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Katie Monahan, age 11, of Houston, Texas, for her question:

What kind of an animal is a neat?

Several readers were mystified to find the peat's portrait on a stamp. The sturdy fellow looked like some kind of an ox  and so he was. The word is a very old one and it was borrowed from a still older word that meant "useful." In ancient days, the animal named the neat was indeed a very useful fellow. His descendants still are among our most useful animals, though we have a newer name fort them.

In ancient days, any farm animal of the ox family was called a neat. The neat cattle were the cows and their close kinfolk. The horses, sheep and goats were not classed as neat animals. In the cattle world, the old word went out of style, but we still hear of neat's foot oil. This is an odor free oil of pale yellow, delicate enough for lubricating fine watches. It also is used to soften and add a gloss to quality leathers. This neat's foot oil is extracted by boiling the hooves of domestic cattle, our modern descendants of the olden neat animals.

 

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