tobacco box engraved with images

This brass tobacco box is engraved with a scene that refers to the outbreak of the cattle plague in the 18th century. This contagious cattle disease caused death and destruction among the livestock in the whole of the Netherlands. In some places the disease held on for over ten years, and led to extreme poverty.

Tabaksdoos met voorstellingen over de veepest, 18de eeuw

Tobacco box engraved with images of the cattle plague, 18th century

Already in the 18th century there was a legal obligation to bury dead animals. To avoid re-contamination, the carcasses of pest-stricken cattle were buried far away from the farm and covered with a layer of calcium oxide (or quick lime). A ditch was dug around the contaminated burial place, after which it was marked with trees. There are well over 100 of these so-called ‘pestilence bushes’ in Friesland, as silent testimonies of the terrible drama that hit so many farmers long ago.