(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved. Contact us for information about using this image.
Oxen are steers (castrated bulls) trained to work yoked together in pairs. Their strength and easygoing disposition made them invaluable assets to a farmer. Farmers who did not own oxen often paid neighbors to use their team for spring plowing and other work. Even after tractors appeared on the scene, farmers still found oxen useful for tasks such as winter logging. Oxen were less swift but are more powerful than mules and horses. They also were less expensive to feed than horses, and were better able to withstand harsh New England winters. These oxen are pulling a cart loaded with hay in Montague, Massachusetts. The man with the whip is the driver. He cracked the whip to get the oxen's attention. He guided them with voice commands. For example, "Gee" meant turn right, "Haw" meant turn left, and "Come up" meant to move forward.