By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
The Shoeing of Oxen
Placeholder Image

American oxen in the Santa Fe trade weighed 1,800 to 2,000 pounds. One yoke of oxen in 1864 "weighed 430 pounds each, but were not fat, were a full eighteen hands (six feet) tall, five feet, ten inches long, and eight feet around the girth." On the other hand, Mexican oxen were smaller than the American steers. Thomas Burns, a settler in early territorial Kansas, described them "as small Mexican cattle, many of them black or black and tan in color and they all had short horns."

Oxen were notorious for their tender feet. Josiah Gregg wrote that in the early days of the Santa Fe trade, oxen were shod with what he called moccasins made of raw buffalo hide. This invention worked rather well until the rawhide became wet and soon wore through. In time, oxen were shod with iron shoes, the split hoof requiring two shoes. In almost every frontier settlement was a farrier who maintained a contraption used to secure oxen while they were being shod. By means of a belly band and a windlass, the ox was elevated and his feet extended one at a time. The shoes were thus nailed to hooves in the same manner as equines were shod. These contraptions were variously called an ox press, ox sling or shoeing stall.

If an ox press was not available, the ox was "cast," to use a modern term from veterinarian practice. That is, ropes were attached to the ox’s feet and by pulling the ropes, the ox was put off balance and laid on his side. Thus, the animal could be restrained while the shoes were attached.