Tuesday, March 27, 2012

To Make an Single Ox Yoke, Part 2

The Ox Yoke Plan

I've begun with a little internet study of Ox Anatomy 101

Advanced Agricultural Training 
(photo digitally altered i.e. Ox Anatomy 101)

From an anatomical point of view a head-yoke
appears to have some distinct advantages.

Jacques-Raymond Brascassat - "A Bull Fight" (1855)
detail from original (link)
 If you have ever watched two bulls fight you know they can do a lot of pushing with their heads. The one who pushes the hardest and the longest wins; making for an evolutionary propensity to excel in strength and endurance while pushing.

Teamsters who use head-yokes advocate for their superiority. I wonder about the possibility of broken horns, or injury, in the case of an accident, the discomfort of being restrained to that degree (especially when two oxen are yoked together), and the possibility of a headache for the animal who is pushing long or hard.

I see that competitive ox-pullers in the Northeastern U.S. prefer neck-yokes. I presume this is to take advantage of the strength of the neck for lifting the load. The competitive pull is extremely heavy but of a short distance.
Oxen Withers, Anatomical Shoulder, and Angular Musculature

For my yoke, I will concentrate on taking the power off the ox at the base of the neck and the front of the withers. It seems to be the logical position for pulling moderate loads for sustained periods of time.

Ox walking, stride, 6 ft. (c1881)
digitally altered background

The muscles at the base of the neck, and the withers, are relatively stationary while the ox is walking.

Skeleton of the Ox as Covered by the Muscles
Cattle and
 their Diseases, by Robert Jennings (link)        annotations added by me
These muscles provide a somewhat plastic, shock absorbing cushion over the skeleton.

Withers Yoke (Link)
The withers-yoke, common in many parts of the world, takes advantage of that large natural hump of Bos indicus cattle. The hump, or withers, though much smaller on Bos taurus cattle (like my Ayrshire) will also help to keep my yoke from sliding back while under load.

I will extend the yoke seat down the sides of the neck as far as possible without interfering with the for-and-aft movements of the ox's shoulders while walking. This in theory will help solve the side-to-side instability of the single ox yoke, as well as distribute the pressure of the working yoke over as large an area as possible.

The Muscular Anatomy of the Ox
(private collection, annotations added by me)


In this position the forward thrust of the spine is centered on the yoke seat. The major muscles of the legs transfer their tremendous power to the head via the rigid spine. 

Cow Anatomy Dorsal Skeleton
Das Rind (link)
annotations added by me
The yoke is to be tapered in a half-cone shape to accommodate the neck, and to lodge firmly around the spine while under load.

Ox with Britchen Harness on Single Yoke
Rather than sitting square on the neck, the face of the yoke will sit at an angle to accommodate the angular musculature above the ox's anatomical shoulders.

A "bow" will keep the yoke from being thrown off, and a britchen harness will keep it from sliding down the neck when the ox put's his head down, or when he is holding, or pushing back a load.

Metal eyelets will accommodate the reins and serve to attach the pull chains. There will be three possible positions to allow adjustment of the height of the hitch point. 

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