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A question for someone out there with arcane knowledge: were oxen ever used extensively as draft animals in America?

By Condor58
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yes of course they were. here is one of many articles i have found with a quick google: []


genessa Level 8 Sep 8, 2018

I think maybe a few people here are confusing the word ‘species’ with ‘breed’.


Yep. Most those wagon trains heading out west were drawn by oxen, not horses as tv and film would have us believe. Horses were expensive, oxen were cheap and stronger. An ox is just a bullock (steer) that’s been allowed to grow up instead of becoming dinner, but generally from larger breeds. The tv and film people probably usesmile036.gif horses, as there has been a dearth of oxen in the western world since agriculture and haulage were mechanised.


Yes, I think so. An ox is just a castrated steer, a fairly common thing in small-farm-based economies. I seem to recall that many westward-trekking settlers used oxen to pull their wagons. And farmers used them to pull plows and do other heavy work.

A steer is a castrated bull. What is a castrated steer? Some oxen are cows.

You are correct. An ox is any bovine that is trained to do draft work. A steer is a castrated bull. I looked it up right after I posted. Should done it the other way round, obviously. ?

@PBuck0145 No oxen were ever cows. Exclusively grown up, castrated males (bullocks/steers). Cows don’t get big and strong enough, whatever the breed.

@KevinTwining From Wikipedia "An ox (plural oxen), also known as a bullock in Australia and India, is a bovine trained as a draft animal or riding animal. Oxen are commonly castrated adult male cattle; castration makes the animals more docile. Cows (adult females) or bulls (intact males) may also be used in some areas."

@PBuck0145 Cows and complete bulls have often been used as beasts of burden. That doesn’t make them Oxen.


Only after the europen invisions.


Of course. Oxen were used on farms to plough fields, pull wagons, and any other heavy labor. During the 18th and 19th centuries horses were expensive and used more for personal transportation.


From an article:

Oxen were commonplace in British colonies starting in the 1600s. Plantation owners and small farmers relied on them for all sorts of tasks as well as for milk, meat, hides, and fat. During the Revolutionary War, oxen hauled supplies; they were links in the Continental Army's logistical network. In September 1781, Williamsburg citizens saw what was probably the largest assemblage of cattle in the town's history when George Washington's supply column passed through on its way to the Battle of Yorktown.

Oxen remained the main beasts of burden until late in the nineteenth century, when horses and mules replaced them.

Colonial Williamsburg has used oxen in historic interpretation for more than four decades. Holsteins came first in 1963 for "Life on the Street" programs. Over time, the Holsteins were replaced by two rare breeds.

The Coach and Livestock Department has eight oxen—Milking Shorthorns. It has also used Randalls. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy recognizes the breeds as endangered. By caring for and using these animals in educational programs, Colonial Williamsburg is helping to preserve their bloodlines.

The Milking Shorthorns are one of the oldest recognized breeds in the world. They came to the United States, Virginia specifically, in 1783. Their forerunners apparently existed during the 1500s in northeastern England.

Milking Shorthorns spread rapidly across the United States. Farmers in the North and Midwest readily accepted them, and the first herd was established on the west side of the Mississippi River in 1839. During the nineteenth century, American farmers admired the animals for their strength, the quality of their meat, and, most important, their milk. But by the early 1980s, Milking Shorthorns were in dire straits. Thanks to a concentrated twenty-year rescue effort, about 10,000 of these red and white cattle now exist worldwide."

*Find the article here: []

Very interesting, thanks.

Good luck milking an Ox. All male and no balls, let alone an udder! ?

@KevinTwining -- Milking Shorthorn is a type of bovine. As such, there are two sexes. It was from this breed that oxen were created -- yes, by castrating the male Shorthorn. It was not suggested anyone was in the habit of milking oxen. Reading more critically might help.

@evidentialist Not being such an arsehole when someone makes a genuine error might also help. The breed you mention is known in the UK and Ireland as a Red Shorthorn. I’d never heard the name ‘Milking Shorthorn’ before. As the breed originated in these parts, I feel some justification for my error in not recognising the colonial name.

@KevinTwining -- Right, and one of your comments reminded me of my long time associate. He was a Brit (born Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex) who arrived in the 'Colonies' in 1950 --- and stayed. I worked with him on and off for a bit over 25 years. On the 4th of July he would show up in the office wearing a black armband in memory of the Colonies. One year he carried in a placard that read: "Colonists Repent"

Let me see if I understand this correctly: I am an arsehole for suggesting you should read more critically?

@evidentialist Yep - the implied suggestion was that I was a lazy reader. Challenge what I say, but don’t imply or assume anything about me. ?


It seems to me that I remember mention of them associated with the Oregon Trail. Some of the Conestogas (covered wagons) were pulled by teams of oxen

Regardless, they were not indigenous to the New World and would have to have been imported.

t1nick Level 8 Aug 11, 2018

Isn’t an ox just a castrated bull?

Could be, I saw a reference to that in one of the links.

Yeah pretty much. If you castrate them early in life they become steers, aka what we raise for beef cattle. Typically the oxen you think of have horns so I suppose they got castrated later in life after growing them (Steers won’t grow horns) just to make them more docile and able to be yoked together without fighting.

No, Oxen are actually a related species, but the confusion is understandable.

@Normanbites. I concur, the oxen is a different species than the typical Bos we are accustomed to.

I just looked it up, it says here (and other places) that an ox is a castrated bull []

It's kinda vague...
Oxen exist beneath the umbrella of cattle, and are animals that have been trained to work either in the fields or pulling things by yoke and collar. Any breed of cattle can be trained to be an oxen, but generally larger, stronger animals are selected. Oxen are typically male animals, as they rely on their size and strength to do their jobs; also, large horns play a role in the ability of the oxen. When the animal backs up, the large, sturdy horns keep the yoke from coming off over their heads.

While any cattle can be an oxen, some breeds or individuals are better suited to the task. In addition to size and strength, those looking to train oxen also look for intelligence, a willingness to learn, and how personable the animal is.

Oxen generally end up being some of the largest specimens of cattle, but that’s not because of breed. Most male cattle not selected for training (or breeding) are killed for their meat before they reach full size. Continued training of oxen also helps build muscle mass and overall size; horns will continue to grow for the entire life of the oxen. A team of oxen thought to be among the largest ever bred were Granger and Mt. Katahdin; these 1930s Maine oxen tipped the scales at a combined 4,450 kilograms (9,800 lbs) when fully grown.


@Wurlitzer Castrated cattle do grow horns; they are polled when a few days old if horns are unwanted.

@Wurlitzer, @t1nick Oxen aren’t a related species. They are produced, usually from larger, bulkier breeds of cattle, by castrating them, so they are then steers/bullocks. They become Oxen by the simple expedient of allowing them to grow into adulthood, when they become very large, bulky and strong. Usually they go to slaughter for beef at 9-18 months.

@Lukian good to know. Thanks for the research into this


Not by native Americans, they didn't use a European style of farming or traditional farming. Not until Europeans/ Spanish concurred the Americas was there a need for these non-native species.


are you thinking about doing some plowing of your own, or heading west?

hankster Level 9 Aug 11, 2018

No, no plowing for me. You know how sometimes a ? pops into your brain out of the blue, and sometimes you just have get the whole thing out there? Or, is that just me?

Anyway, brother, if I went any further west, I'd be hitting saltwater in about 15 minutes.

@Condor5 i hear ya man. kelp farming.

@hankster do oxen float?

@Condor5 if you pump them up enough.

@hankster damn! I left my compressor back where I moved here from.

@Condor5 hmmmmm. oxen oxygen

@Condor5 wouldn't fit in the wagon I guess.

@hankster it would have, it was just a bit too heavy to lift by myself. But, I don't have anywhere to store it where I'm now residing.?


Yes, as others have confirmed they were used to pull the covered wagons. I remember reading about it when I was young.

I thought I'd read similar things, just couldn't clearly recall the context.


this look pretty good... []

hankster Level 9 Aug 11, 2018

Hmmm, very interesting. They look rather small compared to cows I've been next to, but I guess they're still relatively young.

@Condor5 could be.... they do get enormous though.


Yes, during the western expansion and on the Oregon trail to pull covered wagons mostly I think. I’m sure those same farmers used them once they got to their destination to plow with, but I think most of the farmers that stayed in the southeast wound up using horses, mules and donkeys. Probably a little more useful for doubling as transportation and a little less delicious to eat ?

Wurlitzer Level 8 Aug 11, 2018

Thank you for that bit of knowledge, I knew some of you informed people out there would provide an answer.


YES, the Oregon Trail had plenty of oxen pulling the wagons. I'm a history buff, and live in Nebraska. I grew up on Oregon trail lore. []

So did I, but I kept drowning mine when I tried to ford the river, or my damn axle would break so I had to pay a guide and then everyone would get dysentary ?

@Wurlitzer I LOVED that game. I could play it for days!! My kids loved it too, they still talk about it.

@HippieChick58 yeah it was pretty much the only fun thing we were allowed to do on a computer in private christian school ever haha.

@Wurlitzer And you're the same age as my kids....

Thank you.

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