Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Durham Ox: How Big Was He?

The calf that became known as the Durham Ox was born in North-East England in 1796. Selective breeding for desirable traits was coming into vogue and beef tallow was in demand; extremely fat cattle were celebrated.

Being a large specimen with desirable characteristics of what would become the Shorthorn breed, the Durham Ox was toured around England riding in a special wagon pulled by four horses. I find nothing on record to suggest he was ever used as a draft animal. Estimates of his weight ran as high as 270 stone (1,715 kilograms or 3,781 pounds).

He dislocated a hip in 1807 while unloading from his wagon. When the hip failed to heal, and the ox was slaughtered (two-months later), he had apparently lost some condition; his carcass weighed in at only 189 stone (1,200 kilograms or 2,646 pounds); still quite a large animal.

The Durham Ox had become so popular that he became the subject of several famous turn-of-the-century paintings, and several English inns and pubs are named after him.

A Durham Ox Dinner Platter
(blue transferware)
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