It is late summer. News of the Rebellion has spread to many other farms, thanks to Snowball’s and Napoleon’s pigeon messengers. Meanwhile, in the human world, Mr. Jones tells other farmers about the Rebellion. The fear of similar revolutions unites the owners of the farms adjacent to Animal Farm, even though they dislike one another. Easy-going Mr. Pilkington (of large, neglected Foxwood) and hard-nosed Mr. Frederick (of small, better-kept Pinchfield) spread rumors to discourage their animals from turning against them. They say that the animals on Manor Farm are starving. When this claim turns out to be clearly untrue, they claim that the animals are cannibals who practice all kinds of wickedness.
Despite the farmers’ efforts to subdue ideas of rebellion, their animals begin lashing out against them. The animals resist the farmers’ orders. They also adopt the infuriating habit of singing “Beasts of England.”
In October, accompanied by several other farmers, Mr. Jones tries to recapture Animal Farm. Snowball has already trained the animals for war, however, and they take their defensive positions. The smaller animals attack the men and then pretend to retreat into the yard in defeat. Once the men follow, the larger animals ambush them. Mr. Jones kills one sheep and wounds Snowball several times with his gun, but the animals manage to overpower the humans. Boxer is thought to have killed a stable-lad, which upsets the stalwart horse. But it turns out that the boy is only injured, and he flees with the other men. The only animal who does not fight is Mollie, whom the animals discover cowering in her stall.
After the battle, the animals sing “Beasts of England” yet again. They invent a military honor called “Animal Hero, First Class,” which they bestow upon Snowball and Boxer. Then they bury the fallen sheep and confer upon him posthumously the title of “Animal Hero, Second Class.” The animals decide to call this conflict the Battle of the Cowshed. The agree to fire Mr. Jones’s gun into the air twice a year, on the anniversaries of the battle (October 12) and of the Rebellion (Midsummer’s Eve).
The first part of Chapter IV mirrors the international reaction to the young Soviet Union. For centuries, other nations had been able to write off Russia as a backwards and disorganized country, despite the size of its territory and population. There had been socialist uprisings elsewhere, and efforts like the French Revolution had not brought the workers’ utopia that had been dreamed of. But after the Russian Revolution, and armed with a new ideology and power structure, the Soviet Union began to garner international interest due to its prospects for success. Communism thus re-entered the realm of international politics as a possibly viable alternative to fascism and capitalism, and workers around the world were hopeful that the promises of the Soviets would come to fruition everywhere. We see this history reflected in the farmers’ growing awareness of the happenings on Animal Farm and in the animals’ rebelliousness on their own farms.
Part of Trotsky’s politics (called Trotskyism) was the belief that the Revolution should be encouraged in other countries, leading to an international revolution of the proletariat. Orwell mirrors this view in Snowball’s pigeon-messenger missions; he enlists the birds to spread news of the Rebellion to farms across England. Thus, Animal Farm is not just an example of change but an agent of the new solidarity of the animals.
Snowball’s efforts work to an extent, since animals on other farms not only start disobeying their owners but also agitate the owners--as Trotsky’s ideas agitated foreign nations. At once fascinated and threatened by the Soviets’ increasing power, some foreign leaders found the need to suppress the seeds of revolution in their own countries. Thus, when Pilkington and Frederick spread lies about Animal Farm, they represent the Western vilification of Communism. Although the farmers and capitalists to some degree were just protecting their own investments, it turns out that the villains really are the pigs and the Stalinists after all.
Jones’s attempt to recapture Animal Farm strengthens the bonds between the animals. The animals, small and large, work together to successfully overthrow the humans once more. Of course, the animals do not like the war. At the same time, it strengthens their determination to maintain their freedom and work for the greater good.
The Battle of the Cowshed also creates a legend about Snowball’s heroism that will become subject to revisionism throughout the book. In truth, Snowball leads the charge against Jones and his men, being shot several times in the process. Over time, memories will fade and the battle will be reinterpreted by those in power.
According to some critics, the Battle of the Cowshed represents the October Revolution, in which the Bolsheviks replaced the provisional government. This idea is supported by the battle's date (October 12) and the animals’ post-battle resolution to fire the gun on the anniversaries of the Rebellion and the Battle of the Cowshed; in that resolution, Orwell seems to liken the two events to two main turns in the Russian Revolution. But Orwell does not give us a neat parallel with history. Russia was disorganized and dissatisfied under the provisional government, whereas Animal Farm is already prospering in Chapter IV. Also, the animals are already living by the Seven Commandments, which symbolize the Soviet decrees passed after the October Revolution. As we will see in the refiguring of the Red Terror, Orwell does not adhere tightly to historical progression in the novel, letting his own message take precedence.