Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bonebag - or - What is an Ox?

Bonebag is a character in Ox Cart Angel; an old, flatulent ox with only one full horn, the other having been broken off when he was younger. Some people have told me that Bonebag is their favorite character (which I'm not sure is a good or a bad thing!)

I didn't grow up on a farm, nor spend much time on one, so when I sat down to write Ox Cart Angel, I didn't know an ox from a rutabaga.

This is a rutabaga...with eyes!

Well, okay, I did know that an ox was some sort of cow-like creature, maybe a bull of some sort, but that's about it. I only knew that an ox cart was pulled by an ox. Otherwise it might have been called a rutabaga cart.

So what is an ox?

Me! Me! Pick me!

An ox is basically a bull who has been castrated, and then trained to work. They also must have horns so that when they are pulling something, the yoke won't slip off of their heads. Luckily, Bonebag still has enough horn left to keep the yoke on his head!

An old wooden yoke

What does it mean to be castrated? It is when the testicles have been cut off of a bull calf. Usually this is done well before he's a year old.

"Wait, what?!"

This might sound cruel - and the bull might agree with you - but this has gone on for thousands of years, and is a way to make bulls less aggressive and to prevent them from breeding.

Oxen in an 11th-century illustration

So now you know what an ox is! 

"Did you know rutabagas have eyes?"
"Nope. I did not know that."

Thanks for stopping by!

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