Friday, February 25, 2011

Single Ox Training: Gee and Haw

This is a question from YouTube comments on my video (Getup and Whoa with long reigns on a standard halter.)


This is great! I have a Jersey/Swiss bull that I want to do this with. Just wondering, how do you train him to Haw and Gee?


Greetings Stainesa1 ---

I find that Scout the Ox is more responsive to physical cues (touches and tugs) than he is to verbal commands. This makes sense as cattle are largely non-verbal creatures except when stressed or hungry.

With reins attached to a standard cattle halter I am able to direct him to right or left. (Bits or nose rings are unnecessary and not recommended.) When I see he is about to respond correctly I add the verbal gee or haw so that he will begin to make the association. You can see this in practice on this video where he is responding readily to corrections made with small tugs on the reins:

My training got put to the test about a month ago. I was riding in the ox cart (converted garden cart.) I slid way to the back to take a picture and the cart reared up. Scout spooked and started running. The tipped-back cart was fishtailing wildly and I was hanging on with one hand, while trying to protect my camera with the other. Things were well out of control when I decided to yell "WHOA!" Scout stopped immediately for which I was well pleased.

Training one ox hardly makes me an authority on the subject, but I am of the impression that single oxen present a few challenges that teams are less prone to. Single oxen are more free to follow their own whims than they might be if they were yoked to a team mate. However, there is ample evidence in the historical record to suggest that single oxen were trained to be reliable enough to pull passengers in carts.

Single ox pulling ladies in ox cart near Newport News, Virginia, USA (estimated c1900-1920).
These prim ladies keep their white petticoats high above the muddy road near Newport News, Virginia. Their mighty ox appears to be completely under the control of the driver who holds the reins in her hands.

(Note the bed of this cart has been leveled. I've noticed ox carts often were tipped back. I wonder if it was because they were built to fit a younger animal who often out-grew expectations.)

Women and boy in ox cart pulled by single ox -- c1910, southern USA. 
Single ox yoke, reins.
This woman and her son appear equally at ease with their sleek ox pulling a tidy oxcart on the road of a southern USA town.

Older man in rickety wagon pulled by a single ox in a southern USA town c1910
Single ox yoke with dropped hitch points.
Being seated on kitchen chairs in this rickety old wagon would suggest that this older gentleman has a great deal of faith in the reliability of his single ox.

This single ox yoke is a nice example of a yoke with dropped hitch points. The dropped hitch points pull the yoke down into the shoulder --- a straight yoke, as in the first picture, tends to roll back.

1 comment:

Aubrey said...

Thanks! This is great Information. we will definetly give it a try. :)