Among the many assorted relics that muddle the blacksmith store at our farm is a small iron object formed like a comma. In regards to the measurement of a kid’s hand, it was discovered on the former website of Outdated City within the space now often known as West Golden Hills. It seems to be vaguely acquainted, however few individuals can determine what was as soon as a standard object on this space: an oxen shoe.
Oxen are cattle which have been bred and skilled to work like draft horses. Any cattle which might be used for pulling can technically be known as oxen, even beef breeds like Angus or Hereford, however historically work oxen have been steers from breeds that had been developed for hundreds of years for pulling wagons or carts, plowing and different heavy duties.
Though there is not a lot in the best way of written or photographic proof of oxen getting used within the Tehachapi Mountains, they have been definitely right here and I’ve situated a couple of images and a few references mentioning their presence. And as talked about there are oxen footwear in native collections, together with one on the Tehachapi Museum — actually iron-clad proof that these docile laborers helped people settle this space.
In contrast to horses, oxen have cloven ft and thus require a two-part shoe for every foot. The 2 halves seem like opposing citation marks, and like horseshoes they’re nailed into place. As a result of the partitions of an oxen’s hoof aren’t as thick as a horse’s, smaller nails are used and the shoe itself is product of thinner iron.
Shoeing oxen is harder than horses, partly as a result of they’re very heavy and have issue balancing on three legs. Because of this, they have been typically positioned in a rack with a sling contraption when one was out there, and the foot being shod was buckled to a padded foot relaxation to assist assist the animal. When no shoeing rack was out there, farriers might slide a number of bales of straw below the oxen’s stomach for assist.
I used to be advised by oldtimers that farmers who used oxen weren’t captivated with bringing them in for shoeing, saying that shoeing was more durable on the oxen than per week’s value of labor, and they also left them barefooted each time doable. Farriers or blacksmiths weren’t eager on the duty both, and charged extra for shoeing an ox than for a horse.
Whereas films about settlers transferring West often depict the wagons being pulled by horses, that is in all probability resulting from the truth that horses groups are a lot simpler to acquire for filming than oxen groups, which are actually extraordinarily uncommon. In actuality, nonetheless, a lot of America’s westward enlargement was powered by slow-moving, placid oxen.
Oxen have been usually stronger than horses, particularly the male cattle, which is why steers have been usually used. Oxen moved extra slowly, virtually at all times at a stroll, however they very seldom bolted in fright or resulted in runaways.
Horses might transfer extra rapidly, and have been extra versatile as a result of even draft horses could possibly be saddled and ridden when not being utilized in harness. Oxen, alternatively, have been very seldom ridden and have been used virtually completely with a yoke to drag wagons and implements.
Nearly the entire outdated iron or metal footwear that I’ve discovered within the Tehachapi space have been utilized by equines — horses, mules and ponies. Whereas there are many pleasure using horses round Tehachapi immediately, again within the 19th century a excessive proportion of native horses have been draft animals that pulled buggies, wagons and farm gear, and lots of the outdated horseshoes have been hand-forged for work horses.
However as soon as in awhile I encounter an outdated oxen shoe, and I think about the time lengthy vanished when groups of highly effective however mild oxen slowly plodded their approach by way of the Tehachapi Mountains.
Have a great week.
Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi Information for greater than 30 years. Ship electronic mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.