I am constantly amused by the incredulous looks that I get when I pull out my supply of horse manure during my firecraft demonstrations. Whether attending an event or teaching a class most onlookers come from an urban environment and haven’t been exposed to some of the more earthy elements of survival. In the rural parts where I live, folks are used to using all resources available to them and horse manure is plentiful.
When it comes to solar fire starting, one of my favorite tinders is dry horse manure. Most herbivores (plant eaters) leave fine fibrous material at the end of their digestion process. I use dry horse manure because it’s fibers are loose enough for air flow but tight enough to transfer and build heat. In survival situations it’s wise to collect dry tinder in your surrounding area or while traveling to your next destination. In the woods this might mean deer or rabbit pellets. These nuggets of tinder once dry are basically odorless and very easy to handle for fire starting.
A well known celebrity that I met “Big Tom” Buchanan of the “Survivor” television series concurs with this opinion. He said that knowing how to make fire was part of the success of his long duration in the game and that dry elephant dung was the best tinder for starting fires. Historically buffalo chips and cow patties have been used by settlers in this country and by generations of population throughout the world for millenia.
If you haven’t tried this method yet, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Be sure that the material is very dry and when you focus your lens, make a slow circular motion so that the edge of the black char that is created will gradually expand. Once the ember is established, long steady breaths will increase it’s size until it can be added to supplemental tinder to create a flame.