Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Oxen Yoke: Neck, Withers, or Head? Ox Collar

An ox yoke is in it’s most basic definition a piece of wood that transfers power from an ox or oxen into work for mankind. The iconic yoke connects two oxen together for this purpose. Yokes occur in a continuum of designs along which three notable stops are head yokes, neck yokes and withers yokes. A large number of variations have been used based on local needs, resources and customs. The ox collar is an aberration from the traditional yoke but accomplishes the same basic function.

Neck Yoke
The neck yoke is the "traditional" ox yoke of the United States. As the name suggests the yoke rests on the oxen's neck. The beam is held in place by the oxbows.

Withers Yoke
The withers yoke is used with Bos indicus oxen.
Bos indicus oxen have a prominent hump over their withers, against which the oxyoke rests. There is usually a rope or other light fastener that loops under the neck to hold the yoke in place, but the fastner does not  transfer power from the ox to the pole or chain. This particular withers yoke is attached to a wagon pole by lashing it with a rope.  

Head Yoke
Head yokes are secured to the oxen's horns and/or forhead; that lashing transfers the power from the oxen to the yoke, which in turn transfers the power to the work. Headyokes must be carefully fitted to the individual ox. 
Ox Collar
The ox collar does not quite fit the definition of an ox yoke, but it is yet another way to transfer power from the ox to the work at hand. See also: A Horse Collar Doth Not an Ox Collar Make

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