Oxen have slowly but surely made their presence known and have become more popular in the Hudson Valley Draft Horse Association. Beginning in 2005 with a single ox belonging to then-new member Robin Jurechko, of Campbell Hall, Orange County, New York, the association is now seeing more oxen coming to their events — and this year, at the Annual Spring Plow Day, held at Saunderskill Farms in Accord on April 27, there were 11 oxen present.
Visitors to the event were greeted by teenaged Kaleigh Hamel, who is the trainer for Braveheart Beasts oxen and horses, of Montpelier, VT. Kayleigh brought her six-year-old twin Holstein oxen, Simon & Oliver to the event, and at times showed the degree of their calm demeanor by not only sitting on their backs, but riding bareback — at times standing barefoot on the pair, armed only with a long switch.
A team of oxen pulled a wagon and led hayrides all throughout the day, a change from the teams of draft horses of recent years past. And a number of oxen were present and on display, including breeds that were not as familiar to event-goers: A British White Park cow and calf drew many interested onlookers, as owner Dana explained that the British White Park is an ancient British breed, imported from England. They are beautiful white cattle, with dark eyes and insides of their ears, and appeared to be very docile.
Beverley Gould, who hails from Thompson, CT, and is a member of the New England Ox Association, brought her oxen which were a cross developed from Holstein and Randalls. She explained that the Randall breed was almost extinct, having originated in Sunderland, VT; and Holsteins were used to cross breed to increase milk production. The Randalls are an attractive black-and-white with a ‘lineback’ of white along the spine; the cows are noted for being excellent mothers.
The pretty Brown Swiss oxen were also in attendance and were working at Plow Day. Brown Swiss are calm, forgiving, and easy going, and are a good choice for the novice. They do grow faster and larger than many other breeds, with an average size ox reaching 2,400 pounds.
“Frank”, a striking Red Holstein/Milking Devon cross, owned by Robin Jurechko, who was the first member of the HVDHA to bring along an ox to the Spring Plow Event 12 years ago, drew a lot of attention due to his great size and docile temperament.
Oxen are becoming more popular at these events, and ox owners are very supportive of their animals. Oxen are used for many purposes and can readily be trained for purposes such as pulling a wagon, cart or stone boat; logging; giving rides; participating in parades and community events.
For information on Oxen, including breeds and usage, visit www.ruralheritage.com/ox_paddock/oxbreeds1.htm