Objective: Construct a yoke for a single ox using the following criteria.
1.) Combine the best characteristics of the traditional New England Ox Yoke and the Red River Trails Ox Collar. See Red River Trails Ox Collar here:
2.) Use tools and materials available at our local hardware or home improvement store — or (preferably) up-cycled materials.
3.) Provide an adjustable, hitch-point height for varying loads.
A.)The yoke (top) does the heavy pulling and provides width for hitch points.
B.) Traditional bent bows are replaced by bars, with a cross member at the bottom to stabilize them.
C.) The yoke (top), bars (side), and cross-member (bottom) are blended into a “collar” by shaping.
D.) A second set of bars are added on the lateral sides to provide the adjustable hitch point height.
I.) The yoke (top) is carved to sit rocked back at an angle so that the bars (sides) rest against the angular musculature above the ox’s shoulders. The yoke itself pushes back against the hump of the withers.
II.) The bars (sides) sit forward, above, and inside the swinging shoulder. If the ox makes a large forward step, the shoulder will pass on the outside of the bar.
III.) The cross-member stabilizes the yoke; it does not allow pressure on the windpipe. The bars are angled far enough forward that the ox's front legs do not contact the cross member on the forward swing. The cross-member is removable to allow the yoke to be taken on and off; it is held in place by wooden pins.
IV.) A stretchy rope passes from the yoke, and around the rear of the ox, and back to the yoke to hold it against the withers when the ox puts his head down, or when there is no load.
V.) When pulling a cart a wide back-strap is added to bear the weight of the cart. The yoke provides pulling force by chains attached to the swingeltree on the cart. (The swingletree is unnecessary with an ox if the cart is not provided with one.) A second rope around the animal’s hindquarters prevents the cart from rolling too far forward on a downhill slope.
VI.) Reins can be added to a standard cattle halter and passed through the hitch-point hardware (connected in this manner they are very effective at turning the animal’s head).
Problems to date: I made the yoke a little large to allow the ox to grow into it. Because of the loose fit, it waggled too much. Remedy: I sawed a piece of plastic pipe in half and attached it to the bows to tighten the bars on the neck, and I deepened the inverted V over the top of the neck. The assembly no longer waggles, but until the ox grows into it (and the plastic spacers can be removed) the bars are wider than ideal for passing behind the shoulder when it swings forward.
The wood I had on hand was an unidentified softwood, but I won’t be pulling stumps with it, or entering competitive weight pulls. It should be adequate for light duty work.
Drilling the inch and three-quarter holes was a challenge. I first bought an adjustable spade type bit and it was totally inadequate. Remedy: I then bought a better bit for $34 (ouch) and it worked with the help of a drill press. By removing the screw-in center-point from the bit I was able to use it to enlarge the holes on the cross-member (for easy on, easy of). This eliminated the need for another, even larger, bit.
The rope around the rear can work itself out of place. Remedy: I plan to add a couple short straps to hold it in place.
I haven’t perfected how to hold the adjustable rings in place. Remedy: Right now they are taped with electrical tape, which is working well.
Bars are of a used stairway handrail from a house we tore down twelve years ago.
Pins are carved from a recycled organ's pedals.
Hitch-point Rings, are from a broken horse harness I got in a box of stuff at an auction –for a dollar.
Screw-shut chain-link connectors I bought for another project — they were too big for that project, but they fit just right here.
The red strap over the back is a good section cut from a melted fire-hose, it is clamped onto the cart with secondhand screws and sections of the nylon door seals from an old microwave oven.
The pull chains are smooth dog chain --- second hand.
The ropes are scraps that have served various other uses.