auld stottis pryce of the peice vj li. xiij'. (Transcription: 'two three year old bullocks, valued together at 6 pounds 13 shillings').

Further reading

Search the glossary for specific terms used in agricultural produce and livestock. Guidance is also provided on dates, numbers and sums of money, reading older handwriting, unfamiliar words and phrases, weights and measures and wills and testaments.

Consult the Dictionary of the Scots Language for additional help with Scots words.