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Oxen (plural of ox) are cattle trained as draft animals. Often they are adult, castrated males. Usually an ox is over four years old due to the need for training and for time to grow to full size. Oxen are used for plowing, transport, hauling cargo, grain-grinding by trampling or by powering machines, irrigation by powering pumps, and wagon drawing. Oxen were commonly used to skid logs in forests, and sometimes still are, in low-impact select-cut logging.

Contrary to popular American lore, an "ox" is not a unique breed of bovine, nor have any "blue" oxen lived outside the folk tales surrounding Paul Bunyan, the mythical American logger.


 


Ox Education: An ox is nothing more than a mature bovine with an "education". The education consists of the animal's learning to respond appropriately to the teamster's (ox driver's) commands: in North America such as (1) get up, (2) whoa, (3) back up, (4) gee (turn to the right) and (5) haw (turn to the left).

American ox trainers favored larger breeds for their ability to do more work in addition to their intelligence (the ability to learn); for the same reason, the typical ox is the male of a breed, rather than the smaller female. Females are potentially more useful producing calves and milk. Also, the gait of the ox is often important to ox trainers, since the speed the animal walks should roughly match the gait of the ox driver who must work with it.

Beast of Burden: Oxen are most often used in teams of two, paired, for light work such as carting. In past days some teams were about fourteen, and even over twenty for logging. A wooden yoke is fastened about the neck of each pair so that the force of draft is distributed across their shoulders. From calves, oxen are chosen with horns since the horns hold the yoke in place when the oxen lower their heads, back up or slow down (particularly with a wheeled vehicle going downhill). Yoked oxen cannot slow a load like harnessed horses can; the load has to be controlled downhill by other means.

Oxen must be painstakingly trained from a young age. Their teamster must make or buy as many as a dozen yokes of different sizes as the animals grow. Ox teams are steered by commands or noise (whip cracks) and many teamsters were known for their voices and language.

14 Ox-Power: Oxen can pull harder and longer than horses, particularly on obstinate or almost un-movable loads. This is one of the reasons that teams were dragging logs from forests long after horses had taken over most other draught uses in Europe and the New World. Though not as fast as horses, they are less prone to injury because they are more sure-footed and do not try to jerk the load.

Many oxen are still in use worldwide, especially in Developing countries. In the Third World oxen can lead lives of misery. They are frequently half starved. Oxen are driven with sticks and goads when they are weak from malnutrition. When there is insufficient food for humans animal welfare has low priority.

 

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

   
 


 Kingdom: Animalia

 Phylum: Chordata

 Class: Mammalia

 Order: Artiodactyla

 Family: Bovidae

 Genus: Bos