The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

Counting Sheep... and Camels

Animals shaped the farmlands of the empire.

See what we mean by exploring a livestock census compiled by the tsarist government between the years 1864 and 1867. You will find population counts for the eight most prominent agricultural animals in the region (cattle, reindeer, goats, horses, ordinary sheep, fine-fleeced sheep, swine, and camels) across 49 provinces. The data - read all about it here - offers invaluable insight into the geography, demographics, and economy of the Russian Empire.

If you prefer a full screen view (which gives the maps more room to spread out), open a new window. Getting the most out of the data will require some digging/toggling. Don't forget to consult the notes in the collapsible sidebar. And remember, you can always refresh your browser to reset.

Tips for using the dashboard

Consult the list of map layers

Questions to get you started

Curious to learn more?

Read an short excerpt from Industries of Russia (a great primary source to contrast with the dashboard data!).

Try Andy Bruno's article, “A Tale of Two Reindeer: Pastoralism and Preservation in the Soviet Arctic.” (Region 6, no. 2 (2017): 251–71. Need a teaser?

How did wild reindeer gain the upper hoof over a group of skilled hunters and herders?

Or, find out what tsarist officials wanted the rest of the world - at least those who attended the World Fair in Chicago - to know about Russian livestock by consulting volume 3 of The Industries of Russia published in St. Petersburg by the Department of Trade and Manufacture of the Imperial Ministry of Finance in 1893. As this quote shows, officials were keeping tabs on each other across continents and oceans.

...the low fertility of the soil in many localities of Russia, the considerable area under woodland, bog, and marshy plains, the severity of the climate, the necessity of keeping the stock on winter feed during a long period, and many other circumstances which hinder the development of herding, explain why the number of live stock to a given area of land is so small compared to that of other countries of Western Europe, and especially to that of the United States.

And don't take our word for how many camels were ambling around: download the data and see for yourself!

Project Team 

Kelly O'Neill; Olga Kiyan; Paul Vădan

Publication date: 14 February 2024

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