Lesson Materials: Barn Boss

Lumberjack Math Introduction

Essential Questions

  1. How can a horse’s weight be calculated to determine the amount of oats it needs per day to stay healthy?
  2. How can the amount of oats a logging camp needs to feed its horses be calculated?
  3. What factors should be considered when ordering oats for a logging camp?


A classroom set of worksheets, including:

Helping the Barn Boss (optional extension)


Horses were an integral part of the logging camp operation in the early twentieth century, because they were the primary power source for the lumberjacks. Not only did the horses transport logs, they also transported supplies and people to and from camp and town. While the camps your students will work with have just sixteen horses, many early twentieth century camps needed more than that. A typical camp might own some of their horses, but would likely rent most of them from farmers, lumberjacks, or other companies.

Horses were a big investment for the logging camps. In 1900, the Midway Horse Market in Saint Paul auctioned logging camp horses for between $100 and $175 each, while the going rate for a pair of rented horses was usually between $15 and $25 per month. In today’s prices, that would be between $2800 and $4800 to buy a horse, and between $400 and $700 per month to rent a horse.

In addition to the cost of buying or renting a horse, feeding and caring for the horses was a significant, on-going expense. Always money conscious, it was important for the logging camps to keep their horses well fed and healthy, while trying to keep expenses down. The job of feeding and caring for the horses in the most economical way fell to the barn boss. The barn boss played a crucial role in the camp, and earned about $20 per month. To avoid under or over feeding his horses, the barn boss needed to know the weight of each horse. Because camps did not waste money on scales, each horse’s weight needed to be calculated from its measurements. Here is just one place that math becomes important in the horse barn.

While the average working horse ate about a half bale of hay per day, the rest of their diet was mostly comprised of oats. It is the supply of oats that your students will use their math skills to calculate for the 1900-1901 season. Though measuring a horse to figure its weight has not changed much over the last century, the use of horses has. Horses shifted from work animals to hobby or sport animals, causing a shift in diet as well. Today, an average horse usually eats a half bale of hay per day, and about a half quart of oats per 100 pounds of body weight.


Burning daylight: Wasting time

Bushel of oats: Unit of measurement for oats

Feeder: Barn boss

Hayburner: Horse

Heart girth: Circumference of the horse’s chest

Barn Boss videos

Horse Weight

Transcript | Watch video Horse Weight on YouTube

Bushels of Oats

Transcript | Watch video Bushels of Oats on YouTube

Good Recommendations

Transcript | Watch video Good Recommendations on YouTube