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Oxen

OXEN

OXEN, used from the time of early settlements in America as draft animals and for plowing. Their slow pace was counterbalanced on rough, muddy pioneer roads by strength and endurance far superior to the horse. They were a favorite of loggers and early canal and railroad builders. In an 1805 test on the Middlesex Canal in Massachusetts, one yoke of oxen drew 800 tons of timber, but at only one mile per hour, too slow to be permitted on the towpath. Nineteenth-century small farmers in the South prized "steers" for general use, and still used them, although rarely, as late as the 1920s.

Oxen drew many wagons in all the great westward migrations—to the Ohio country, Tennessee, Kentucky, the prairie states, and finally in 1848–1849 on the long treks over plains and mountains to Oregon and California. Next, Western freighters employed oxen in enormous numbers, often using six, eight, or ten yoke of oxen to pull large loaded wagons—often hooked together and drawn over rough trails. Rigs of this sort, traveling together for safety, were known in western parlance as "bull trains." The freighting firm of Russell, Majors and Wad-dell, while they were hauling supplies for the army from the Missouri River to Utah in 1857–1858, are said to have worked 40,000 oxen. When the gold rush to the Black Hills (South Dakota) began in 1875, one company, freighting from Yankton to Deadwood, made use of 4,000 oxen at the height of the rush.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Faragher, John Mack. Women and Men on the Overland Trail. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979.

Harlow, Alvin F. Old Waybills. New York: D. Appleton-Century Co., 1934.

Alvin F.Harlow/c. w.

See alsoGold Mines and Mining ; Mule Skinner ; Pack Trains ; Wagon Trains .

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oxen

ox·en / ˈäksən/ • plural form of ox.

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oxen

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