How could Noah care for the animals?
Figure 1. Inside a ‘potstal’ sheepfold. Notice the dark staining of the lower parts of the stone columns, indicating how high the waste piles up during winter.
Have you ever wondered how Noah and his family could have looked after so many animals while they were on the Ark for a year? It’s a question that sceptics of the Bible often bring up. Just imagine cleaning out all those cages every day.
But the problem is not new. In some parts of the world farmers need to house their animals inside for many months during the winter, which is similar to Noah’s task. People in those countries have solved the problem in various ways.
One is shown in figure 1. It’s of the inside of a stable (sheepfold) in the Netherlands, called a ‘potstal’.1 Note the stone supports at the base of the wooden columns. These allow waste to build up during winter without the wooden poles rotting away over the years.
The farmer continuously adds straw (or peat or sawdust) on top of the existing layer when it is soiled by animal waste. By the end of the winter the layer ‘bedding’ has grown as much as half a metre. Even though the waste builds up the environment remains clean, hygienic and sweet smelling. Similar stables also house cows and horses.
Like Noah, farmers in northern Europe keep their animals inside for months at a time.
Potstals were used a lot in the past and are still popular today with environmentally friendly farms. When I was a child, my father kept a herd of about 30 sheep, and used a potstal. Our neighbour (who was a professional farmer) kept more than 130 sheep in such a stable. Even with so many sheep, the stable was clean, hygienic and comfortable. In potstals, the farmer often keeps the clean straw above the animals, saving space and labour.
The only time it smelled (something I vividly remember) was when the stable was cleaned out at the end of the winter. Ecologically friendly farms find they only need to clean the stables once or twice a year. The manure could have been useful to Noah to provide fuel for heating. Today the waste makes a perfect fertilizer.
Figure 2. Inside a ‘grupstal’. The animals are chained to a ‘fence’ on the outside wall and fed on that side. The manure falls into the gutters in the middle. Note how easy it is for the farmer to provide clean straw for the animals.
Another type of stable is the ‘grupstal’ (figure 2).2 Many farmers where I grew up used to have stables like this, and they are still used in our country. In this stable the animals are housed on a floor with, for example, straw. A ‘gutter’ (called ‘grup’ in old Dutch) behind them collects the manure and urine. This type of stable is easy to clean—just push the manure into a collection tank. A relatively small amount of straw is needed. If Noah had used a system like this, then he could have discharged the waste to sea, using water (not in short supply!) to flush the stable clean.
It is also easy to feed the animals in these kinds of stables, by simply throwing the food into a gutter on the head side of the stable.
John Woodmorappe in his book Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study has investigated some of the labour-saving techniques that Noah could have used on the Ark, not only for handling the animal waste, but also for feeding and watering them.3
When we know a bit about looking after animals in cold climates, we discover it would not have been such a difficult task for Noah, particularly since he and his family had the ingenuity and skill to build the remarkable Ark. Also, they had many years to prepare the on-board stables, including the equipment and supplies.
References and notes
- Potstal, <www.drenthe-net.nl/schaapskudde/2002/f0236.html> has further pictures. Return to text.
- Grupstal is the Dutch name for this sort of stable. See <koeinfo.mysites.nl/mypages/koeinfo/244562.html>. Return to text.
- Woodmorappe, J., Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study, Institute for Creation Research, California, USA, 1996. Return to text.
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I thought the article was interesting.. I do not remember how long back ago it was, but I was reading a book (and looking at the photos) and this group of folks had built their barns in a unique fashion.. The barns had 3 levels: .. the top level was for hay and grain.. the center level for the feeding and care of the livestock, and the bottom is where the manure went to.. they had a grate system at the second level and the waste was shoveled to the grates and down it went..
I have often thought that the manure would have gathered in the base of the ship, and warmed the ship as well. No doubt the rain cooled things down a bit at times.. just a thought.. but I love the postals, and there is no reason that system would not have worked well on the ark.
I understand the methods cited in this artice, but the Bible doe not describe the Ark as having "potstals", and you are only talking about 130 sheep over winter.
The Ark held 1000'S of animals with many large animals such as elephants, rhinos, hippos etc., which would have created an incredible amount of waste daily, spread over several decks. Plus, there would have to be a huge amount of straw onboard.
I am a believer, and I use this site to help my friends, but I think this is a weak explanation and would like to see the article updated with a more plausible explanation.
For a more detailed consideration of all aspects of the Flood see John Woodmorappe;s book, "Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study", available through the store.