Once the draught animal of choice

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Ox/Oxen was once a generic term for all cattle but became a term describing the adult male. Later it narrowed still more and referred only to working animals many of which were castrated although entire stud bulls were also so called.

Heavy draught oxen (eg. Devons, Sussex) were reckoned to do half the work of a horse and they were slow. They were retained for non critical work for far longer than they might have been because they had a second purpose. At the end of his working life an ox could still be sold for beef.

Modern draught oxen would not have this second purpose as regulations post BSE dictate that no animal may be sold as beef over 30 months - about the age at which an ox reaches his prime.

Many breeds that were once bred for work are now bred for premium quality beef. Many beef breeds are docile, a desirable quality in a working beast that has passed to their descendents.

It would be relatively easy to assemble a team of draught oxen but a trainer and a set of ox collars might be harder to find. Draught oxen were in use on Shetland until the mid 1940s. It appears these were shorthorns but a smaller local breed was favoured until about the turn of the century.