PRIMORDIAL BEASTS – A BOOK ABOUT OXEN (June 24/13)

Did you know it’s considered an insult to call an ox shoer a farrier, or that the word “ox” is a term of endearment, that oxen predict the weather? Or that oxen have been used as draught animals for over 6000 years, and the Acadians farmed and built their dykes here in Kings County with the aid of oxen?

These are a few on the interesting, little known facts about oxen Carmen Legge divulges in his book on the care, training and use of these hardy animals.  Legge’s book is just off the press – it will officially be launched July 14 at Ross Farm in New Ross – and I’ve been given the privilege of reading and reviewing it.

What an eye opener this has been!  I’ve seen oxen around, mostly at pulling competitions and farm fairs, for as long as I can remember; but I was never fully conscious of the role they played in settling our land.  From the Acadian period right up until relatively recent times, Oxen have played a vital role in field, dyke and forest, helping settlements establish and helping them flourish.

“We can say that societies would not be were they are today (without oxen)” Legge observes in his book.  They were fixtures in the farms of old, performing tasks no other draught animals were capable of handling.  As Legge amply illustrates, there simply would not have been any farms, no clearing of the wilderness or of fields without these animals.

Basically written as a how-to-do book on the care, training and use of oxen, Legge’s book has enough historical background and is so well researched that I recommend it as a good historical read. I’ve often looked with disinterest at oxen plodding along at community fairs but not anymore.  Anachronisms they may be today, but they weren’t always, as you will discover in Legge’s book.

In the book you will be introduced to various words and expressions that in our great grandparent’s days were commonplace.   You will see what farm life was like with oxen and how difficult life would have been without them.  You will discover how important, actually how vital oxen were when Nova Scotia was a wilderness that was waiting for the axe and the plow.

Most of all, you will discover why oxen were cherished for the work they did and why they are still cherished today.  Carmen Legge grew up farming with oxen and his love and understanding of this magnificent animal shines through.  You may wish to skip the sections of his book dealing with the care of oxen but the remainder is educational and enlightening.

Book cover, "Oxen: Their care, training, and use" by Carmen Legge

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