|A team of ten pairs of oxen in Australia (Wikipedia)|
My standby research source, a Yahoo discussion group for all things 18th century, turned up some unexpected and delightful resources. Who remembers Almanzo, from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, training his pair of calves to be good oxen when they grew up? I was surprised to find that my memories of the process, gleaned years ago from that story, were fairly accurate.
What are oxen, you might ask? They are, by mere definition, working bovines. Not even any special breed, and either bulls or cows can be used, although bulls are usually castrated to make them easier to handle. Training begins early, with teams chosen as calves, handled and gentled so they grow into the calm, dependable, but powerful sources of energy.
|Karel Dujardin, 1622–1678: A Smith Shoeing an Ox (Wiki)|
I'm indebted to several on the 18cLife Yahoo group who took the time to answer questions and point me to various online sources, but especially one gentleman, Bob Sherman of Charleston, SC, a historic interpreter at Middleton Place who works with many aspects of colonial agriculture and technical skills. He shared the following resources online:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ul2PFDdeJ2k - a video on the basics of training oxen, from Rural Heritage
http://thefarmersmuseum.blogspot.com/2011/03/lippitt-farmstead-in-winter-new.html - scroll down for a photo of oxen in harness and yoke
http://www.history.org/Foundation/journal/Spring08/oxen_slideshow/ - various photos from Colonial Williamsburg
I also found this charming set of videos featuring working oxen in Ross, Nova Scotia: https://www.youtube.com/user/cooper68ns/videos ... scroll wayyy down past the personal farming stuff, which is also interesting. Especially check out "ox on road," featuring several yoked oxen taking a stroll, with their drovers, down a modern highway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSqQ0XDvwws
Prairie Ox Drovers is another site I happened upon that might provide a good primer on working oxen.
|Zebu oxen in Mumbai, India (Wikipedia)|
Makes me almost want to go out and find my own pair to train and work!