Monday, September 30, 2013

The horse dung experiment

Inspired by the appetizer on Lost Art Press' Roubo book To make as perfect as possible, where a recipe for a stain was given, I decided to try the mentioned recipe.

The stain is made by letting the liquid seep out of horse dung, this should according to the text give a stain that will color wood red.

The text suggested to use two buckets, one perforated placed on top of the other. The dung goes in the top bucket and the liquid/juice should go to the lower one.

I was too cheap to sacrifice a bucket, so I took a flower pot that has already got holes in it. It fits perfectly on top of a smaller bucket I had on hand.

Horse dung is fairly dry, so the text suggested that horse urine could be added on top of the dung to sort of flush the stain into the bucket below.
The collection of the dung itself is straight forward, and not difficult. I am more hesitant to try and collect the urine, it requires that I am ready at the exact moment, and there is a risk of splashing which is not necessarily a good thing..
So for now I'll see if the trick works with the dung alone. Time will tell.

I have prepared a pictorial guide if someone wishes to make the experiment themselves.
The stain manufacturers.

Setup of buckets.

This is what it is all about..

More of it..

Stage 1 is complete.


  1. You are much braver than I.

  2. Actually horse dung doesn't smell very much. It is probably 95% dry grass (hay). We have to clean the boxes for manure every day anyway, so dumping some in a bucket instead of in the wheel barrow doesn't make much difference.
    The hard part comes when I have to get some urine. That will require skill and the right moment Especially if there has to be a photo of it as evidence.
    I am curious as to if it starts to smell when it is starting to rot, but I actually doubt it. If it does, I'll just leave it outside instead of inside the stable.

  3. The urine is what scares me! Let me reiterate, you are much, much braver than I!!

  4. Dear confused woodworker, YOU are confused? Think of the horse and what he/she will do to you in their time of presumed privacy.

  5. I'm not sure what you mean. I don't own horses, but I like them. My point is that I don't have much desire to wait and collect urine from a horse, and hoping that he doesn't miss the bucket. In my opinion, a person who is patient enough and daring enough to do that is braver and more patient than I. I thought I was just being good humored. Maybe it didn't come off that way.

  6. You could spare yourself the logistical nightmare of horse urine collecting and just pee in the bucket yourself... but I could do without the pictorial instruction should you choose to go this route!

  7. If you search the interweb for "tickling" in relation to urine sampling from horses, you will find a plethora of useful information. The technique is used by vets and researchers to sample urine for analysis. Racehorses are trained to "pee" when they hear a whistle.

  8. Hmm, I think I will just count on being at the right time at the right moment :-)
    But it is amazing what you can actually train animals to do. But apart from that, the text suggests that the stuff should start to rot all by itself, and thereby "giving up" the liquid, I'll give the experiment some time and see what happens.
    By the way, my wife is absolutely astonished over the interest that this experiment has received so far.

  9. I am an elementary school teacher in California and I was looking for science fair projects for my class. As a horse owner, I was looking for something that might relate to horses and saw your blog. I will be doing this experiment with my class and also comparing it to the effects of steer manure and maybe even a pig. I'm sure it will be a hit at the science fair!

    1. Hi Aaron

      I am so glad that I can inspire someone to try it also.
      If you want me to, I'll be more than happy to make a blog post linking to your class and your experiment.

      I have never pulled myself together and made a summer version of the experiment. In the winter time our horses are fed hay, and there is a notable difference in colour of the dung when they eat fresh grass compared to the rather pale yellowish colour in the winter time.
      So I think a batch from grass fed horses might produce a much darker red.

      A violin builder from Brazil contacted me on email once, and he had found an old recipe that used rabbit droppings for staining wood, but based on the same principle. I think it might be the Nitrate in the fertilizer that does the trick, but I am not sure.

      Here's a link to Lost Art Press, where the recipe is mentioned.

      Anyway, it really is a fun project and most non horse owners are amazed that you have the courage to handle manure.

      Thanks for commenting