Ox Degree

Now, suppose you have three teams of horned steers, all yoked up and pulling your wagon along the Oregon Trail. Ford will point out that you still don’t necessarily have oxen. A true ox, he explains, is a steer (or cow or bull) “with an education.” The “ox degree” is conferred when the animal reaches full maturity at age four and is trained well enough to be called “handy.” “Now, handy means they’ll go anywhere you want,” Ford continues. “They’ll back up, they’ll go right, they’ll go left, they’ll spin back to the right, which is ‘back gee,’ and they’ll spin back to the left, which is ‘back haw.’”