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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 6/15/12 - The Hog Got Through the Fence With the Whole Yoke On

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 06/15/2012:  15:53:01

Well it seems that neither the originally scheduled TOTW volunteer nor his substitute is going to be able to post a tune today, so I'll use one of my emergency back-up tunes. That tune is The Hog Got Through the Fence With the Whole Yoke On, an A tune that comes from Kentucky fiddler Luther Strong. (Also known as The Hog Got Through the Fence Yoke and All, The Hog Got Through the Fence, and Pa Fell Asleep and The Hog Got Through the Fence With the Whole Yoke On.)  It seems to bear some resemblance to Cluck Old Hen, with some people even considering it to be basically a member of the Cluck Old Hen variations family. 

I first heard the tune a couple of years ago, at my weekly local jam. Although the melody immediately appealed to me, at the time it caught my attention as much for its very specific, descriptive - and thus classically old-time - title, and because what was being described piqued my curiosity, as I could not help but wonder why a hog would be wearing a yoke. To my city-bred mind, a yoke is only used on oxen or other draft animals, and I couldn't quite picture an Appalachian farmer hitching his hogs up to a plow. But a little research revealed that, back in the day, hogs sometimes wore a type of yoke designed to prevent them from slipping through the fence. In my limited experience with hogs - on a relative's farm as a child and more recently at my brother-in-law's farm - I have never seen a hog wearing a yoke, and my guess is that with today's availability of cheap, effective, mass-produced fencing, there is little need for such a thing. Perhaps back when the hog pen fence was more likely to be a somewhat haphazard affair, constructed out of whatever pieces of wood were on hand, escaping hogs were more of a problem. Indeed, the three 'hogs-with-yokes' photos I found during a brief Internet search all feature such  fences, and are all from what appear to be rather poor areas of developing countries - Nicaragua, The Philippines, and Laos. The only American example I came across - without the hog - is one in the State Museum of Indiana collection.


As mentioned above, this tune comes to us from Luther Strong (1892-1963), a noted old-time fiddler from Hazard, Kentucky, who was recorded by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax for the Library of Congress in 1937 - the only time, as far as I can determine, that he recorded. The 28 tunes from that session include many very familiar selections (Cripple Creek, Sally Goodin, Old Joe Clark, etc.) but also several more obscure tunes, including today's Tune of the Week - according to Jeff Titon's book "Old Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes", Luther Strong is the only source for The Hog Went Through the Fence With the Whole Yoke On.  Lomax described him as "lanky and shy and our favorite fiddler". There is a story that Luther, who was known to enjoy alcohol on occasion, had to be bailed out of jail and loaned a fiddle for the Lomax session, but I have no idea if that is true or not. For a bit more information about him, see Bruce Greene's article in Fiddler Magazine:


Below are the various versions I found online. I have not yet found a solo banjo version, nor any banjo tablature. I had considered doing this tune for my most recent official TOTW slot, but decided to wait until I had some more banjo-centric information to share. Given the last minute nature of this post, I've gone ahead with the tune, in hopes that somebody else may know of some solo banjo versions, or have come across tab for it somewhere.



Solo Fiddle



(Luther Strong's version is also available on Yazoo Record's "Music of Kentucky, Volume 2")




Clare Milliner and Walt Koken:




Fiddler and Dulcimer





Edited by - EggerRidgeBoy on 06/21/2012 18:50:14

LyleK - Posted - 06/15/2012:  20:01:25

Here's a tab based on Titon's transcription in "Old Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes." (and see BHO tab archives for tabledit version)

Hog Went


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 06/15/2012:  20:53:10


Originally posted by LyleK

Here's a tab based on Titon's transcription in "Old Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes." (and see BHO tab archives for tabledit version)

 Thanks very much, Lyle.

vrteach - Posted - 06/16/2012:  09:18:22

There is a page about hog yoke at the New York Historical Society. I bet there are some illustrations out there of them in use.

vrteach - Posted - 06/16/2012:  09:30:27

Oh, and here is a page for a 1910 patent for a Hog-Yoke; far more sturdy than the New York one.

RG - Posted - 06/16/2012:  11:43:41

Great tune choice, big fan of Luther Strong's fiddling...this is a good one!

blanham - Posted - 06/16/2012:  12:30:45

Yes, good choice!  It never occurred to me that it is in the "Cluck Old Hen" family of tunes.  Here's how I play it in the band "Streak of Lean," except the band usually does it in G.  I capoed up to A modal tuning to make this recording.

The Hog Went Through the Fence, Yoke and All


vrteach - Posted - 06/16/2012:  13:01:37

Well, I got caught up in this, even though I still don't quite get the tune. Here is an in-progress version, although who knows if I'll play it again. The A part is OK-ish, but the B/C (or whatever is going on) is kind of a mish-mash of my generic stuff in A-modal.

I don't hear much "Cluck Old Hen." To me it is like "Mike in the Wilderness" meets "Greasy Coat." Kinda-sorta.

The Hog Got Through the Fence With the Whole Yoke On


hendrid - Posted - 06/16/2012:  16:09:56

Fiddlinred say the tune is in Aminor, and  ABBB  The A part is played once the the B part 3 times, though going through several versions on,  some seem to play it AABB. Hard to tell.  Another fiddle version is by Fiddle John,  posted on by gbfowler. His version is different also and has a C part?   Don

Edited by - hendrid on 06/16/2012 16:11:52

janolov - Posted - 06/17/2012:  01:05:38

I don't hear it as "modal". Luther Strong seems to play a neutral third (between C-C#) and a neutral seventh (between G-G#). In my opinion that is neither major,  minor or modal (since modes are based on the major scale). This makes it difficult to play on a fretted banjo to get the right flavor. My approach is the play the thirds and sevenths as slides between the two notes. I have tried both major tuning and sawmill and I don't know yet which one works best.

Edited by - janolov on 06/17/2012 01:07:54

JanetB - Posted - 06/20/2012:  11:51:49

Thanks for bringing another Kentucky fiddle tune to our attention.   I listened mostly to Luther Strong and Bob (blanham)'s exceptionally nice clawhammer interpretation.  Here I 3-finger pick in open G.  The key is close to an A minor, but I choke on the C note.

The Hog Went Through the Fence, Yoke and All


atleson - Posted - 06/20/2012:  18:45:37

JanetB: just lovely. If only i had an idea how to do three-finger. You present a strong incentive though.


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 06/21/2012:  18:47:46


Originally posted by vrteach

There is a page about hog yoke at the New York Historical Society. I bet there are some illustrations out there of them in use.

Thanks for those images.

Here are a couple of the photos I noted in my post:

Philippines:  (scroll to the bottom)



While I was researching the tune, I also thought for sure I had come across a reference to chickens sometimes wearing yokes.  That surprised me, since I figured chickens would generally head back to the roost on their own at night even if allowed to wander around the barnyard by day.  But when it came time to write the TOTW, I couldn't find that half-remembered (or perhaps imagined) reference, and so left out any mention of chicken yokes in my account.

Then, just a couple of hours after posting the tune, I found myself going through some of my grandfather's books, as I was staying in his old house, which is still in the family.  The last one I perused was "A Museum of Early American Tools" by Eric Sloane, published in 1964.  Just as I was about to put it back on the shelf, I glanced at the final page, entitled "Found in a Barn".  There, amidst images of lard squeezers and silage cutters, was a drawing of a goose yoke.  It looked pretty much like the hog yoke from New York, just a lot smaller.  Of course, a goose is not a chicken, but I did feel a bit better knowing that some types of poultry occasionally wear yokes.

Edited by - EggerRidgeBoy on 06/21/2012 18:51:02

EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 06/21/2012:  18:49:24

Thanks to all for your comments, insights, and versions of the tune.

blanham - Posted - 06/22/2012:  18:44:30

I enjoyed the versions by vrteach and Janet, and the photos of hog yokes were really interesting!

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