Were Put to Work on London's Beauty Ranch
In the early 1900's, horses were still the main source of power on farms and ranches. They were used for riding, pulling cars, wagons and other heavy farm equipment.
Though he owned about 50 horses, Jack London most prized the beautiful and strong Shires. The breed originated in the "Shires" (Counties) of England during medievel (sic) times. On average, Shires weigh one ton and are capable of moving a five-ton load. Despite their great size, they are the gentlest of beasts.
Rejecting the use of commercial fertilizer, London has a separated building constructed to store the manure produced by the Shires. The manure was later spread over the fields to enrich the ranch's nutrient-depleted soil.
Drawings from his love of horses, London included them prominently in his later novels and stories.
London developed a model farm by making well-researched decisions and sparing no expense. In purchasing one house he paid more than the combined annual salaries of four of his workers.
In 1913, he wrote his publisher that he had just bought a stallion.
"Oh, not a thoroughbred racing stallion or a saddle horse stallion, but the finest draft horse stallion I have ever seen. It is an imported English Shire, and I have paid $2500 for it. Also accompanying this stallion I have paid $750 for an imported Shire mare
Before its use as a stable for Shire mares, the Sherry Barn (left, built 1884) was the former Kohler and Frohling Winery's sherry house. Wood stoves in its front corners provided heat for sherry production
The Manure Pit (center) was constructed circa 1915. An overhead trolley was used to efficiently move manure in buckets. Note the rusted remnant of track in the rafters.
The Stallion Barn (far right) was completed circa 1915 to house Shire stallions. The interiors of each barn included stalls, a tack room and hay loft.