Vet Museum Item Of The Month

I have collected an extensive museum of old veterinary instruments over many years. We will display one of these each month, with a description of its use.

Vet Museum item of the month

January 2013---Set of drovers Dinner-time hobbles

In the days when large flocks of sheep or mobs of cattle were put into the "long paddock," in other words moved from place to place on travelling stock routes throughout the country, this museum item, pictured, were commonplace.

In the evening, after a hard days droving, the stockmen would use these devices on their stockhorse to prevent them from wandering too far overnight.


The heavy greenhide strap was first put around one of the horses forelegs above the knee, then passed through the first large ring.  The strap was then passed through the 2nd large ring before buckling up around the oppposite foreleg.

Once in position, the hobble allowed the horse to move around and graze during the night but prevented it from moving too far away as only short steps could be taken.


The hobble also allowed the easy restraint of a stockhorse that was difficult to catch.

In my early days of horse practice, on the advice of my old friend and saddler Noel Smith, I adapted the hobble to veterinary use.  In those days, the only way to worm horses was by stomach tube.  The passage of this large tube down the nostril of horses by vets so the drench could be administered was not without its dangers!  The reaction of a fractious horse to the procedure was to use its forelegs to strike the vet, sometimes in the head, with disasterous resultsAfter applying the hobble, the horse was unable to strike, leaving the vet to get home in one piece.


September 2012---Drovers saddlebag

In the early part of last century wool was 1 pound per 1lb and the sheep population was massive.  Drovers and stockmen were employed in large numbers on these sheep stations.  All stockwork was done on horseback.

This is a fine example of a drovers vet kit, which was suspended from the D's on a stock saddle. 

It would have been used on a daily basis, whenever a flyblown sheep was seen

The contents of the saddle pack are removed here showing Dagging shears to clip around the affected area, and a bottle containing stockholm tar or a carbolic disinfectant like Safonia.

The skinning knife and sharpening steel would have been used to perform crude postmortems on dead animals, probably to check for parasites.

If mobs were in the "long paddock" (on travelling stock routes throughout the state), the knife and steel were used to prepare a meal of roast mutton!

This leather saddle pack was proudly made by Juno Baker.

This insignia shows the Kangaroo and Emu with their name and address---JNO Baker, Hunter Street, Sydney.

We are left to guess how many of these were made during those boom years.





August 2012---The "Hi-Jeen belt"

This rare item was given to me by a well known and successful dog breeder over many years in the first half of last century.

Full marks if you can guess what was used for without viewing the next 2 photos.

A bitch that has not been desexed will come into season approximately every 6 months.  From the first sign of a bloody discharge until the "heat" is over can last up to 3 weeks.

I guess this item was invented to minimise the mess created by several breeding bitches, possible on heat at once.

This accompanying leaflet explains the use of the Hi-Jeen belt in reasonable graphic terms.

Presumably there were different sizes to accommodate various sized breeds





This close-up will help (anyone lucky enough to have one of these items), to fit it to your dog






July 2012---Equine molar extraction pliers


This very old pair of molar tooth pliers is in my vet museum.  They are very large and the traction and leverage required to extract a molar tooth in a horse requires a very strong operator.






 The molar pliers are seen here in position with the skull of a 3yo American Saddlebred  filly.  It gives some proportion to the instrument






This close-up photo shows the extraction pliers gripping the crown of the molar tooth.

Unless the tooth was very loose, this procedure could only be done under a general anaesthetic.





May 2012---Large animal Speculums

Between 1940 and into the 1980's very many large-animal vets in Australia were employed in the Dairy Industry.  During those times, a disease called Brucellosis, also called Undulant Fever or Contagious Abortion (CAb) infected almost all Dairy cattle.

This disease had devastating financial effects for dairy farmers.  Cows aborted calves which upset their milk production.  subsequent infertility was rife in infected cows.  The Brucella germ was capable of infecting humans with devastating results, often resulting in permanent spinal and organ failure with ongoing recurrent bouts of illness.

This very early vaginal speculum was used by vets to check for uterine infection in post-calving cows.  Routine farm visits were the norm during those years.  Up to 20 cows were lined up in the feeding stalls, frequently on a weekly basis.  The vet would wash the back-end, insert the speculum and with the help of a torch, check for yellow pus.  They would be declared either 'clean' and ready for re-mating or 'infected' and therefore treated with a uterine 'flush' of Streptomycin or if chronic, 'Iodine-in-oil' These cows were re-checked weekly until they were 'clean.'

The clumsy speculum above was superceded by this battery operated speculum which was adopted by the 12 vet partnership I worked for in the Hunter Valley in the late 60's.  It speeded up the vaginal examinations and the bulb at the end (see exploded view) in next photo, provided a clear view of the cervix for a diagnosis to be made.  Up to 20 cows could be examined in an hour.  The vets would do 'Dairy runs' at least twice weekly and often 20 dairies would be visited on any one day.  The farmers were invariably grateful to see us and appreciative of the increased fertility of previously infected cows. Note the emergency repair job visible on this speculum


Another battery operated speculum from the 70's and 80's, this time with a perspex barrel.  These appeared about the time when ovum transplants started in the beef industry, with a flood of ET calves appearing from European Breed Donor cows like Charolais, Simmental, Limosin and Main-Angeau, to name a few.

This more commercial type of speculum was used to check if 'recipient heifers' were clean before inserting a fertelised flushed ovum into placed into their uterus. In this way, the losses from this expensive process were minimised.


This latter-day Mare Speculum is still in use in the cattle industry when necessary.  This type of work is hardly necessary now-a-days thanks to the Brucellosis Eradication Campaign which eliminated the disease in the 70's and 80's.

Watch for Museum Items-of-the-month in June





April 2012...Early Calf Weaner


This rare item had more than one use in the early part of this century on dairy farms throughout Australia.  When placed on a suckling calf, it very effectively prevented access to his mother's udder ... for quite obvious reasons.  Any attempts to suckle would cause the sharp spikes to prick the udder and he would immediately get kicked away by the mother.  Very quickly he would learn to stay away from that end, after recieving a couple of good kicks to the head!



The calf weaner could be used on the farmer's 'house-cow' as well.

A good producing house-cow would produce several gallons

of milk at one milking, and so would only need milking once every 2-3 days to keep the family supplied.  The calf weaner was put on her baby the evening before milking to allow her udder to fill up.

For the other 2 days, the calf had free acccess to suckle.


The other use for the calf weaner was to prevent suckling on an udder that was being treated with creams or other drugs for mastitis or teat disorders like black spot.  if teat surgery had occurred, it was used to prevent sucking until the stitches were taken out

The device was also used to dry the mother off at the end of her lactation.  This 2-3 months dry spell was necessary for her milk cycle to restart when the next calf was born 




Vet Museum Items---March 2012

Early instruments to treat Horse Colic


This early horse bowel enema-pump was used to introuce warm soapy water into the large bowel - rectum of a horse with impaction colic to assist passage of manure from the anus.







This a pony version of the same pump







This early draught-horse Drenching bit was used by the early vets to administer paraffin oil and perhaps castor oil or epsom salts to a colicky horse. 

The bit was fitted to the horses mouth like a normal bit.  A rope attached to the top of the bit  pulled the head of the horse up.  The drench was tipped into the funnel seen at left.  This trickled through the hollow bit and down the throat of the horse--hopefully not too much got onto its lungs!




Pony version of a similar drenching bit.

In the 1950's and beyond vets used a stomach tube, passed via the horse's nostril to administer drenches, which was much more effective and safe.  This procedure spelt the end of drenching bits which are now only museum pieces.






Vet Museum item of the month, February 2012

Sheep drenching guns

This is a collection of the earliest manual drenchers, dating back to pre 1900 days, used for sheep and goats.  The most likely drug used in the drenching could have been Castor Oil, Cod Liver oil or Epsom Salts.  The old timers also used a Rawleigh product called Colic and Bloat Oil that was used for sheep as well as Cattle and Horses.




A close-up of early drencher

The drencher would have been dipped into a mug or other utensil containing the product.  The excess would run out of the hole, leaving the dose, in this case '2 ounces', in the base of the drencher.

The tip of the drencher was then put into the mouth of the sheep and tipped up, making the sheep swallow.  The teeth marks can be seen on the drencher.






This kettle drum drenching gun was invented and used in the 40's and 50's and even later.  It was used to drench sheep with Carbon TetraChloride.  This was considered as a major advance in internal parasite control.  These guns were in almost universal use in Australia.  There were problems with the product, however.  On hot days and if the sheep struggled while being drenched, some would go into the wind-pipe and onto the lungs with fatal results.

At times up to 30% of a flock could be found dead.  Inexperienced operators, overdose, and weather were all blamed for these deaths.

The Elliott drenchgun, pictured was considered to be a refinement in the 50's.  The operator had more control over dose which helped.

It still had the disadvantage that a struggling sheep could still get some drench on its lungs.




NJ Phillips was the first Australian company to invent a drench gun that overcame the problem of drench going the 'wrong way' down the throat and onto a sheeps lungs.

This was the drenchgun that they developed.  It had an ingenious double action on the handpiece.  The first squeeze projected a long nozzle that went right down the oesophagus before delivering the dose of drench automatically once this was in place.

It also had a readily adjusted dose lever seen at left which minimised overdosing. This company dominated the market for many years.




 January 2012        Museum Item-of-the-Month

Dairy cows have always been susceptible to a condition called milkfever at or around the time of calving.  It is an acute blood calcium shortage which causes paralysis. 

Before the invention of Calcium Borogluconate as a cure for milkfever in the late 40's and early 50's, farmers would use an udder pump, pictured, to reverse the flow of Calcium from the blood stream into the milk if their milking cows became paralysed.

Surprisingly they often had some short-term results after pumping air into the udder, thus forcing the calcium ions back into the circulation of the cow.












 The instructions seen here, were strictly followed but it must be remembered that asepsis was very difficult to obtain.  Pumping up udders frequently resulted in acute mastitis, often going on to kill the cow from secondary septicaemia

Needless to say, when calcium borogluconate became available, vets were regaled as heroes and reputations for greatness occurred across the dairying world as cow after cow regained their feet following i/v infusion.


When Calcium borogluconate came on the market, it came in bottles, labelled with the trade name Glucovec.

As seen at left, The tongar injector was used at first to suck the contents from the bottle and then inject it into the cows jugular vein.







In the 1950's McLaren brought out the so called Milkfever injection unit.  Seen at left, better known as the "flutter valve" it was used by vets right up until the 1980's and 90's to inject cows with treatments for Milkfever, Grass-Tetany and Acetonaemia.

Little used today since the introduction of plastic bags with attached tubing and fittings, all disposable.  Prior to this, no large animal vet would ever go onto a farm without his flutter valve and a box full of bottles!






December 2011        Vet museum item of the Month        Phleam and Blood-stick

This is a Phleam, which is a 3 bladed instrument used by vets from the early 1900's until the 1950's.  During this time and possibly even  earlier, there was a belief amongst vets (probably then known as 'Animal Doctors') that removing up to 2 gallons of blood from the jugular vein of a large horse, made a significant difference to its health.  It was widely practiced in the early days.  The induced blood loss probably did stimulate the formation of new blood cells in the animal but otherwise its therapeutic value was over-estimated.

In the 60's and 70's the procedure was commonly used by horse vets (including myself) to alleviate cases of acute laminitis.  The practice removed blood from the horses circulation and almost instantly allowed the horse to walk, as the pressure in its feet was removed.  (We used a scalpel for this procedure which was done under local anaesthetic, but the principal was the same)---See picture below











Phleam and Bloodstick

The phleam blade was held against the horses' jugular vein and it was struck with the blood stick, it made a neat incision and the gush of blood was collected in a bucket.  When the horse started to get restless, the wound was closed with a straight pin which was then then wrapped around with a tail hair.




Ken Davidson bleeding a pony with per-acute laminitis in the 70's