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Ox

Ox

Overview

An ox also known as a bullock in Australia, New Zealand and India, is a bovine
Bovinae
The biological subfamily Bovinae includes a diverse group of 10 genera of medium to large sized ungulates, including domestic cattle, the bison, African buffalo, the water buffalo, the yak, and the four-horned and spiral-horned antelopes...

 trained as a draft animal
Working animal
A working animal is an animal, usually domesticated, that is kept by humans and trained to perform tasks. They may be close members of the family, such as guide or service dogs, or they may be animals trained strictly to perform a job, such as logging elephants. They may also be used for milk, a...

. Oxen are commonly castrated
Castration
Castration is any action, surgical, chemical, or otherwise, by which a male loses the functions of the testicles or a female loses the functions of the ovaries.-Humans:...

 adult male cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

; castration makes the animals more tractable. Cows (adult females) or bull
Bull
Bull usually refers to an uncastrated adult male bovine.Bull may also refer to:-Entertainment:* Bull , an original show on the TNT Network* "Bull" , an episode of television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation...

s (intact males) may also be used in some areas.

Oxen are used for plow
Plough
The plough or plow is a tool used in farming for initial cultivation of soil in preparation for sowing seed or planting. It has been a basic instrument for most of recorded history, and represents one of the major advances in agriculture...

ing, for transport
Transport
Transport or transportation is the movement of people, cattle, animals and goods from one location to another. Modes of transport include air, rail, road, water, cable, pipeline, and space. The field can be divided into infrastructure, vehicles, and operations...

 (pulling cart
Cart
A cart is a vehicle designed for transport, using two wheels and normally pulled by one or a pair of draught animals. A handcart is pulled or pushed by one or more people...

s, hauling wagon
Wagon
A wagon is a heavy four-wheeled vehicle pulled by draught animals; it was formerly often called a wain, and if low and sideless may be called a dray, trolley or float....

s and even riding), for threshing
Threshing
Threshing is the process of loosening the edible part of cereal grain from the scaly, inedible chaff that surrounds it. It is the step in grain preparation after harvesting and before winnowing, which separates the loosened chaff from the grain...

 grain by trampling, and for powering machines that grind grain or supply irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

 among other purposes.
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An ox also known as a bullock in Australia, New Zealand and India, is a bovine
Bovinae
The biological subfamily Bovinae includes a diverse group of 10 genera of medium to large sized ungulates, including domestic cattle, the bison, African buffalo, the water buffalo, the yak, and the four-horned and spiral-horned antelopes...

 trained as a draft animal
Working animal
A working animal is an animal, usually domesticated, that is kept by humans and trained to perform tasks. They may be close members of the family, such as guide or service dogs, or they may be animals trained strictly to perform a job, such as logging elephants. They may also be used for milk, a...

. Oxen are commonly castrated
Castration
Castration is any action, surgical, chemical, or otherwise, by which a male loses the functions of the testicles or a female loses the functions of the ovaries.-Humans:...

 adult male cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

; castration makes the animals more tractable. Cows (adult females) or bull
Bull
Bull usually refers to an uncastrated adult male bovine.Bull may also refer to:-Entertainment:* Bull , an original show on the TNT Network* "Bull" , an episode of television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation...

s (intact males) may also be used in some areas.

Oxen are used for plow
Plough
The plough or plow is a tool used in farming for initial cultivation of soil in preparation for sowing seed or planting. It has been a basic instrument for most of recorded history, and represents one of the major advances in agriculture...

ing, for transport
Transport
Transport or transportation is the movement of people, cattle, animals and goods from one location to another. Modes of transport include air, rail, road, water, cable, pipeline, and space. The field can be divided into infrastructure, vehicles, and operations...

 (pulling cart
Cart
A cart is a vehicle designed for transport, using two wheels and normally pulled by one or a pair of draught animals. A handcart is pulled or pushed by one or more people...

s, hauling wagon
Wagon
A wagon is a heavy four-wheeled vehicle pulled by draught animals; it was formerly often called a wain, and if low and sideless may be called a dray, trolley or float....

s and even riding), for threshing
Threshing
Threshing is the process of loosening the edible part of cereal grain from the scaly, inedible chaff that surrounds it. It is the step in grain preparation after harvesting and before winnowing, which separates the loosened chaff from the grain...

 grain by trampling, and for powering machines that grind grain or supply irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

 among other purposes. Oxen may be also used to skid logs in forests, particularly in low-impact, select-cut logging
Logging
Logging is the cutting, skidding, on-site processing, and loading of trees or logs onto trucks.In forestry, the term logging is sometimes used in a narrow sense concerning the logistics of moving wood from the stump to somewhere outside the forest, usually a sawmill or a lumber yard...

.

Oxen are usually yoked in pairs. Light work such as carting household items on good roads might require just one pair, while for heavier work, further pairs would be added as necessary. A team used for a heavy load over difficult ground might exceed nine or ten pairs.

Training


Working oxen are taught to respond to the signals of the teamster, bullocky
Bullocky
A bullocky is an Australian English term for the driver of a bullock team. Bullock drivers were also known as teamsters or carriers. The American term for a bullocky is a bullwhacker.-History:...

or ox-driver. These signals are given by verbal command and body language, reinforced by a goad
Goad
The goad is a traditional farming implement, used to spur or guide lifestock, usually oxen, which are pulling a plough or a cart; used also to round up cattle. It is a type of a long stick with a pointed end, also known as the cattle prod. Though many people are unfamiliar with them today, goads...

, whip
Whip
A whip is a tool traditionally used by humans to exert control over animals or other people, through pain compliance or fear of pain, although in some activities whips can be used without use of pain, such as an additional pressure aid in dressage...

 or a long pole (which also serves as a measure of length: see rod). In pre-industrial times, most teamsters were known for their loud voices and forthright language.

Verbal commands for draft animals vary widely throughout the world. In North America, the most common commands are:
  • Get up: go
  • Whoa: stop
  • Back: back up
  • Gee: turn to the right
  • Haw: turn to the left


In the New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 tradition, young castrated cattle selected for draft are known as working steers and are painstakingly trained from a young age. Their teamster makes or buys as many as a dozen yoke
Yoke
A yoke is a wooden beam, normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs, as oxen usually do; some yokes are fitted to individual animals. There are several types of yoke, used in different cultures, and for different types of oxen...

s of different sizes for each animal as it grows. The steers are normally considered fully trained at the age of four and only then become known as oxen. In other traditions, adult cattle with little or no prior human conditioning are often yoked and trained as oxen. This is done for economy, as it is easier to let a calf be raised by its mother, and for lack of adequate methods for housing and feeding young calves.

A tradition in south eastern England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 was to use oxen (often Sussex cattle
Sussex cattle
Sussex cattle are a red breed of beef cattle from the Weald of Sussex, Surrey and Kent in south eastern England. Descended from the draught oxen long used on the Weald they were selectively bred from the late 18th century to form a modern beef breed which is now used in many countries around the...

) as dual-purpose animals: for draft and beef. A plowing team of eight oxen normally consisted of four pairs aged a year apart. Each year, a pair of steers of about three years of age would be bought for the team and trained with the older animals. The pair would be kept for about four years, then sold at about seven years old to be fattened for beef – thus covering much of the cost of buying that year's new pair. Use of oxen for plowing survived in some areas of England (such as the South Downs
South Downs
The South Downs is a range of chalk hills that extends for about across the south-eastern coastal counties of England from the Itchen Valley of Hampshire in the west to Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, East Sussex, in the east. It is bounded on its northern side by a steep escarpment, from whose...

) until the early twentieth century. Pairs of oxen were always hitched the same way round, and they were often given paired names (as in the well-known example of the names of Santa Claus's reindeer: Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen). In southern England it was traditional to call the near-side (left) ox of a pair by a single-syllable name and the off-side (right) one by a longer one (for example: Lark and Linnet, Turk and Tiger).

Ox trainers favor larger animals for their ability to do more work. Oxen are therefore usually of larger breeds, and are usually males because they are generally larger. Females can also be trained as oxen, but as well as being smaller, they are often more valued for producing calves and milk
Milk
Milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals before they are able to digest other types of food. Early-lactation milk contains colostrum, which carries the mother's antibodies to the baby and can reduce the risk of many...

. Bulls are also used in many parts of the world, especially Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 and Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

.

Shoeing




Karel Dujardin, 1622–1678: A Smith Shoeing an Ox


Working oxen usually require shoes, although in England not all working oxen were shod. Since their hooves
Hoof
A hoof , plural hooves or hoofs , is the tip of a toe of an ungulate mammal, strengthened by a thick horny covering. The hoof consists of a hard or rubbery sole, and a hard wall formed by a thick nail rolled around the tip of the toe. The weight of the animal is normally borne by both the sole...

 are cloven, two shoes or ox cues are required for each hoof, unlike the single shoe
Horseshoe
A horseshoe, is a fabricated product, normally made of metal, although sometimes made partially or wholly of modern synthetic materials, designed to protect a horse's hoof from wear and tear. Shoes are attached on the palmar surface of the hooves, usually nailed through the insensitive hoof wall...

 of a horse. Ox shoes are usually of approximately half-moon or banana shape, either with or without calkins, and are fitted in symmetrical pairs to the hooves. Unlike horses, oxen are not easily able to balance on three legs while a farrier
Farrier
A farrier is a specialist in equine hoof care, including the trimming and balancing of horses' hooves and the placing of shoes on their hooves...

 shoes the fourth. In England, shoeing was accomplished by throwing the ox to the ground and lashing all four feet to a heavy wooden tripod until the shoeing was complete. A similar technique was used in Serbia and, in a simpler form, in India, where it is still practiced. In Italy, where oxen may be very large, shoeing is accomplished using a massive framework of beams in which the animal can be partly or completely lifted from the ground by slings passed under the body; the feet are then lashed to lateral beams or held with a rope while the shoes are fitted. Such devices were made of wood in the past, but may today be of metal. Similar devices are found in France, Austria, Germany, Spain, Canada and the United States, where they may be called ox slings, ox presses or shoeing stalls. The system was sometimes adopted in England also, where the device was called a crush
Cattle crush
A cattle crush , squeeze chute , standing stock, or simply stock is a strongly built stall or cage for holding cattle, horses, or other livestock safely while they are examined, marked, or given veterinary treatment. Cows may be made to suckle calves in a crush...

 or trevis; one example is recorded in the Vale of Pewsey
Vale of Pewsey
The Vale of Pewsey or Pewsey Vale is an area of Wiltshire, England to the east of Devizes and south of Marlborough, centred on the town of Pewsey.-Geography:...

. The shoeing of an ox partly lifted in a sling is the subject of John Singer Sargent
John Singer Sargent
John Singer Sargent was an American artist, considered the "leading portrait painter of his generation" for his evocations of Edwardian era luxury. During his career, he created roughly 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolors, as well as countless sketches and charcoal drawings...

's painting Shoeing the Ox, while A Smith Shoeing an Ox by Karel Dujardin
Karel Dujardin
Karel Dujardin was a Dutch painter.-Biography:Karel Dujardin was a Dutch painter and etcher, born in Amsterdam in 1622. Although active as a portrait and history painter, he is best known for his Italianate landscapes. Typical of his landscape paintings is Farm Animals in the Shade of a Tree...

 shows an ox being shod standing, tied to a post by the horns and balanced by supporting the raised hoof.

Uses and comparison to other draught animals



Oxen can pull heavier loads, and pull for a longer period of time than horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

s depending on weather conditions. On the other hand, they are also slower than horses, which has both advantages and disadvantages; their pulling style is steadier, but they cannot cover as much ground in a given period of time. For agricultural purposes, oxen were more suitable for heavy tasks such as breaking sod or ploughing in wet, heavy, or clayey soil. When hauling freight, oxen could move very heavy loads in a slow and steady fashion. They are at a disadvantage compared to horses when it is necessary to pull a plow or load of freight relatively quickly.

For millennia, oxen also could pull heavier loads due to the use of the yoke
Yoke
A yoke is a wooden beam, normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs, as oxen usually do; some yokes are fitted to individual animals. There are several types of yoke, used in different cultures, and for different types of oxen...

, which was designed to work best with the neck and shoulder anatomy of cattle. Until the invention of the horse collar
Horse collar
A horse collar is a part of a horse harness device used to distribute load around a horse's neck and shoulders when pulling a wagon or plow. The collar often supports and pads a pair of curved metal or wood pieces, called hames, to which the traces of the harness are attached...

, which allowed the horse to engage the pushing power of its hindquarters in moving a load, horses could not pull with their full strength because the yoke was incompatible with their anatomy.

Well-trained oxen in general are also considered less excitable than horses.

See also

  • Aurochs
    Aurochs
    The aurochs , the ancestor of domestic cattle, were a type of large wild cattle which inhabited Europe, Asia and North Africa, but is now extinct; it survived in Europe until 1627....

  • Bullock cart
    Bullock cart
    A bullock cart or ox cart is a two-wheeled vehicle pulled by oxen . It is a means of transportation used since ancient times in many parts of the world. They are still used today where modern vehicles are too expensive or the infrastructure does not favor them.Used especially for carrying goods,...

     (ox-cart)
  • Bullocky
    Bullocky
    A bullocky is an Australian English term for the driver of a bullock team. Bullock drivers were also known as teamsters or carriers. The American term for a bullocky is a bullwhacker.-History:...

     (ox-driver, teamster)
  • Ox-wagon
    Ox-wagon
    An ox-wagon or bullock wagon is a four-wheeled vehicle pulled by oxen . It was a traditional form of transport, especially in Southern Africa but also in New Zealand and Australia. Ox-wagons were also used in the United States...

     (bullock wagon)
  • Oxtail
    Oxtail
    Oxtail is the culinary name for the tail of cattle. Formerly, it referred only to the tail of an ox or steer, a castrated male. An oxtail typically weighs 2 to 4 lbs. and is skinned and cut into short lengths for sale.Oxtail is a bony, gelatinous meat, and is usually slow-cooked, often stewed or...

  • Ridge and furrow
    Ridge and furrow
    Ridge and furrow is an archaeological pattern of ridges and troughs created by a system of ploughing used in Europe during the Middle Ages. The earliest examples date to the immediate post-Roman period and the system was used until the 17th century in some areas. Ridge and furrow topography is...

  • Ox
    Ox (zodiac)
    The Ox is one of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. The Year of the Ox is denoted by the earthly branch character 丑...


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