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11 months ago

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I have repeatedly fretted here about the animal unfriendly yoke for oxen. In the video one sees cows hitched to a carriage.

I hope I got the right one.

NoraWI says 2018-03-18 09:24:13 (CST)

In pioneer days when money was tight, they were known to hitch up wives, too. But I don't think they ever put bells on them. :))))

However, you are right. I never could understand why they didn't put harnesses on oxen and drive them just like horses. It is obvious in the video that the cows understood the rein commands perfectly and obeyed.

11 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

vince mautino says 2018-03-18 11:41:36 (CST)

I don't know a lot about it,but it looks like the collars (not yokes) were especially designed for oxen.They don't seem to be in any duress.Might be wrong though

11 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2018-03-18 19:26:41 (CST)

You are right, Vince, these are so-called three part cattle harnesses, where the collars are slightly different from horse collars. In the following video the harness is different, but still better than the yoke.

11 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2018-03-18 20:07:49 (CST)

To answer your question, Nora, I guess, because oftentimes old traditions die hard even when they are not conducive to the actual purpose. The only advantage that the yoke has, is that it is relatively easily made and cheap, but it has been proved that cattle pull more load and more easily with the harness. The yoke puts pressure on the neck vertebrae and can lead to chafing. It is a primitive relic from old times when people were less concerned with the welfare of the animals.
As far as the actual training of cattle is concerned it should be an advantage that cattle are not prone to resort to flight as quickly as horses but rather first try to assess the situation. When I was a kid in our village in Bavaria it was not uncommon to see oxen and even cows working in the fields and I never heard of an incident when they bolted. That they would go home at a certain time, no matter if their human masters were ready for that, was a different story.

11 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

NoraWI says 2018-03-19 10:40:22 (CST)

Klaus, cows are smart. They know what hours they are contracted to work. And when they are done, then it is time to go home. :)

As to the flight response, I wish to point out that, like cows, donkeys are far less likely to bolt than horses. I have never had a donkey bolt when under me nor when in harness. Like cows, they tend to stand still while assessing a situation before making a decision when faced with a novel situation.

11 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Vicki says 2018-04-11 06:18:12 (CST)

Klaus, I am glad you have compassion for cattle comfort and welfare! The video is great. I am pretty certain those cows pulling the wagon are wearing the three-pad OX collar, a wonderful European design specifically for bovine anatomy. Please be assured that the North American style dropped-hitch wooden neck yoke,and the Canadian style head yoke with carved horn boxes, are BOTH also specifically tailored to the way oxen move and to their anatomy. Cattle push upward and forward with much of their power generated by the front end of their bodies. They have a huge deep ligament across the tops of their necks. A dropped hitch yoke against the padding of the headyoke, and the perfectly smooth rounded neck seat of a bow yoke, do not cause physical discomfort. These yokes actually capture the power of the cattle quite efficiently. One factor that has energized the perfection of the design of neck yokes and head yokes, and low-stress training techniques, in North America is the competitive ox-pulling that has been going on for three hundred years. Wanting to win and working in front of your community where standards are so high, value placed on willing and vigorous cattle, goes a long way toward weeding out cruel, inefficient, aggressive, and cattle-unfriendly practices. It is true that some types of traditional yokes used in other parts of the world, are less comfortable and less efficient in their design, such as a straight beam-and-skein style used on humped cattle. Some "training" practices are cruel as well. Of course, the working of cattle in such situations is much less efficient than it is with better yoke designs and better cattle handling techniques. That is why volunteers like me have been training people and introducing comfortable yoke systems and low-stress cattle training techniques in other parts of the world to farmers. Now there are friends making their own businesses in other countries helping farmers be more efficient and humane, and helping cattle have more comfortable lives. Cattle do not move and are not built like equines, so equine harnessing does not work well on cattle. Three pad adjustable ox collars are great, but they cannot be built nor maintained in many places where cattle are the draft power. Places that simply do not have leather and leather-working capability nor durability of leather. Horses cannot survive in many places where cattle are the primary draft. It is frustrating to hear from ignorant people also comments that we should simply get tractors to such people to solve their food production and road-building needs. There are places where neither equines nor tractors are feasible. Good yokes do not hurt cattle.

10 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2018-04-11 08:24:36 (CST)

Vicki, what I am saying is not only based on my own observations , but also on articles and research I read. Here is one.
Thank you for your reply. There may be yokes that are better than others, but they still mean the animal has to push into the with the top of their neck. There is a better way, even if it means some old people might have to rethink old traditions. It is correct, what you say, that yokes are propably more easily available in some parts of the world, and that three part collars, if not done correctly, are also not the best way to avoid injury to the animal. But that does not apply to the USA, where many oxen drivers hld on to the old tradition, because it is just such, an old tradition.

10 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Plainsman says 2018-04-11 23:23:49 (CST)

Thank you for joining this post. I was hoping someone with actual oxen experience would comment. I've been reading about all I can find on oxen including all the sites Klaus attached to his posts.
I'm wanting to try a yoke of oxen or a single and since I have no experience with them I feel I have an open mind on the yoke vs collar.
Now for anyone.
If the three pad collar is better for work, why hasn't it replaced the yoke in competitive pulling? Nobody will let tradition stand in the way of winning.
Where would you buy a three pad collar? I haven't seen any for sale.
Would a three pad collar be able to be adjusted enough to avoid buying or making a couple of sizes of yokes as the animal grows. That would cheapen it up if they are expensive.
I found a paper from I think New Zealand discussing the research of collar vs yoke. Neutral site. It did make me a little skeptical of some of the the opinions. I'll try to attach it.
Bryan (I can't imagine this making it through)

10 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2018-04-12 20:27:00 (CST)

Here is another way to hitch oxen.

10 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2018-04-12 20:41:48 (CST)

Bryan, I do not know where one can buy the three padded collars for cattle here in the USA. A few years ago I sent a reprint of an article with illustrations to Anna Knapp-Peck, another lady who is very familiar with working oxen, and she had one made by an Amish harness maker. To my knowledge she is very happy with it.
As to why in pulling competitions yokes have continued to be used instead of other harness modes I do not know, but I suspect it is a matter of cost and tradition. Years ago when I broached the subject here on the Front Porch, somebody from New England responded to my arguments by saying if a better thing than the yoke had been invented then surely it would have been done here in the USA. I do not remember the gentleman's exact words, but that was the gist of it. Yet sometimes good things come from elsewhere, if we want to acknowledge that or not.

10 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

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