Mutual livestock insurance – a little discussed local historical phenomenon

The theme of this article is the insurance of livestock in mutual associations against loss to the individual owner as a result of illness, accident and death. Most attention is given to the breakthrough and growth of livestock insurance from the 1890s until 1920. At their most there were more than 400 local insurance associations. These are rarely mentioned in the local history literature. With the exception of the period around the First World War, mutual associations based on joint liability predominated. This was principally because these associations were better able to cope with issues of moral hazard and insurance swindle and the information assymetries between the insurance association and the insured than were investor owned, profit oriented insurance companies. The economic significance of livestock insurance was clearly highest in regard to workhorses which represented a substantial capital, particularly on holdings with one or two horses. The insurance of cattle was much less widespread, but interesting regional differences are found. The insurance of other farm animals was unusual, though there are local exceptions. The primary basis of livestock insurance disappeared when tractors replaced horses as the source of traction after 1950. Until 1920, the Norwegian state was much less helpful in developing livestock insurance than many continental countries.