Ox Driving

“Modern representations notwithstanding, oxen were not driven by means of reins held by people sitting on the wagon seat. Instead, there were no reins attached to yoked oxen, and the driver walked alongside, controlling his team by shouting (and often by cursing), by cracking his long-handled and long-lashed whip, and sometimes by applying it. Oxen recognized the commands, “Giddap!” [go], “Gee!” [turn to the right], “Haw!” [turn to the left], and “Whoa!” [stop]. . . .

The number of animals to the wagon varied with the size and weight of the wagon and its load, and according to the temperament and wealth of the owner. Four oxen, that is, ‘two yoke’ was the minimum. Three yoke was common, and was recommended. Thus equipped, if you were unfortunate enough to suffer the loss of two oxen, you could still move the wagon.”