Friday, December 31, 2010

Ox on a Stick: Whoa. Get-up.

At just over a year Scout the Ox is doing well with Get-up and Whoa. But take a look (video below) at this team of three-year old Highland oxen!

The trainer of this beautiful team of oxen is doing an excellent job. He projects what dog trainer Cesar Millan calls calm-assertive energy.

More about this breed: American Highland Cattle Association
Comprehensive information on all cattle breeds: Oklahoma State University
Oxen commands demonstrated: Get-up, whoa, back, gee (right), haw (left), and head-up.

This video is from AnythingOxen's YouTube Channel
There is only one video posted there now, but we hope to see more.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

An Outing on a Winter Evening Pays Big Dividends for the Dog

Harry the Dog discovers a frozen deer hide left behind by deer-hunters. 

Scout the Ox smells something of interest on the wind.
The deer hide was heavy and we had a long way to go. After several tries Harry the dog allowed me to put it in the sled and Scout the Ox pulled it the rest of the way home.

For the next several days Harry may have been the happiest dog on earth --- carrying this thing around and chewing it to bits!
(No this won't cause a dog to chase deer. It's the excitement of  "the chase" that causes that. Our sheep guardian dogs regularly ate dead sheep without it causing them to kill sheep.)
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Ox and Dog on Ice, as Told by Scout the Ox

Sometimes life dishes out a chilling experience --- even when you are an ox.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Young Jersey Oxen At Work in the Woods

This team of young Jersey oxen are doing a remarkable job skidding firewood logs in the woods.

Scout the Ox shows a lot more independence when working than these two young ones do.  I've settled on leading him when we are working in close quarters.

Because a single ox is not yoked to a team-mate, he has an easier time following his own whims.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Ox's Dog Steals the Whip

Harry the Dog's allegiance is more to Scout the Ox than it is to me.
That seemed more evident than ever as he pranced before me with my whip firmly grasped in his powerful jaws.

Scout the Ox had been refusing to respond to the get-up command.
 A perhaps too sharp lash to his rump got his attention and he then wasted no time moving things forward. At that moment Harry the Dog surprised me from behind when he leapt up and grabbed the whip from my hand.

The dog trotted ahead of Scout the Ox, and me,
keeping the whip well out of my reach. 
I've been experimenting with using treats in Scout's training,  and I was becoming increasingly frustrated with him. The treats seem to encourage the attitude that he's working for wages --- and he expects frequent payments! If he thinks it's time for a payment he refuses to go any farther until a treat is proffered; this is when I used the whip. I don't want to be stuck half-way from a destination and then become stranded, because I ran out of treats. A treat or none --- he's got to move forward.
Now, about the whip; it looks like a fishing pole because that is what it is. I cut off the reel portion and removed the eyelet on the working end. Over this I slipped a small rubber hose to protect every one's eyes. It works well for guiding the ox and is much less tempting to an adolescent dog than a leather whip would be; he'd have that chopped up in little pieces in a manner of minutes.
I believe a whip should only be used for getting an ox's attention, and for guiding him; it should not be used for "giving a whipping" as that would only serve to confuse the ox and make him fearful. Christopher Ostby demonstrates the proper use of the whip in these two videos

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Ox Brings Home The Body of His Master

A Faithful Ox
Photo: Decan Herald, Chamarajanagar, December 23, 2010 DHNS

On Wednesday an ox brought home the body of its master who had collapsed in the ox cart from an apparent heart attack. This was a journey of some distance through city streets.

 Read this touching story in the Deccan Herald, Bangalore, India
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Don't Knock the Ox

The International Ox Pull, highlight of the Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, annual fair, is a holdover from the pioneer past when oxen cleared the land and tilled the soil. These beasts of burden have lost none of their pulling power, as demonstrated when they drag tons of weight loaded on sleds (the winner pulls up to 6 tons!). Competing teams come from various parts of the Maritimes and the Northeastern United States.  National Film Board of Canada

 You won't be disappointed! Shoeing oxen, making yokes and cowbells, shaping ox horns, farming with oxen, and the competitive ox pulling tradition of Nova Scotia --- circa 1970. Such a bunch of characters crowded into just 13 minutes and 6 seconds is quite amazing. Includes some impressive teams --- Herefords, Hereford crossbreds, Ayrshires and others.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Think I Saw a Reindeer

Xavia, a Hereford Heifer is being Prepared for Training as a Riding Cow
Photo used with permission of Samthesteerrider; Copyright Law applies.

This is a screen capture from a video just posted by Samantha, known better on her YouTube channel as Samthesteerrider and on the Riding Steers Forum as sam-e jo. You can watch her fun Christmas video here: Marry Christmas from Huckle Bery Hobby Farm :).  Samantha previously had a riding steer named Ferdy.

Horned Hereford cattle have long been favored in Nova Scotia for use as oxen. (Nova Scotians typically use head-yokes which require sturdy horns.) The breed originated in England. They are thought of in this country as a beef breed with most now being bred as polled animals (without horns). For oxen they are a popular breed to cross with the dairy breeds of Ayrshire, Holstein, or Shorthorn; these crosses carry the best draft animal characteristics of both breeds. Learn more about Herefords and other cattle breeds at this excellent web site: Oklahoma State University

Sleek Single Hereford Ox Pulling Oxcart in Nova Scotia c.1910

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Making Ox Shoes and Shoeing the Ox

Making Nails and Ox Shoes in Sweden, 1923

Spik- och oxskosmide 1923
Se hantverksmässig framställning av spik i smedja i Lerbäcks socken och av oxskor i Karintorps by utanför Askersund.

This is a phenomenal video filmed in 1923 in a small hamlet near Askersund, Sweden. It shows two highly skilled blacksmiths working in tandem to manufacture nails and ox shoes on a small scale.

Shoeing an Ox in Seattle, 1906

The most common method of shoeing an ox makes use of a heavy restraint called a shoeing stock. Shoeing stocks vary in size depending on the size of the oxen to be shod. Shoeing stocks usually have belly bands to support the ox while he is being shod, and provide a method to hold each foot up individually, one at a time, to be worked on. Shoes are required for oxen who wear their feet down too fast in the rigors of their work. Shoes are also used to provide extra traction on snow and ice or for pulling extremely heavy loads.

Oxen who are not worked heavily may never need to be shod.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Frost on the Brow of the Ox

The official temperature was -26 degrees F (-32.2 degrees C). Scout the Ox was happy to be in the barn out of the wind, in a well bedded pen (He's free to choose sleeping inside or outside; the gate is always open unless the night's weather is expected to be severe --- in which case closing it helps to break the wind.)
Scout the Ox has just had his morning feeding of about three pounds of an all-stock ground grain mix. Some of the grain stuck to his nose. He gets a second feeding of about three pounds in the evening. I feed his hay outside to help keep his pen clean of manure. I'd rather he not be inside unless he's sleeping, eating his grain in the wee hours of the morning, or drinking his water.

Harry the Dog is peeking under the fence from his bed while Scout the Ox  washes down his breakfast with a fresh bucket of water. I carry Scout and Harry's water in the blue buckets of which I have two. I exchange the buckets twice a day. The one in the barn is sitting inside a discarded rubber tire and has bedding stuffed around it to slow freezing of the water.

I bring the second bucket in the house so it can thaw out before I refill it. This prevents banging on frozen buckets and breaking them. One of our house cats, Squeak, likes to play in the frozen buckets.
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Van Gogh's Ox Gets X-ray and CT Scan

Van Gogh's famous painting The Ox Cart had its paint digitally peeled at the Oregon Health and Science University Hospital on Monday, December 13, 2010. After hanging on the wall of a Roseburg, Oregon home for many years the painting was donated to the Portland Art Museum. The X-ray and CT scans are part of an international research project into the details of Van Gough's artwork. The painting is valued in the millions of dollars.

OHSU covered the expense of making the images of The Ox Cart. The data gathered will be shared with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

 Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853-1890) was a Dutch Post Impressionist painter perhaps better known for his painting Cart with Red and White Ox which hangs in the Kroller-Muller Museum in the  Netherlands.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oxen Team in Training

Oxen Being Trained to Work Together
Photo caption was created by bitzi and posted on bitzidoodles.blogspot. Bitzi is my sister, and she introduced me to the concept of blogging back in February of this year; she is a Graphic Artist and does digital doodlings on her blog.
1850's Farm and Town at Living History Farms
The two photos were taken August 13th, 2005 at the Living History Farm near Des Moines, Iowa by photographer Virtual Farm Boy. He wrote,"Oxen are regular cattle who go to special school for four years to learn to become oxen." The photos were shared on and can be viewed here along with copyright information. Living History Farms has a website here. Living history museums and events have helped to keep the tradition of oxen alive in this country.
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Scout the Ox Pulls Hay Feeder Using a Tumble-Bug Drag Scraper

Ox in Yoke Pulling Hayfeeder With Tumble-Bug Slipscraper
I built a hay feeder for our sheep some years ago. It is constructed of recycled lumber and is quite heavy. I decided to move it up by the fence-line to experiment with using it to feed Scout the Ox. I hitched him up and he gave a good effort to break it loose, but fell to his knees. I tried cutting the load (having him pull at a slight angle) but he still couldn't get it moving. The front-end just dug into the snow and turned it into a snow-plow. Our next tactic was to go and get the tumble-bug (dirt scraper) that I bought at a farm auction last summer.
An Amish farmer at the auction had found it in the tall weeds behind a barn. He drug it out hoping to buy it. It was without handles but otherwise in descent shape. Having been the last item to be auctioned off, there were only the two of us left to bid on it; the rest of the crowd had fanned out to claim their stuff. I felt kind-of bad when I won it for only $15 --- I thought the Amish man would be willing to pay more than that. In any event, I was happy to get it home because I thought I could use it to scrape up gopher mounds in the pasture, and to haul the loose dirt to wherever I needed it.
Earlier in the summer, I had drug home a pair of mahogany organ legs, from a discarded organ at the recycling center. I was thinking, "I really shouldn't drag home any more junk, but I might need these someday."

I may now have the only tumble-bug scraper in the world with mahogany handles trimmed in brass!

Scout was too young to pull the tumble-bug this year, so I used it behind the lawn tractor and it worked satisfactory. It should work much better when I can use it behind Scout the Ox, so that I can be on the ground to operate the handles.
The feed bunk width fits inside the tumble-bug; I pushed it under the feeder and chained it in. It brought the front up, and over the snow; Scout was able to pull it singlehandedly, like a champion team of oxen at an weight pulling contest!

We've been using the hay feeder several weeks now and I'd say it's working pretty well.

Antique Ad for a
Tumble-bug, aka Drag Scraper or Slipscraper
Starting at $10.60 each

Watch a Team of Oxen at Work Pulling a Slipscraper
Tillers International 2006
Tillers International is a 501(c)3 IRS non-profit organization for international rural development, specializing in farming with oxen. Based in Scotts, Michigan, USA at Cook's Mill Learning Center, Tillers offers classes in farming techniques, draft animal power, blacksmithing and metal work, timber framing, woodworking, cheesemaking, and many other farming and artisanal skills. Tillers International can be contacted at 

Storybrookeripples: Ox and Dog Blog and it's author are not affiliated with Tillers International.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Scout the Ox Meets Grandbaby

When our Grandbaby came for a visit Scout the Ox was polite about meeting her, but quite taken with the toys on her car-seat! Maybe I should string some toys on a wire in the barn for Scout to play with.
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