Ox, a general appellation for male black-cattle; but which strictly denotes a castrated bull.
Having already treated, under the heads Bull, Cattle, etc. of the best mode of feeding and fattening oxen ; and shewn their superiority over horses, in p. 483 of our 2d volume; we shall confine our observations, in the present article, to the most advantageous way of harnessing and managing them, as beasts of burthen, or Draught.
The principle of draught depends, as Lord Somerville has justly observed, on the joint power of the neck and base of the horn. This object is effected in Portugal, by a long leather strap, which is wrapped round the yoke; thence round the lower part of the horns ; and is again fastened to the yoke. Thus, the heads of oxen become more steady in performing their work, and the animals themselves are rendered more tractable.
Another mode of working oxen, is that termed, by the head, which is practised in France, and represented in the following cut:
To afford a more complete idea of the manner, in which the French oxen are fastened to the bow, we have added an accurate front-view of the upper part of the animals' ox heads ; as such method, in the opinion of Lord Somerville, is the best preparatory step towards introducing that practised in Portugal.
The most valuable breeds of these animals for draught, in this country, are those of Sussex, Devon, Herefordshire, Glamorgan, and Pembrokeshire; which, on account of their large size, are well calculated for labour, and justly preferred in those counties, to carthorses. The Sussex oxen have beaten horses at plough, in the deepest clays ; and those of Herefordshire are reputed to be superior in long journies, for conveying chalk, or similar heavy materials, over a hilly and flinty country. Although some prejudiced persons may object that oxen are unfit for draught in mountainous situations, yet let it be remembered, as Mr. Comber pertinently remarks (Real Improvements in Agriculture, etc.
8vo. 1772, Is. 6d.) that in such instances, " no draught be can well used ; and that the descending of steep hills is in all respects as hurtful to horses as to oxen.-The Devonshire cattle walk with uncommon speed; and, if four or five horses can till 100 acres of land, the same work might doubtless be managed equally well by a similar number of the Devonshire or Herefordshire breeds, if they were trained and fed (particularly with a view to speed) with the same care as horses : the farmer would also save a considerable part of the expence in their food. For though, after being very hardly worked, they require a little corn, yet their keep, in all other respects, is much cheaper (see vol. ii. p. 483); and, if well-shod, they will perform every kind of draught in the same manner as horses : lastly, they will pay for their labour; and, after being moderately worked, for 10 or 12 years, if properly managed, they will ox will leave all the profit of their growth, in clear gain to their owners. Besides, should an ox, from any unforeseen accident, be lamed, or become blind or old, he may be fattened, and sold at any time for a larger price than he originally cost; because these animals uniformly feed in a more kindly manner, and sooner grow fat, after they have been worked for several years.- On the contrary, the value of a horse decreases, after he attains the age of seven years ; and, should any accident happen, he becomes utterly useless.
Oxen, then, being of extensive and permanent utility, deservedly claim every attention from the humane and unbiassed husbandman, particularly with respect to shoeing; as they will thus be enabled to walk and draw, both with greater speed, and with superior effect, when carefully shod. This operation is visually performed by casting them on their backs, when the farrier proceeds to affix the shoes, in a manner similar to that practised on horses. By such attempts, however, they are liable to numerous accidents; for the prevention of which, an ingenious machine has been contrived, in order to secure the animal by means of short posts. On these, the fore or hinder legs are fastened according to circum-stances; and thus the shoes are applied, so that it is almost impossible to injure the helpless creature. The curious reader will find two neat engravings of this useful contrivance, in the 26th vol. of Annals of'Agriculture.
Before we conclude this article, we shall mention the ingenious Circular Ox-Stalls, erected by the late Mr. Hutcheson Mure, at Saxham, in the county of Suffolk; and which, we conceive, deserve to be more generally known. -The structure contained forty-six beasts: the cabbage-carts entered at the opening in the circle; and, going round in the area, distributed the allowance of food to each animal directly into the manger, at the heads of the oxen : their dung being piled up in a circle round the whole building, formed a kind of wall, that afforded a convenient shelter to the cattle. For a minute account of this ingenious contrivance, the reader may consult the 31st vol. of the practical work above quoted, where it is also illustrated with an engraving.