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Facts are facts and opinions are opinions. While we oftentimes must put up with opinions that we find objectionable, that is a good exercise in tolerance and patience. But when facts are misstated , as the readers of the front porch will have noticed, I feel obliged to jump in. That has been so all my life and it is probably not going to change now that I am in my 71st year. It makes me almost physically uncomfortable. And so I want to write it here: Despite what is stated in an article which is otherwise enjoyable, a cow will never be an ox, no matter how much she is trained, because an ox per definition is a castrated male bovine and the cow has not gone through a gender transformation.

NoraWI says 2017-08-08 15:05:26 (CST)

I hope this is in response to an article in "Rural Heritage" because I see nothing on the porch regarding a cow becoming an ox. However, I ask you, Klaus, can a free martin ever become a faux-ox? :)

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-08-08 16:14:12 (CST)

Yes, Nora, that is my reaction to an article in the latest Rural Heritage. There are a couple of other inaccuracies or exaggerations in that one, but this is the wildest one.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-08-08 16:22:44 (CST)

The answer would be no, I guess, Nora. And the French probably would object to the spelling, too.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

JerryHicks says 2017-08-09 04:30:30 (CST)

It may be a recent change, but the Merriam Webster dictionary does now say that an ox can be a male or female of the bovine or related species, such as a yak. It gives the second entry as a castrated male of the bovine species. I have an old Webster's dictionary from 1909 which give the first entry as A castrated male of the bovine species and notes " never applied to a female." Then in the second entry it says "any member of the bovine species, usually the wild ox." The new Oxford dictionary however says, 1. A domesticated bovine animal kept for milk or meat, a cow or bull. 1.1 a castrated bull used as a draught animal. 1.2 Used in names of wild animals related to or resembling a domesticated ox, e.g. musk ox.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-08-09 09:19:22 (CST)

Jerry, you got me there. All the dictionaries I used, including German ones, only gave the " castrated male" definition. Maybe that changed because increasingly people used the broader definition out of ignorance. I find that words get meaningless when we allow them to have whatever meaning we want them to have in the moment. The more precise they are, the better. It defies the purpose of a word to mean everything, but I do admit as there are people who use the word "cow" indiscriminately when they see cattle of any kind, there are people for whom everything is an ox when it is hitched.
The article also mentions that in order to be hitched, cattle need to have horns. That is true only, if the one thinks that a yoke is the only way to hitch cattle. But there are other, more animal friendly harnesses out there, that easily allow polled oxen to be hitched. And they even increase the traction power.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Uncle Joe says 2017-08-09 11:14:40 (CST)

Yep. Oxen is defined by most people who work with them as castrated male cattle three years old or older that have been trained to work. Before they are three years old they are often called working steers.

And yes, polled cattle can be (and are) used for pulling loads using a harness with a specially-constructed collar.

I regret I did not catch the error and would be glad to run a correction in the next issue if you would like to shoot me an email, Klaus.


1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

vince mautino says 2017-08-10 15:45:03 (CST)

I guess looking over a herd of 500-800 bovines out on a thousand acres of pasture we need to say: "Look at those 400 cows and 300 bulls".

It may be appropriate when talking about oxen, but I bet out there, there are folks that are working a cow like an oxen and they are doing a good job of it.

I have yet to hear a rancher say, "I am going out and check /feed my cows and bulls ". It is mostly, "I am going out to check/feed the cows".

If some one were to call that rancher ignorant ,they might just get knocked on their butt

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-08-11 10:02:00 (CST)

Vince, while cow is a more general term, bull and ox aren't. In your example, a rancher would scratch his head if somebody said" You have a lot of bulls out there", meaning cows and bulls.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-08-11 21:10:29 (CST)

Frequently, when I trained young teachers I would say to them if they didn't make students use the right words " Sloppy language makes for sloppy thinking and vice versa".
Let's take horses , for example: It wouldn't dawn on anyone to say "You have a nice herd of mares", if they were able to spot some geldings in the pasture, too. They would probably use the word horses. What horses are to mares, geldings, stallions, cattle are to cows, oxen, bulls. So, Vince, even though I was generous with your rancher, he/she probably would earn more points in my book of precise language if they went out to feed their cattle.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

vince mautino says 2017-08-11 23:31:43 (CST)

Around here anyway, if a person would call a herd of bovines cattle, it would mark that person as a city slicker or eastern dude. We might have a pen of heifers or a lot of steers going to market, but everything out in that big pasture are cows. They might be called a cow or bull individually, but not in a herd.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Redgate says 2017-08-12 15:04:10 (CST)

Great topic, actually. I have heard both definitions of ox, though more recent articles that I have read state the difference as, essentially, cow/bull/steer relates to gender, while "ox" defines it as a mature draught animal.

It can get hairy at times. Take young horses, for example. I would dare say the majority of folks, including ranchers and breeders, will call a baby horse a "colt." In fact, it is a "foal." A female foal is a filly, while a male foal is a colt. That's always been one to get under my skin. Like with the "cow" ranchers, though, don't dare tell a horse breeder he doesn't have 20 colts in the field (but 8 colts and 12 fillies), or he'll lose the friendliness in a hurry!

My assumption is that we have an often complicated language, and people use simple terms to summarize the obvious.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-08-12 19:56:01 (CST)

Good point, Danielle. What's wrong with having 20 foals in the pasture? The same simplifying breeder would have a fit if his mare were placed in a gelding halter class at the show! Is that kind of simplification a result of dumbing down America's schools? Now while one can certainly go to extremes in the other direction, I insist, we shouldn't have a competition who has the smallest vocabulary and be proud of it. It is not even a tradition. Read articles and treatises by farmers of times gone by and you will find that they used a quite eloquent vocabulary when it came to describing what they were doing and breeding.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

K.C. Fox says 2017-08-12 22:53:04 (CST)

that is like the use of mother cows. Some people are using that term instead of just saying pairs I don't know where the term usage came from, but it shows there not from this area.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

NoraWI says 2017-08-13 07:58:07 (CST)

It's all a matter of clarity and communication. To, too, two. Their, they're, there. Your and you're. Then, than. Many more are being "simplified" and confused. Regional usages often cloud clarity. Texting shorthand clouds it even more and spills into non-texting communication. I can't understand some posts in the few forums I visit because of the use of texting abbreviations, confusion in homophones, lack of punctuation and capitalization, and just plain misspellings. What happens to a culture when people can't clearly communicate with each other?

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

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