21 MAR 2021

Oxen, more than just unintact bulls’

We look at this oft-forgotten animal

In possibly our most uncomfortable episode yet for Anton we talk Oxen! In school history lessons they just seem to turn during the agricultural revolution to help with crop rotation and then disappear. But what exactly are Oxen, how are they used, where do they come from and what is their history? We travel the world to answer all these questions.

What are Oxen?

At school Oxen were something that turned up in history lessons around the time of crop rotation and the cultural revolution then disappeared. We’re never told what exactly Oxen are or the impact they’ve had on mankind.

Domesticated over 6000 years ago Oxen have long been our companion. They have enabled us to farm more efficiently and produce more food freeing people to explore other endeavours. In the west however this legacy is often forgotten.

Nothing is more deeply in their interest than to lay aside horses totally in their own interests and employ oxen.

Lord Kames, The Gentleman Farmer

‘Ox’ has two typical meanings. The first, broad definition is cattle used as draft animals. The second, more narrow meaning is castrated bulls.

Implements such as the ‘elastor tool’ are used to carry out the procedure.

The worst enemy they had was dust. Dust killed more oxen than Indians or snakebites or anything else did.

Dixon Ford, Overland Journal, volume 33, number 1 spring 2015

In the west the Ox was slowly replaced by the horse (although which is better is still argued about!) and then machinery but they’re still often used in south-east Asia.

Half the world’s food production is dependant on animals to help prepare the land.

There must be few animals, or indeed anything else that has had such a great impact on human history but has also been so overlooked as the humble Ox.

Find out more


This transcript is automatically generated so may contain errors.

Welcome to the curiosity of a charred.

Episode 26, another big delay

in our recording schedule.

Yeah, but we're going to try

release episodes every

three to four weeks now.

And very yeah,

it's funny.

It's working from home and home

schooling actually

seems to make it harder.

You'd think we'd

have more time, but we don't.

Before we begin this show, I

just want to go over

a really cool looking new app

called Poly Book, which

we've been testing out a

little bit and what it does

is it allows you to

store facts about things you know

and different shows and

podcasts or blogs can also

add facts to their content.

And when you collect them

you can view them on a

timeline or by location and

kind of lots of cool other

factors have been done

in conjunction with Brunel University and

there I think their

cognitive Sciences Department there.

Truly understands how people remember

and recall information, so

it's much better than I know.

Liking tweet somethings where these soon

get lost into the thigh.

Don't know.


And I had a chat with Jay

whose idea the project

is zoomy other day.

He's really nice chap.

And so definitely checkout Polly book

by going to Poly book Dot app.

It's still in testing at

the moment, so going to

block new features to come soon.

Yeah, I think it's a much better

way than just reading articles.

It's a bit more interactive and.

More fun, yeah wide.

Link off to the article so it's a way to

find those articles again and

that kind of extra depth and information.

Yeah, so we've been adding facts,

but I'll show you haven't we.

Speaking of which?

Unless the show on with the show.

7 hours planning this episodes.

It was around Chinese New Year so

I was thinking let's do

something on oxen, oxen.

Yeah, is that.

It's the year of the Oaks.

It is, but that's a

little while Okay now,

but we're going to do anyway.

I member from school

just coming across oxen

were doing things like

proper rotation and then

ploughing fields in mediaeval times.

And then the ox.

They just seem to disappear and vanish.

Yeah, and.

Anytime you ever come

across the now seems to be cocktail soup.

Well, at least he puts

the town in that soup.

Yeah, not the end,

but on the other side, yeah.

Yeah, so that got me thinking.

Kind of what exactly are awesome?

Because then everybody

being told it's cool.

And I was wondering, are

they a specific type

of bovine animal or

are they something else?

So I decided to dig into

it a bit further,

but it's quite interesting.

How have these holes

in our knowledge, isn't it?

He's just like he think

he needs something or

know something similar, but you didn't.

I didn't never oxen

were properly Santino, oxen are.

They're a bit like cows, I think.


yeah, a bit like cows.

Okay, yeah, that's that's not bad, so

I'm going to go over what

they are, how they used.

But have folks storeys about

them and a bit of history.

And just in general auction, love.

Oxen love.

Okay, so there's two

main ways of looking Alex,

and now there's the first Broadway

which spaces that their cattle.

So their cows bulls to

Vine creatures, things that gave me.

Exactly, and it's when they

used as a draught animal.

Okay, so draught animals.

They are typically

used for pulling heavy loads

on the farm, such as different equipment

like Flowers and things or

wheeled vehicles.

So today we usually think of horses.

At least we do in the West.

Yeah, horses, maybe donkeys or something.

Yeah, mules could even be a camel.

Yeah, or like around.

A Sunday area.

Maybe llamas and stuff in South America.

So got some pictures here.

Santa sleigh it is.

It's under slate of cows.

Ohh that's cool then ring.

They look like they're wearing helmets,

but they're

just wearing hats with

their horns coming out the.

Sides, yes, I'll be the type of

joke that might have there.

So if you can see this

across PC yanquis how

you would basically join the

animals together and that

they would use for pulling

wotever a bit of equipment they

had behind them so they're different

stars and this one as you pointed

out, kind of goes over the horns because

it's quite powerful creature, isn't it?

Could you amuse this hats to show?

Like which oxen or yours?

I'd imagine they

have some sort of markings

on them or something yet,

although you often brand animals as well.

And I think you like

this one this in Sweden.

This picture but.

It's it's a pretty fat

Carol singing aurochs.

Yeah, being ridden by a man.

It's pretty stuffy as well.

So Can you imagine a wild cow?

Not quite.

Mate, it's not the sort of

creature you never think of

being wild, do you?

Know well they were

all Roxanne they were pretty

mean animals but they went extinct

in Europe around 1627

and they were really large and powerful.

And Julius Caesar even wrote about them

in this commentaries and he said.

They are little below the size of

an elephant and appearance, colour

and shape of a Boo.

Their strength and

speed are extraordinary.

They spare neither

man nor wild Beast which they

have espied such big dangerous.

Ivette Julius Caesar wished

he tamed, honoured Ms like a weapon.

Yeah, so another picture here

just to show you so

our cows that we have today,

their ancestors, free pretty wild.

So here's one fighting some wolfs.

Yeah, there was a tiny.

I want this.

One of them is just being flipped over.

For you gotta think of

things like Bison and Buffalo.

Is there relatives as well?

Think how big they are,

so these were probably

halfway between the two

now cattle there first

domesticated around 4000 BC

and they were in common use in

Mesopotamia over 5000 years ago

when agriculture

and farming really took off, so we've

had a really long history together.

So you do you know where Mr Petainer is?

In Mesopotamia

I've got a map here for you so

much patania its base

in modern day Iraq and

also kind of spending

into rod and Syrian going up into Turkey.

And it's between the Tigris and

Euphrates rivers.

So if you do any Roman history you'll

come across says a lot as Raymond and

invading into the

Persian Empire will sort there

many, many times.

And it was a really fertile area.

Please look at it saying

it's all deserts, but

it's actually one of the.

Hearts of modern.

Very mundane, yet

well, fairly civilization.

It's amazing.

That where near where?

What's it called?

I can't. Remember, now never.

Mind problem yeah.

Yes yes, no problem as

I hear some yeah.

I say pointing to the map.

Pointing, although we got this problem.

Oh yeah.

Yeah, so problem was

right between the two rivers.

So quite a good place.

Just South of modern day Baghdad.

Anyway, back to ox and so remember

I said it had two meetings, so

we've done the broad definition of

it's just a type of.

Cattle work cat or something or

draught, that's what.

Yeah exactly, Yep.

There is also a more

specific subsection than that, and

I'm gonna need some technical

lingo here, okay?

On Intacta balls.

Okay, so you know,

accountable, so you know

what I mean by that.

Okay, Uninvite Bulls have

an intact bulls.

OK, do you only get it now?


So can you explain that to me?

I was gonna say you might want to

sit down for this and we are actually

sitting down this time recording.

Say many oxen are

castrated males and that

means they've had

their testicles removed.


Yeah, are you okay with this?


So you're probably wondering

why that happens, aren't you, no?

No, just stop.

Smaller house Carol

it's stops but there will be some of it.

Yeah, but I'll give it a.

Bit more and say that the

people don't accidentally milk

the wrong thing.

You cannot write.

Okay, I'll go into a bit more.

I want to close your eyes, please.

Imagine you're in Spain

in a large arena.

The crowd is roaring and

sharing the hot sun, hitting you.

The bake interior

of the bowl shaped Colosseum

in which you're seated.

You're waiting for the big show to begin.

A man stands in the middle dressed

in extravagant clothes,

brightly coloured and decorated

with gold patterns.

In his hand he holds a red cloth.

I'm you letter and

performed to the crowd.

The sound of metal scraper

metre echoes across the arena.

Agate is drawn apron along its edge

and a large powerful bull strides

into the dusty earth.

The matter turns as Lucy

onlookers dramatically

flourishing his red cloth

with this the crowds fever

reached another level as a spectacle

is about to begin.

Done, done, done.

So you can imagine a bull fight

currently, so how would

you describe the bull in a bull fight?

I think it would be very angry enraged.

Yeah, fracias and powerful army.

And they just charge up red.

Say obviously, during a bull fight,

the animals being deliberately agitated

and tormented.

Training particularly angry,

but rules are really powerful.

That kind of a block of muscle and horns.

They're really dangerous.

So do you want to Creekside at

pulling a plough

across the field for you?

Yeah, sounds good say dangerous.

Yeah you sure.


I came even your farm hero.

Jonny may seen people once an

animal that's a little bit more quiet and

controlled and easier to manage.

And one way you can do that is to

lop off the testicles.

Any idea why that might?

Help send they have less courage.

Anyway, yeah, it calms me down to

hormones, but the main

one being testosterone which

is produced in the testicles.

No, no, no.

We we, I know.

It's something you

are going to become very familiar with

over the next few years.

As you get adolescence.

No face.

So this might be quite

uncomfortable for you.

So basically when Abel

has no testicles,

it can't produce testosterone and

becomes much more do so and

less aggressive and

much easier to manage so

it becomes a better farm animal

when you want it to pull Flowers.

Yeah, you understand now.


Now I'm going to give you a choice.

Do you want to know how

the procedure is done or not?

Here for the first of uselessness.

Okay, you are doing a sacrifice

here for this day won't be

demonstrating on you.

I'm going to show you a few tools

and techniques that

I managed to find because I I found an

entire guide to bull castration online.


Don't like the diagrams, are

just simple line drawings I found for

her okay nothing too graphic, okay?

Like a fighter, I think that.

So this is called the Alastor tool.

And you can see it uses rubber rings and

what looks like almost like a pair of

pliers or something that stretches

out elastic, bland, bland

and elastic band,

and you can probably imagine where that

elastic band is placed

so you know when you factor

unless it band run your finger too tight,

what happens to it?

It goes

yes, and then eventually it drops I.

Would drop off exactly.

I've got another tool here which looks.

More like a.

Very stylised set of garden shears.

Looks a bit like a clinch or something.

At lunch, yeah, I clench so

like a plump, yeah clench.

Speak to cool at lunch.

Okay, so quick that

he's in the shades.

Anyway, after the procedures, performance

and the poor creature has recovered,

its ready for a hard life on the farm

are not going to pass judgement on

whether I think it's right or wrong

ups because it's been so

much a part of human development to

reach the point we have, as

we've basically transformed animals into.

Grafton moved or effective tools for us.

That they like pets but work pets.

Yeah yeah, yeah.

And it's still really important

in some parts of the world,

such as South East Asia.

But if it is done, I just hope it's done

in the best, quickest,

least painful way it can be.

Yeah, so you just make them drop off.

Yeah, if you think about cattle

when we breed them.

We got the females that we

generally used for milk and

we're going to have.

We want lots of them.

Date me for doing that,

but the birth rates in Bout 5050 boys

and girls so we need to do

something with one stating we.

Yeah, truffle often eaten.

Yeah, or turn them into draught animals.

Oh yeah, that's what we've

been talking about exactly.

Did they hook like the?

The front of their horns.

And then that's how they carry them.

Carrie, what I don't know the ploughs.

Order, that's what the Equus.

Ohh yeah.

Yeah, and then there's also

use on castrated animals or female cows

as draught animals as well.

What does a farmer you want to

selectively choose your best balls for

reproduction so?

Choose your best bulls for.

Exactly your best balls

and then the not so you could balls

you would discard.

Put them aside, yes.

Now you think about to start a feature.

For me, oxen were something

that turned up briefly

in school, were looking at

the agricultural revolution

of the 17th to 19th century.

Although said made the

event, the starts actually bit later

than that as well.

But as you know, they were

used long before

that throughout the world.

What really transformed

this was the Lake, which

is what you just asked about

and it really allowed us to

harness the power of cattle.

Now the animals they usually worked

in pairs and you have a yoke which sort

of device that sits around their neck, or

in the case of the Fe, two earlier.

Is it like a leash sort of thing?

A little bit, but are you looking ahead?

It's kind of a wooden kind

of firmer brace that gives runners

is more basic than what you'd have

in a horse or something, and that such

important because it's a more

primitive attachment.

You could imagine it being

used along time ago before proper

horse harnesses were developed.

And it's not actually very good for

using the horses because

just their body shape isn't good.

So they gotta longer neck.

Yeah, and you can't use a yoke

on a horse, so you would have a harness

with horses that was developed later.


The word yoke is believed to

have come from the ancient Proto

Indo European languages and

it means to join all link.

Not just the middle bit of an egg.

Night night.

So as I said, you're not

very effective with horses.

Which one the reasons why?

For sale, long cows and bulls

and things were favoured into harnesses,

were developed for horses, yeah.

There is one time when you do

need a harness for an Oxford,

and that's when suing them

is unlike horses.

They didn't balance well

on three legs, so you need to

allsorts of fancy contraptions for

holding them up so you kind of a kind

of straps or something underneath

their stomach and you'll be

able to raise them up into their yeah,

and so they wouldn't fall over.

So don't go Kal tipping please.

Was researching this.

I did find some hot debate over

whether optional horses were better.

Some people favourite horses saying they

were more powerful,

but others argue that auction

had more strength.

Why do you know though

is that horses began to gain popularity

and push out oxen overtime,

but horses can be more expensive to

keep and harder to look after

and freeze them cattle so they didn't

make a good choice for the rural

peasantry of Europe.

How different the running

costs between the two are

is debatable though.

A Scottish farmer made

him 40s said about ploughing.

The amount and value of work

performed by each are equal.

Have Arthur Young in 18th

century found that

horses cost four times that of oxm.

But 16th century French.

So scientists, an author,

illegal this is.

Said a horse.

Means more earth in one day than

in Oxted in four.

But Lord Keynes, right in his 1776 work,

the Gentleman Farmer an attempt to

improve agriculture by subjecting

it to the text of rational principles

among the agents, wearied of no

beasts for the draught, but talks.

And so it was in Greece as

the early days of hesitant,

the Dutch at the Cape of Good Hope

Plough with oxen, and makes him early

to a quick pace, as so to

be equal to horses in the waggon, as

well as the plough they

used in the East Indies.

For carrying burdens and

they are fitter than

ever for that service.

The back of an ox being convex

and able to support

our weight more than a horse.

Maybe an oxen could carry out horses?

Back well, maybe yeah,

maybe a combination

of two is what we need.

Just like.

Half horse, half oxen.

Now claims he was a principal figure

in the Scottish Enlightenment, and

he tried to apply scientific Grigor to

his findings.

He goes on to say

nothing is more deeply

in their interests into layers.

Site horses, totally in their own

interests and employ oxen.

So he was really pro

oxen and he even compared the merits

of oxygen horse poo,

with the former being excellent at

improving pastures and the latter

burning it to where it fell.

So deadly flaming horse poo?

Has any reason for horses being used

in Britain bad roads

unsuitable for carts with

the farmers that

carry their corner market

on horseback as no one thought to

create proper furniture for

the back of an ox?

Yeah so.

You can kind of stick things

in the horses back easier than an ox

is back it seems.

So basically this debate

has been going on for centuries.

There are some other

differences as well, because oxen

can tolerate drought

much better than horses due to

their third stomach, the rumen,

which stores water.

However, heat and

dust can be a killer for them.

And in the spring 2015

issue of Overland Journal,

Dixon, Ford and Lee creates a culture.

Crabs are cuzza crowds.

Covered the use of oxen

in America, in great detail.

This is during the age of The Pioneers.

Okay, so think of people

emigrating further West Cross to Parys.

In the mountains.

Cowboy times, yeah.

With the scene on TV

and forward, he actually

re enacted some of the older

Waggon Trails for a documentary, and

he noted that the worst enemy they

ever had was dust.

Dust, kill more oxygen than Indians

are snake bites or anything else dared

and cattle don't sweat.

And if you've ever

ridden a horse, you know that they do.

He continued the

exterior muscles, the leg muscles,

the back and all those

muscles could be very hot,

much above the normal body temperatures.

But the heart of the lungs

have to be kept cool by breathing

the dust, and that Revs

starts to cut the dog's

nose in nostrils, so

he can't call that air.

So this means that

they really start struggling to breathe

and the mucus builds

up, blocking their noses

and you can put your picture.

Big strands of mucus

in snot hanging down from a cow's.

Nose I can, but I don't want to.

But looking for the

cattle boys like yourself, Anton.

They would carry a rag with them

and they would use

it for unblocking the nostrils.

Just like get a towel, shove it up

their start twisting.

Pretty much, yeah yeah, maybe.

One it comes out the other.

Good day yeah.

Look at look at Bulls ring exactly, yes?

We figured it out.

Actually, you could put a cloth

on the ring and twist it

round, that's true.

But only if.

It's big enough and the holes big enough.

Yeah, okay, so between 1840 and 1869

approximately 300,000

people across the United States.

Now in film you see them being

pulled by horses, but

in reality maybe as many as 3/4

of the draught animals

were actually oxen.

And the journey West is about 2000

miles or 3200 kilometres.

I could take up to five months.

And these amazing animals

pulled the car to the whole way

and just thinking the cartridges,

all the possessions

that the owner had like

everything they owned

in the world, was being towed with them.

So you can understand why.

You need this voice declare up for.

Exactly, yeah, yeah.

And also the bonds

that would form between animal and Anna.

However, sometimes the

animals would escape

and gave missing, and then the

owners returned to that

location days later

hoping to find them again,

but obviously many times they didn't

and then other times they

might need to abandon the animal, maybe

because they run out

of food or something.

Or maybe it's like hurt its

leg or something and there's one Storey

I found which tells

of travellers finding an auction with

a note attached to it saying.

Please take abuser and

she's been one of the best.

So you can see kind of

real love for the animal.

So pretty really sad to leave it behind.

But the horse, as you know

it's a bit of a status symbol, isn't it?

Who likes to ride a horse?

Posh people, yeah, it's a sign of wealth.

Yeah, as a rider high

above the masses and you kind of

show off that can afford such a beast,

you can look down your nose exactly.

Yeah, there's no clogged up with mucus.

Yeah, so nights, kind of

the neighbours they drive

them into battle.

Wouldn't there be finally

Clevedon armoured?

I had this summer this week.

Little bit smaller so

imagine nights running into battle.

It will shut them ponies.

Say maybe not quite as spectacular.

As I was about to do, did, did did.


Okay, no other ones.

That was an alien horse.

That was meant to be a I.

High pitch.



So if you were a farmer having horses

in the auctions, a real sign

of wealth and status.

I've got a map of France here from 1882,

which shows the percentage of ox

and horses as draught animals,

and it reveals that

in the poorer areas or

the poorer or the poor rural areas,

oxen still commanded

about 70 to 80% usage.

So that's the dark.

Like the black yeah and

well in the richer

areas the more market orientated regions.

Horses were dominant

and they might be all the way

to nearly 100% message.


Like that's more

than northedge kind of bet.

Yeah, so just goes to show that

if people could afford horses

they would favour them, yeah?

But maybe they might have

had a couple of options as

well for like heavy lifting.

Ohh really really heavy stuff, possibly.

Yeah, or maybe just like

punish their child then voice.

Of watching the news, yeah?

Saw this out of the show.

I mentioned Chinese New Year and

yes, I know we're

a bit late for that now,

but in Asia, oxen

have been very important to an

in the North of China

there typically the most genius,

which is similar to the couch would find

in Europe whilst in the wetter South you

find more water Buffalo there

and they are very related.

Kind of species again for BSM transport.

Yeah, that's right.

Yes yeah yeah, carry a Jeep.

And water Buffalo there the

perfect animal for the rice paddies

where other creatures or

machinery would struggle.

She seen fighters rice paddies haven't?

Yeah, I've seen photos with

oxen or water Buffalo as well inside.

Exactly, yeah, so

you might even get large

flat fields with water,

or you get the tiered

one stating it would be really

hard for you can use a tractor on this.

No, definitely not.

Otherwise it would just fall down and

get ready wet as well.

Yeah, full of rice.

An also in India a 1998

report estimated that there about 65.7

million auction in use.

About half the world's feed production

is dependent on animals for

land preparation, so that

shows how important draught

animals still are today.

It's not just something

from ancient times.

Yeah, and then the other half is.

Where the animals live

and then get chopped up

and then processed or

whatever and then eaten so nice.

It's important to

remember that the numbers here

it's not just the Oxford

have been snipped.

Okay, some of the

ones like the broader definition.

So there be like female

cattle there, and

on castrated bulls, right?


Yeah, Ohh reminds actually when

I was at school we

were doing at some science homework

and we had to write about.

The Bullock, but unfortunately

I have never been good at spelling and

I substituted the first foul

in the word with another one

more circular one, and

I had a message from

the teachers saying great work,

but watch your spelling.


so in honour of this amazing

animal has long been part

of the human Storey who's helped

us transform culture and society,

allowed us to work the

lands and produce more food, freeing

people to pursue other ideas.

And being immortalised in the stars

as tourists and the Chinese Zodiac,

let's end with the Storey.

Storey time, time to go to sleep.

Near bedtime.

How the heavenly ox came to earth?

According to myth told

through the ages by Chinese patents,

least we know oxen on Earth are tool.

There are no animals that would

help till the land.

The oxen lift in heaven

with the emperor at the Elks stars.

But down in the Earth,

the people are hungry and starving.

Taking pity on them

and wishing to help the Empress and

the oxen down to earth with a message.

If they worked hard,

their staff know more

and they would have a meal at

least once every three days.

But the auction perhaps

disorientated at big on

Earth after spending so much time

in the stars, got the message wrong.

Instead, he told the people

without the Emperor of Heaven

had promised them three meals a day

if they worked hard.

This obviously caused the

emperor a bit of a problem.

This promise was impossible to

keep as the people, no matter

how hard they worked, would be

able to make that

much food and he did not

want to be seen as a liar.

Say to punish the oxen for

this mistake, he banished it to Earth,

where it would work

the lands hard everyday

in order to keep this promise.

And that is why oxen are such hard

workers to this day.

On like that.

Yeah, it's a nice Storey, isn't it?

So I wanted to take

a moment to think about the first oxen

and countless others that followed him.

There must be so few animals indeed.

Anything else in history

that has had such a great

impact on the development of

humans and our culture.

But that is also being so overlooked.

Would you Dre yeah.

Yeah, she didn't think particularly

in the West where

we don't see them so much.

Now imagine in China or

India or somewhere where they used more

that their respected more.

But for US accounts, accounts

seen as doormen.

I think I think that cows.

Should be in zoos.


Because we don't see them usually.

But we got beautiful cars

over here again yeah, best

milk in the world.

As well as fudge in the world.

We're going to do

an episode on Guernsey Cows one day,

yeah, so.

Yeah, I'll see if

I can come to that farm again.

Yeah, so make sure that

you think Ollie oxen at the world,

because some of them have been through

a lot of sniping.

And they need their appreciation.

And I think that's

probably another Storey.

Yeah, did you enjoy that?

Yes, did find it interesting.

Do you know a bit more

about oxen now yes, and do you have

a new found respect for them?

Yes, good.

Anyway, thank you for listening and

let's run over where you can find us.

So we are on.

Twitter at Curie child pod.

That's correct, we are

on Facebook accurate iPod.

We are on Instagram at.

Curious child pod.

Yes, we.

All, we have a well spur.

Now the dentist out there today.

Must have a website?

The curiosity of a child.

Come where you can find all

the latest donate somethings

and we might have.

Maybe some interesting news hopefully to

announce next episode as well.

But there's a few things we are trying to

put together, so fingers crossed

they'll come to fruition.

Something to look forward too.

Yes, so thank you once

again for listening and we love you lots.

Open please review us.

Because I'm sending you a kiss.

So now you have to review

us because he doesn't give

those away cheaply, right?

Anyway, thank you very much and goodbye.

Bye. No.