Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ox In Training: Feeling His Oats!

As Spring approaches (March 5, 2011) the snow has melted enough to allow us a walk in the woods. Scout the Ox stopped to scour his horns on some bushes while Harry the Dog and I continued on ahead. I was ready with the camera when he decided to catch up.

I consider this an important part of training --- just out having fun together. It's a time to be part of the herd, a time to strengthen bonds, and a time to lay to rest any negative feelings that may have been generated in more vigorous training sessions.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ox Team's Yoke Weighs Over 90 Pounds

Oxen's Yoke
Copyright 2008 Elaine Meinel Supkis
War and Peace Blog
(used here with permission)

Elaine Meinel Supkis holds her oxen Chip and Dale’s yoke, which weighs over 90 pounds.

Oxen Team Chip and Dale
Copyright 2008  Elaine Meinel Supkis
War and Peace Blog
(used here with permission)
"They were very loving, loyal beasts," she wrote on her March 4, 2008 Blog entry, "The bees, cats, dogs, sheep, horses, oxen, chickens, turkeys, ducks, the wild animals, all were part of the circle we had going, and all were needed."
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beautiful Yoke of Oxen at Watering Trough

Posted by Picasa

Ox Bows and Ox Yokes For Sale (circa 1890-1899)

Ox Bows, $7.50/dozen
Undated illustration from
Hibbard Spencer Bartlett and Co. Catalog
Chicago, Illinois

The Iowa Farming Tool Co. of Fort Madison, Iowa, USA, was producing 1200 ox yokes a year in 1891, according to the Iowa Bureau of Labor Statistics of that year. The company also made pitch forks, hoes, rakes, scythe snaths, and grain cradles. The ox yokes and other items were manufactured by convicts who were leased from the Iowa Penitentiary of Fort Madison for fifty cents an hour. The workshops were located in the prison.

The two inch diameter ox bows were sold by a Chicago distributor, Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Co., for $7.50/ dozen (sixty-two cents each). Heavy lumberman’s bows were $16.00 a dozen.

Ox Yokes, $6.60 each
Undated illustration from
Hibbard Spencer Bartlett and Co.Catalog
Chicago, Illinois

A complete medium sized ox yoke (ironed and bowed) sold for $6.60. If you wanted that in the large size it was $6.75.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ox and Dog Interspecies Play; Toy or Tool?

In the first half of the video Scout the Ox and Harry the Dog play with a section of garden hose; Harry the Dog then switches to using the hose to poke at Scout the Ox ---at which time the ox attempts to take the hose away from the dog. It's all in good fun; as regular readers of this blog know, the ox and dog are companion animals and best of friends.

Is this further proof that the notion, tool use makes humans unique, is outdated? This was completely self-invented use of a garden hose, first as a toy (is a toy a tool when used to engage another?), and then as a pseudo-horn (tool?) to poke at the ox.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Interspecies Behavior: Grooming & Affection (Ox and Dog)

Pit Bull x Newfoundland Dog Licks Ox's Nose
(Horned Ayrshire Steer)
Scout the Ox gets his nose washed. Though not terribly uncommon, interspecies behaviors always fascinate me. (see Interspecies Ear Washing)

Ayrshire Ox Grooms Dog's Face
Harry the Dog gets a face wash. Getting the video was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I sometimes see this behavior at a distance from the window of our house. This time I had just finished shooting a video of putting the halter on Scout the Ox, and the camera was still on the tripod, when they started grooming each other.

Ayrshire Ox and Pit Bull Cross Newfoundland Dog
are Interspecies Companions
Harry the Dog is a herd replacement companion for Scout the Ox.  But, you might also say that Scout the Ox is a pack replacement companion for Harry the Dog  (just as people have been pack replacement companions for dogs throughout the centuries). The ox and the dog were raised together and they have a special interspecies affinity for each other.

Cat Edits Video on Computer
At the end of this three minute video you will see Squeak the Cat editing the video on the computer before publishing it to YouTube.

Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 11, 2011

An Ox and a Horse a Poor Team Doth Make

Ox and Horse Team, Main Street, Groton, New York, USA c1920s 
It takes two to fight. It also takes two to make a team. At times oxen have been asked to fill in for a missing horse when a team was needed.  In this photo the missing horse's collar has been turned up-side down allowing it to be fitted onto the ox.

It has been said that different species cannot associate comfortably or pull pleasantly ---when yoked together. While the mismatched team in the picture seem to be faring quite well, it's not hard to imagine differences in strength and gait, say nothing of temperament and character.

If their differences escalated into fighting, the horse might be more wily (and able to bite), but would be at serious risk of being gored at the horns of the ox.  
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Horse Collar Doth Not an Ox Collar Make

Horse Collar vs. Ox Collar
There are substantial differences between horse collars and ox collars. The power of the horse is transferred to the collar primarily through the lower region of the neck while the oxen's power is transferred to the collar primarily through the upper region of the neck --- the collars are made accordingly.

Horse collars have been used on oxen by turning them upside-down, but not with good results. They may suffice for light cart work but for heavy pulling they are not satisfactory. They can cause discomfort and possibly sores for the ox. 

The ox collar itself has not found widespread favor in most regions of the world. The wooden ox yoke seems to be the most common choice for both farmers and competitive ox pullers. Germany and Switzerland may be a possible exception. Ox collars also hold some appeal when a single ox is used rather than a team.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pineywoods Breed of Ox Pulls With Sweatpad/Hames Combination

Golem Kennels of rural Pittsboro, North Carolina, use a pair of ox hames padded with a sweat pad (made for use with a horse collar), for hitching their single ox.

Asked if they are happy with the results they replied that they like the sweat pad/wooden hames combination.

"He is comfortable in it, it takes no time at all to put on - just as fast or faster than a yoke," they said, "He's comfy and his movement is not restricted."

Working in the tight spaces of a small wooded farm, they don't want things sticking out that could snag on trees. "His horns are bad enough, but he turns his head and figures those out himself."

Click here to see Albert the Pineywoods ox in padded hames.

Click here to see Albert pulling a hay bale with the combination.

Pineywoods Cattle Registry and Breeders Association (PCRBA)

Ox Collar with Nearly Straight Hames

A Woman and Children in a Wagon Pulled by an Single Ox
Saint-Antonin, Québec, 1918
Marius Barbeau Collection (1883-1969)
© Canadian Museum of Civilization

Adjustable Three-Pad Collar for Oxen

Richard Roosenberg discusses the merits and demerits of the three-pad ox collar in Tillers International's 1997 Online TechGuide:

 Adjustable Three-Pad Ox Collar
Steiman and Boss, 1934

Swiss or German Three Point Harness for Cattle

Three Pad Harness for Cattle
 Harnessing and Implements for Animal Traction
by Paul Starkey, 1989
Paul Starkey elaborated on what he saw as some of the pros and cons of the three point harness in chapter four of his 1989 book Harnessing and Implements for Animal Traction. The book is available online in it's entirety on the Animal Traction Information Gateway website. It can be downloaded in French or English. 
Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 4, 2011

Flexible Three Pad Collar for an Ox

Flexible Three Pad Collar for an Ox
Cow-harnessing in Germany, Steinmetz, 1936

World Association for Transport Animal Welfare and Studies (TAWS)
A key feature of the three pad collar is that  each side (hame) swings independent of the other, keeping it in constant contact with the for-and-aft movement of the ox's shoulders. (A work horse's non-flexible collar rests on the horse's breast which remains stationary during locomotion.)
For a more detailed description click on Harnessing and Yoking - German Harnesses for Oxen by Jörg Bremond World  Association for Transport Animal Welfare and Studies (TAWS) website.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Padded Ox Collar, Ox, and Hay Cart: Murray Bay, QC, Canada

Photograph </P>
<P>Ox cart, Murray Bay, QC, 1896-1900 </P>
Ox cart, Murray Bay, QC, 1896-1900
Wm. Notman and Son
© McCord Museum

Detail from
Ox cart, Murray Bay, QC, 1896-1900
© McCord Museum