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Oxen vs. Horses - How much can they pull?
Posted by Cow-girl at 2004-12-09 23:56:09
I am curious about what oxen can pull compared to horses. I've been doing demos around here and people have asked how they compare. The old timers say that a ox team could most definitely outpull a team of horses. And my dad has a story of his dad getting a team of horses stuck in the mud and finally a team of oxen came and pulled out the wagon that two horse teams couldn't. But I've heard from so many other sources that horses can outwork oxen. So I'm wondering if any of you have some wisdom on this? I'm puzzling.

Response by Howdy Fowler the Burroteer at 2004-12-10 12:50:59
I have always read and many old timers have told me that 2 oxen could outpull 4 horses. But you must keep in mind the size of the loads, the condition and abilities of the teams, size of the teams played a big part in these situations. Also there has been a number of accounts that even though the oxen were considered to be slower, when frieghting, many times Bull Trains arrived way ahead of their horse and mule counterparts on a long pull. The reason is because the horses couldn't keep up their fast pace day in and day out without losing condition. They had to be rested more often and many times came up lame, yet the ox teams just kept pushing on day in and day out.
Response by cwf oxman at 2004-12-10 14:12:32
The general idea with cattle is that they can pull up to about 2.5 to 3 times their own weight compared to horses that can pull up to 1.5 times their weight. Diffent breeds of cattle will have different strength levels. Chianinas can well outpull Dexters. The main factor is how well conditioned the team is.

In terms of horses outworking oxen, horses do work at a quicker pace, but there are some breeds of cattle that can outwork horses. Heat will be a factor in that cattle can't handle it as well as horses. Cattle pant like dogs to cool down, while horses sweat. Cattle do perspire on their noses.

Cattle have better traction than horses, being a cloven footed animal. Horses in wet or muddy areas have suction cups for feet. Think of it as when you walk in a muddy area and your foot sinks in the mud. When you pull your foot out, your shoe or boot wants to stay behind. When it came to pulling that wagon out, the oxen had the traction and strength to do it.

I hope this helps.
Response by Ken P. at 2004-12-10 17:01:11
Please do a search of this board ,as it has been discussed before. The "free for class" at the Lebanon, CT, fair is a mixed horse and oxen pull.

ken P
Response by KM at 2004-12-10 18:25:44
Recently read an account of a family member that crossed on the Oregon Trail. Talk of the oxen and yoked cows being able to eat three times a day and not "get skinny and lame" like the horses. The diary talks of getting the cattle eating as soon as they could, then staying at a steady pace all day long. It was/is an interesting read. A great uncle transcribed the original for the rest of us. She chronicles an interesting time in history for us late comers. KM
Response by Howdy Fowler the Burroteer at 2004-12-11 20:06:33
Another extremely informative book is the one titled The Wagonmasters by Henry Pickering Walker published by University of Oklahoma Press. It has concrete information on wagons, loads, hitches (oxen, mules, and horses) and distances traveled on the high plains & the Santa Fe Trail. It has more useful information on these subjects than any other book that I have ever read. A must-have for any draft enthusist or history buff.
Response by Rob Johnson at 2004-12-12 16:32:52
Howdy , if you have a real interest in this subject, an Australian book "Hauling the Loads" by Malcolm J. Kennedy is a must read. It is very well researched, and just in this subject of Bullock teams vs Horse teams there is a continual comparison right throughout the book, in relation to all of the factors, like feed, and conditions, and vehicles etc. I'd highly recommend it.
Rob J.
Response by Howdy Fowler the Burroteer at 2004-12-12 21:57:04
Sounds like another good book on the subject. I'll see if I can hunt up a copy on this side of the "pond." Is it still in print and readily available?
Response by Rob Johnson at 2004-12-13 14:59:39
Howdy, it was published by Melbourne University Press in 1992, is a great read, is well researched, with a very extensive Bibliography. I'm not into shopping on the internet, maybe someone else can help you there, but I'm sure you would really enjoy the book!
Rob J.
Response by Mel at 2004-12-13 17:22:29
There is a Time-Life series book called The Expressmen that has a whole chapter on how the ox was used to open up the West. It tells why oxen were preferred over horses and mules. The main reason was that they were cheaper, the yokes were cheaper than harness and the oxen did not need to be given grain. The down side is that they are slower.
Response by Cow-girl at 2004-12-14 11:28:27
Thank you for the information everybody, I will try and track those books down ASAP.

By the way, do you think that oxen could compete in a horse pull? Since there are no oxen around here. The horse pulls here (in Canada) pull for a longer distance than the ox pulls I've read about. Does that matter, and could a single ox compete with the horse teams in horse type pulls?
Response by Tim Harrigan at 2004-12-14 14:17:52
I am not a puller, but in any given weight class I doubt if an ox would pull as much as a decent pulling horse. Most horses seem to have more athletic ability than cattle, and much of the weight of cattle is in the rumen and digestive system that would not contribute much to the pulling ability. In an open weight class I am sure some cattle would do fine, but I would generally bet on the horses. That does not mean you should not try. I always like to see an ox beat out a horse.
Response by Vicki at 2004-12-14 16:54:31
Oxen and horses have competed against one another at pulls in New England. Endurance pulls will favor oxen, because generally oxen require less rest between draws. Their muscles recover glycogen more quickly I think, though I believe horses can out-pull oxen pound for pound. You would not want to compete a single ox against teams of horses--go team on team or single on single. Someone like Brandt who has competed with both should weigh in on this.
Response by FBMJR at 2004-12-15 17:22:53
In Maine most pulling classes are distance. Oxen will pull about a pound and a half of rock to one pound of animal. Horses pull about two pounds of rock to one pound of animal. In the pulling ring horses will outpull oxen, at least that's what I've seen.
Response by Pat.e at 2004-12-15 19:14:09
Have read this book and found it interesting. Partly for the wrong reason, as by I now expect it when I pick up one of these 'expert's' books, it fudges the history of use of "mules" and "donkeys" in this country. It's a funny thing, somehow eyes become blind, ears deaf whenever the words are used. It is a great omission (the lack of research) and reflects the tendency to dismiss donkeys/mules as unimportant, when in fact they were an essential part of outback transport and life. Maybe it also reflects the fact that many never strayed too far from the coastal and regional fringes for their research, for every little outback museum will show you the real story-mute testaments left by the donkey teamsters, muleteers,station hands and outback midwives, missionairies, mailmen police trackers as they stand, often with affection, posed with their donkey and mule teams. (Howdy, how's the video!?) Pat.e
Response by Howie at 2004-12-15 20:08:06
With solid footing I think you will find that the horse will outpull the ox. In the mud and other adverse conditions the ox will outpull the horse.
Response by KM at 2004-12-17 13:33:49
I have a neighbor who once upon a time had several yoke of oxen that he did movies with. He also fed the rest of his cattle with them. They were red durham as he calls them, shorthorn as most know them. Usually he liked the roans or the mostly white, as they were unique. He told of being on a raining wet sloppy set with a team. It was a terrible day and heading into base camp with his team. The team hadn't worked hard that day, but had been away from camp and knew they were headed home. A team of horses also on the set asked for a wager that his horses could outpull the oxen. These were 5 years in hard condition with motivation. They just hooked them back to back with a chain and my neighbor was pointed to camp. That day in the mud and the slime the oxen fared the better. I could never see myself hooking teams back to back, but I suppose it could have happened.

Response by George at 2005-02-07 15:39:59
Have you come across any facts from Pulls showing how two oxen or horses can pull compared to one ox or horse?

In other words, will doubling the ox power double the pull power? triple it? Does anybody have any facts?

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