In order to examine an animal thoroughly for signs of injury or disease, in order to carry out inoculations, or even to administer an anaesthetic, some form of restraint is often necessary.

The introduction of effective tranquillisers and sedatives facilitated the handling of horses, cattle and small animals, and may assist or replace the use of several means of restraint described below. (See also TRANQUILLISERS; XYLAZINE; ANALGESIA.)

The following methods should not be used indiscriminately upon any and every animal. A method that is sufficient to restrain one animal may prove aggravating to another; e.g. while the common twitch may serve for a heavy draught gelding, it is likely to cause a thoroughbred stallion to be more restive than ever. A person who finds it necessary to employ some means of restraint should first of all consider the temperament, age, breed, and, if possible, the individual characteristics of the animal, as well as the purpose of the restraint, before deciding upon what methods will be employed. Firm gentleness, a kindly spoken word, and a hand-pat, with a little coaxing or urging, will very often allay an animal’s fears, but there are those of a temperament which will not respond to gentleness; it is to those particularly that such methods as described here are applicable.


The usual halter, head-stall, or bridle is generally sufficient to control broken horses that are to be handled or examined without the infliction of pain. In some cases it may be necessary to tie the animal to a ring in the wall or manger, or to the heel-posts, but it is better in such cases to take a couple of turns round the ring and have a man hold the end of the rope. For measures which involve handling of the hind-parts of the body, it is usually advisable to have one of the fore-feet picked up and held (preferably that upon the same side of the body as the operator is to work).

For greater control a TWITCH may be applied. (See also TRANQUILLISERS; ANAESTHETICS.)


A cattle CRUSH; either of a commercial pattern or one constructed of timber by farm labour, is useful; a gate may be hinged to a wall and closed so as to act as a crush for inoculations, etc. (See also VETERINARY FACILITIES ON THE FARM.)

A halter is also useful in cattle, as in horses.

In the case of comparatively quiet cattle, milk cows, etc., it will generally suffice if an assistant takes the animal by the nose. The thumb and middle finger of one hand are inserted into the respective nostrils, and the nasal septum is pinched between them. It is important that the stockman’s fingers do not block up the airway.

The other hand may be placed under the jaw. In this position the majority of adult quiet cattle can be easily held. For bulls and those cattle that are more difficult to control it is usual to use a pair of bull-holders (‘bull-dogs’; ‘bull-tongs’); or if the animal is already rung (with a copper or aluminium ring), to attach a rope or bull-leader to the ring in the nose. For drenching purposes it is necessary to keep the head and neck in as straight a line as possible to obviate the risk of choking. If an assistant is needed he should stand on the opposite side of the beast and take the horns in his hands so that he may tilt the head upwards and at the same time keep the head and neck straight out. A pair of bull-holders may be inserted into the nostrils, and have a rope attached to them which is passed over a beam and the head pulled up.

For lifting a hind-leg, a pole, broom handle, etc., may be placed in front of that hock and behind and above the other. Two helpers take hold of ends of the pole and pull the leg upwards and backwards, at the same time steadying the animal’s balance by leaning against its thighs with their shoulders. For the fore-feet it is usual to pass a rope around the cannon or above the heels and over the back to the opposite side, where it is held by an assistant. (See also TRANQUILLISERS.)


For most purposes the sheep may be turned up into a position in which it sits upon its rump, by placing the left hand round under the neck from the near side, and the right hand over the back to seize the wool of the abdomen, lifting the animal’s fore-end off the ground and twisting its hind-legs from under it. In this position its feet may be dressed, its fleece may be examined, etc. It is not advisable to turn in-lamb ews, due to the possibility of harming them or the fetus; they may be held against a wall or fence by an assistant while their feet, etc., are being dressed. Sheep stocks are sometimes used, or modern shearing tables.


The adult pig is proverbially a difficult animal to handle and restrain, especially when the handling involves pain or discomfort, but piglets are easily held by the hind-legs with the hands, while the knees grip the dependent head. With large sows and boars it is wise to remember that they are apt to be vicious with strangers, and to use a shield of wood or a hurdle to prevent a rush by the angry animal.

A method of securing a large pig is to drive it into a corner and pen it there with a door, gate, or heavy hurdle carried by 2 helpers, and held so that the pig has no room to turn while a noose is dropped over its head and pulled tight round its jaws, and another is secured to a hind-leg above the hock. The ends of these ropes are then passed round a post or a rail in the fence and pulled tight when the pig is released from its corner.

Dogs and Cats

These animals are usually more easily restrained than some of the larger animals because of their intimate association with man, but there are certain animals that present difficulty when angry or excited. A kind word and a caress will often be necessary to gain the animal’s confidence before attempting to examine it, and, wherever possible, severe methods of restraint should be avoided except as a last resort. The human voice often exercises a degree of control over an excitable animal, and there are certain people who appear to possess the faculty of immediately gaining almost any dog’s confidence and of being able to do anything with it.

However, it is always wise in any case of doubt to take no risks. The safest way of dealing with a dog is to muzzle it first. A tape muzzle may be applied; this is simply a piece of tape or a bandage about 118 cm (3 ft) long whose middle is wound round the dog’s nose, the ends being crossed under the jaw and tied round the neck or on to the collar. With bulldogs, and those with a short face and a pug nose, it is better to tie the tape round the jaws, finishing with the end above the nose, tying them together there, and then passing the ends back to the collar.

Cats can be rolled in a sack or towel. With cats it is important to prevent them from using their claws, which inflict injuries more often than do the teeth. (See also under TRANQUILLISERS; ANAESTHETICS.)