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how fast can oxen go?
Posted by Sarah at 2014-03-05 13:45:28
I am trying to be as accurate and realistic as possible with a short story I am writing about a boy driving a team of steer from one farmhouse to another. How much time would it usually take for him to travel 10 miles? The steer are young and not well-trained so I will be adding time for that consideration, but I need to know how much time it would take at a normal, well-trained steer pace. Would a pace of 15 minutes per mile be too fast or too slow? Thanks for the help.
Response by lc at 2014-03-05 21:13:37
Your estimate at 15 minutes per mile equals 4 miles per hour. I would think that is too fast. I did find this on yahoo answers: It sounds reasonable to me.

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Malruhn answered 5 years ago
An ox walks right about two miles per hour - and in areas (or ERAS) that used them, they covered about ten miles per day, because the oxen had to be rested, fed and watered periodically or they would either pull up lame or just flat-out stop.

In the Middle Ages, most people were born, lived their entire lives and died within TEN miles, and never traveled outside of the area in which they were born.
I'm a history buff, and also into transportation modes.
Response by lc at 2014-03-05 21:16:33
Here is another source that say's 3 mph
Response by kelly in tx at 2014-03-05 22:55:15
Nora, oxen would do a 15 minute mile when pigs fly. I've done hundreds of miles of driving my horses on trail rides. Trail rides (with horses/mules) usually cover a mile in about 20 minutes.
Two true stories: 1) When my ancestors were "homesteading" an itinerant preacher often walked out from town (5 to 7 or 8 miles) and preached. The farmers would always offer him a ride back, but because all used oxen, he could walk much faster than to accept the ride. 2) On a trail ride we once camped in the middle of a 3,000 population town. A wagon pulled by two young oxen joined us there. As we neared the edge of town the oxen & driver had given up attempting to keep up and had gone back. So . . . within about a mile, they were so far behind they gave up. I think the Santa Fe trail freight was mostly hauled by oxen. I think their average speed was about a mile and a half per hour. kelly
Response by NoraWI at 2014-03-06 06:32:30
Nora?! Do I have a doppleganger?
Response by Vicki at 2014-03-06 07:58:10
Oxen walk generally at the driver's pace.

I have trained and worked several oxen. A young pair, not actually pulling any actual load, would typically go at a brisk walk; that is about 3 mph. They might try to run a bit or hurry up to say 4 mph. They will go about this pace with a wheeled cart, slower if dragging a sled or stoneboat. If the breed is Swiss or Holstein, those tend to walk more slowly than others.

Ten miles would be the better part of a day walking with oxen. Oxen pulling freight in the heat of the southwest were of course much slower than a boy with young steers would be on a pleasant day.
Response by KC FOX at 2014-03-06 20:28:36
when driving cows and calves we figured 2.5 miles per hour. not on a road just across pastures. If I ride a horse for 1 month he will walk at a pace of 4-6 miles per hour. some will singlefoot about 9-13
Response by Gerry at 2014-03-07 00:40:33
I've driven my oxen in a number of wagon trains, living history projects, recreated Civil War Campaigns, and just plain work. There is also a book entitled, _The Great Platt River Road_ that will give you the same figures.

Planning figures for a wagon drawn by oxen are two miles an hour and fourteen miles a day. We ran an experiment on the bridle paths in Daniel Boone National Forest with a wagon and a team of four. We got from four miles to fourteen miles per day depending on the terrain. In really rough country in Tennessee, near Jamestown, we averaged six miles a day. On flat country in Kisatchee National Forest in Louisiana, during one of the recreated Civil War Red River campaigns I did twenty-six miles in a day with a wagon and team of four. It took us fourteen hours. Two years ago, we did the march from Corinth to Shiloh, for the 150th anniversary reenactment of the battle and we did eigteen miles in a ten hour day. I hope this helps a little.
Response by Dale Wagner at 2014-03-07 10:55:52
The distence would be mostly on how much feed was available and how far between water. If they had to graze 20 hours to get enough feed for a day, they couldn't go very far compared to only needing to graze 2 hours. If it was 30 miles to the next water, they needed to do that in 2 days.
As for maximum speed, they can do about 30 miles an hour if they are excaping but if they don't want to go, a mile an hour. We used to trail cows and calves ten miles to the next coulee. We'd get them on the road and set the dogs on them for a couple of minutes. Those OLD cows would grab their calves and go at a dead run to get away to the pasture. The ones that didn't know the way might travel less than 2mph.
Response by Ken P. at 2014-03-07 17:33:02
A lot has to do with how they are trained. If you walk fast (a young man) and ( or they are young also) and you keep after them they will soon match your speed.

I have been told that 4 to 6 team of Devans pulled loaded wagons of farm goods from the Springfield area to the markets in Boston (100? miles) and would get into a trot headed home.

Oxen will move when headed to the barn.
Response by Don McAvoy at 2014-03-08 19:27:58
Second fastest animal on earth is a cow with foot rot and a tree belt 200 yards away when you try to pasture rope them.
Response by KC FOX at 2014-03-09 21:43:14
just leave a gate open for 10 minutes no cows within 1 mile when you get back to the gate they will all be out. I know that is fast but it happens every time I leave a gate open.
Response by Sarah at 2014-08-26 09:37:40
Your answers are so helpful and some are funny. The sad part of my predicament in trying to figure this out is that my story is based on a real event. My grandfather had to drive two young steer home when he was about 10 or 12 years old. He told me the story once. I know where he lived then and am pretty sure about his starting point and it was a very winding route that involved a smallish mountain pass and might have been 10 miles. I have to measure it because I could be wrong on the distance. He said he had all sorts of trouble and didn't get home until after dark, probably well after dark. He passed away last year so I can't get any more details. I tried when he was alive, but he didn't like to talk about a lot of that stuff. So, this would have been about 1928-1930. Maybe the steer sped up on the downhills? Maybe after dark they wanted to go faster? It seems incredible to me that he did this but I know he wasn't making it up about the trouble getting home and getting back after dark. He wasn't happy with his father for leaving him at the farm where they got the steer and saying "they're yours, you bring them home".

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