Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Draft Animal Power › Oxen › I have a chance to train an ox.
- This topic has 17 replies, 6 voices, and was last updated 4 years, 11 months ago by Anonymous.
- May 18, 2013 at 8:09 am #79605
Hello- I have dreamed of extending my farming education to draft animals. Two months ago I got a call from a fellow beekeeper asking if I wanted to train an ox at the local living history museum. The farmer in charge of him had left without much notice.
Frye is about a year old, and was bottle fed as a baby. I don’t know much about what the previous trainer did with him. He is somewhat halter trained and is friendly. I led him around the pasture, with some difficulty, because he kept trying to nuzzle me. He did respond marginally to my goad (a stick I got in the woods).
I am no ox trainer but here is the situation. I will never get another chance to train an ox. I did manage to train two goats to get in my car, and to go mountain biking with me. Yes I live in the suburbs. I also trained three dogs to get along with the goats on our mountain biking expeditions. We go on wild rides through the woods together. I trained a border collie mix to herd the goats into their pen.
I’m sure you are now laughing me, what a ridiculous idea- she thinks that if she can train a couple of goats, she can train a 1500 pound ox. Well, here is another piece of this puzzle. My grandfather was a cattle drover on a 9000 acre ranch. I was around horses for much of my childhood. I am fearless, and created a farm on my half acre lot in suburban Swarthmore.
Furthermore, there is an Amish workhorse also at the living history museum. She is over 20 years old, but knows her stuff. I rode her and she is responsive. I never drove a horse before but I figure I could learn to drive her, if I can get the harness on her. I was using wikihow the other day to look up what the different pieces of the harness are and how to put them on the horse. I was using my cell phone there in the pasture to read up on it. This is my way of illustrating my inventive, problem solving nature.
I found part of an ox harness in the barn- (I will send a picture once I figure out how to do that). I have no idea what kind of harness it is, but when I found it I decided to do research on ox harnesses, since I only have read about yokes. I found a picture of a donkey harnessed with a camel pulling a plow. It seems like I could harness the ox to the horse and use the horse’s knowledge to help train the ox. The ox loves the horse and wants to be with her constantly.
Here is where you come in. I was thinking of making one of those Swiss ox collars http://www.fao.org/docrep/v0600t/v0600T0j.htm for the ox and using the pieces of harness I found to start getting the ox used to the harness. Before that I was going to go hang out with the ox and horse in the small circular training ring that I found (miraculously) in a pasture at the farm. I could start leading the horse around the circle and see if the ox will follow, then lead the ox around. Maybe I could start to ride the ox, after getting him used to a bit or hackamore. Perhaps attend an ox training workshop?
Any thoughts and or suggestions would be appreciated.
Sarah from Swarthmore
swchenkinphd.blogspot.comMay 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm #79606CharlyBonifazMember
Perhaps attend an ox training workshop?
cattle are different to horses and will react differently; may be an idea to attend an ox training class to figure out the basics and go from there …May 22, 2013 at 6:49 pm #79652
I’m not laughing at you, but I would definately second the idea to attend a workshop – you are lucky to live in a country where they exist, so make the most of it. Oxen are different to farmed cattle, and different again to horses.
I think using the horse to train the ox is an extremely bad idea, when you yourself don’t know what you are really doing. If something bad happened, it could easily ruin both animals an be dangerous for you.
If this animal is a year old and to be honest, sounds spoilt if it’s ‘nuzzling’ you as a yearling, you really have your work cut out as a beginner. Mine are usually fully trained by the time they are yearlings – you’re speeding into teenage territory really fast! That said, if you work really hard no doubt you can manage it.
Why do you think you may be able to ride it if you can get it used to a bit or hackamore? Forget bits and hackmores, you’d have to TEACH it to be ridden – there’s nothing magical about a bit or hackamore that tells and animal how to be ridden. Sorry if that sounds harsh! Too many people think riding is about slamming a saddle on and a bit in when really they are the final steps…May 23, 2013 at 1:02 pm #79661
Thanks for your honest feedback. I can see I need to drastically change my expectations. Frye is now being taught to graze on a tether, so at least he is not able to do anything he wants. I was thinking that a next step might be to get him used to being tied on a short lead for 15 minutes or so. Then I was going to get a yoke and get him used to being tied with that on. Is this more of a realistic plan?
Honestly, I would like to try to work with him. I will attend the Draft Animal Field Days to learn more this summer according to your suggestions.
SarahMay 23, 2013 at 2:10 pm #79662
Yes getting him used to being tied is a good step – I would throw time out of the window myself, and just tie him until he stops fighting and is calm, then release. If he doesn’t fight because he does have this training, all well and good! Yes then you can build the time up and tie him in different locations, you walking out of sight and so on. I think you’ll find that getting him ‘used to’ a yoke, or any bit of tack, is easy peasy with oxen – this is not the hard bit. What you really need is for him to be listening to you and respecting you as leader…much harder at this stage!May 24, 2013 at 11:28 am #79671
I visited Frye this morning. He was on his tether. He had many flies on his face, so I sprayed him. At first he tried to get away from me, but I took his chain and said “STOP!”. He actually stopped pulling away and allowed me to spray his face and neck. I was surprised. Perhaps it is not too late to get him to listen.
How would you go about getting a yoke?
Thanks very much. It means a lot that you are taking the time to help. Sarah at Colonial Plantation, PAJune 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm #79924
I got my stepdad to make me a yoke – he’s a woodsman sort of character and had no problem making it from various plans in books and form tillers international’s web resources. No hope of buying one in the UK! I gather you can in the US though? places like berry brook ox supply?June 20, 2013 at 10:32 am #79949
Hey all- I have been visiting Frye twice a week, and attempting to make arrangements to be more involved. He is the property of a living history museum, the Colonial Plantation in Pennsylvania. In April the farmer who bought him and raised him from a calf quit.
The priority of the Plantation is education and re-enactments, so there is not much cash for the animals. The fences are either snake fences or split rails that are falling down. Frye has a habit of getting out whenever Abigail, the ancient Belgian, is needed for a show and tell. The public will be petting her and Frye runs up and tries to mount his beloved Abby even though he is castrated. This is somewhat disconcerting to the educators.
The result is that Frye is kept 24-7 on a tether chain. He gets off the chain only when I visit. He is unruly when he is released, and there is no way I can control him. My job is to help move him from one grazing place to another. For this I have had to use Abigail, and he follows her willingly. Once he has bucked around and gotten some good grass in him, I use Abby to encourage him to come to his training area where we tie his halter to a short lead. We brush him and give him treats.
The situation seems quite hopeless at times, since I am only a volunteer at Colonial Plantation. I don’t think he should be kept on a tether, and there are alternatives, but my opinion carries little weight. Decisions about the animals have to go through the Board of Directors, some of whom are ancient. The decision process is glacial.
1)Frye is an important future resource to Colonial Plantation.
2)Frye may not be trainable under the circumstances, we have no yoke or anything for him to pull and very little experience with training cattle.
3)There will probably never be another steer at Colonial Plantation if we don’t manage to train him.
Fortunately, Nancy Kalal the teamster at Cranberry Meadows Farm has been very generous with her advice, as has Dale Parsons from Tillers.
Are there others who might be able to offer constructive suggestions other than “GIVE UP NOW!”?
Thanks, Sarah from SE PAJune 21, 2013 at 2:19 am #79964
Not really, unless something gives you have a bad situation on your hands and a lovely trained ox will not be the outcome. You have to change something, or the situation will stay as it is.
Mature pet-friendly steers that grow up without discipline and control are dangerous pure and simple, and this guy’s already running the show. Cattle never forget a learnt lesson, and he has learnt many times already that he can do just as he likes. It is not a beginner’s task to put a situation like that right, and better facilities would be needed to do it.
If having an ox would be such an important future resource to this place then they’d better start putting their backs into doing it properly. Otherwise I think the oxen would be better off out of it altogether. Personally, I don’t want to offer anymore help, I want Frye to go somewhere well fenced and with company so he doesn’t have to exhibit such neurotic behaviour and doesn’t run the risk of seriously hurting someone one day.June 21, 2013 at 11:55 am #79983CharlyBonifazMember
Mature pet-friendly steers that grow up without discipline and control are dangerous pure and simple, and this guy’s already running the show. Cattle never forget a learnt lesson, and he has learnt many times already that he can do just as he likes.
plus just for curious I’d like to know how he was castrated
I see the dangers especially for your visitors and guests. Cattle are very much bonded to their trainers – hard to take over without cues and especially when the ox has had his headway already.
In your situation I#d do exactly what you dan’t want to hear: give up on him
I’d start with a calf from scratch 😉August 10, 2013 at 10:08 am #80690
I haven’t given up yet and started to make some progress. We got Frye off the tether, and I found Nancy Kalal of Cranberry Meadow farm in CT who has a team (Rock and Roll) to coach me. She came down last week to see Frye and assess him. She felt he was workable, and I’m way more comfortable with him. We are still not sure how he will develop as a worker but at least he is doing what I ask right now.
We are using one of the Boynton single ox yokes. I understand I need to use a harness with a single yoke. I found pieces of a harness in the barn. I know it is a horse harness, but I think I can modify it to fit Frye. Does anyone know anything about this kind of harness? I think it is used to pull a cart. It has a medallion that says “Keim Supply Co. NY”.
Here is a picture of Nancy with Frye and the harness in pieces- I’m reconditioning it right now.
Thanks for your help.
Sarah from Pennsylvania (Colonial Plantation Living History farm)August 10, 2013 at 10:11 am #80693
Sorry about those pictures- I think I got it right this time. SarahAugust 13, 2013 at 8:37 pm #80748Steven FParticipant
If you are thinking about using a Swiss ox collar I can recommend it. I have a single ox and showed my son a photo of a Swiss collar. He made one for me and it is great. I tried a single yoke and it was a problem. It would twist and get out of place. I reckon that he can pull more with the collar as the pressure is spread over a larger area. I don’t have a photo of the Swiss collar that my son has made but I will take one if you are interested. We have attached felt to it. The point where the chains hook on is critical so we drilled several holes (it is made from wood) so that we could alter the pull-point depending on what the bullock (we call them bullocks here in Australia. You probably refer to them as ox) is pulling and allow for adjustment as he grows. I am training a second bullock who is 15 months younger and the same collar fits him. I just make a few easy adjustments.
When I was training my bullock (chock) I cobbled together a collar from and old set of draft horse hames. I wrapped them in hessian and it was fine. Great for training. I will attach a photo of the young Chock in his cobbled collar. He was earning his keep shifting bales of hay when he was 15 months old. He is now almost three, has a wonderful temperament and is a willing worker. Last year we used him to cultivate between our potato rows.
The bullocks are out of our Jersey house cow and by a Belted Galloway (beef) bull. I have attached a photo of the cow and the bull is in the background. He has an outstanding temperament which his progeny has inherited. Crucial with a single bullock.
SteveSeptember 17, 2013 at 8:16 am #81157mathuranathaParticipant
Chickday, sounds like you are doing real good . Dont listen to the naysayers , once every one had oxen , and in much of the 3rd word they still do . its so easy and natural to train them . Easier than dogs or cats or horses [IMHO] because bovines are so placid and forgiving .And easier than driving a car and everyone does that.Just follow your heart , like you are doing .My wife had never handled oxen and traind a 2 year old ox strait out of the paddock to pull a wagon on the pubic road in 6 days of training [ only30 minutes twice a day for 6 days ]. because I told her its really easy , and no one told her it was hard .
They are very psychic , just be very calm ,affectionate and peaceful [ slow and smooth movments]and very clearly imagine what they are to do .If your are very confident and self assured they just tune into the mood and go along .If they have been around people a bit and not been tortured or trauaatised you will be fine .
Ones that have only seen peole once a year when they round them up on motorbikes and brand them , cut off their horns and testicles are harder , but your Frye will be fine .
Good to teach Frye to lift his feet if you want to use some sort of shoes later on . has he got a nose ring? Nose rings are good in public in crowds and noisyfestivals and in heavy traffic etc .Praising and rewards of molasses , lucern , grain etc when Frye is well behalved .
keep up the good work —mat–September 17, 2013 at 11:17 am #81158
Mat- Thanks ever so much for your kind post. In fact, I have found the process of training Frye to be unexpectedly easy, not that I have him trained yet. I have only spent about 1/2 hour twice a week with him for 2 months so far, and he has made enough progress to save his life. Now other living history museums members can handle him easily, whereas when I started I was quite frightened of him and so was everyone else.
I thought I would have to spend an hour a day twice a day indefinitely to make much progress, but that has not been the case.
Your point about training an ox being easier than learning to drive a car is quite amusing. Also your comment about how common bovines are in the 3rd world was useful
The only reason I persisted was because I knew that oxen are used in other countries extensively and had read on the Tillers site that in the African villages where they facilitate training, steers often were not started until age 2.
Then there was an online picture of a giant water buffalo being ridden by a 3 year old.
Here is a picture of Nancy Kalal (Cranberry Meadow Farm, CT, owner of Rock and Roll and myself with Frye in training.
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