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Long forgotten, oxen will make history once more

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The 50th anniversary of the All-American Dairy Show (AADS) which will be celebraqted in Harrisburg next month, is an opportunity to also celebrate a half-century of dairy cattle contributions, and to promote the rich legacy of dairy cattle to the industry and the general public.

Long forgotten is the key role dairy cattle played in providing draft (pulling) power that helped create an agricultural revolution, cleared land, harvested timber, and provide draft power to move early settlers across the U.S. to.tame a new land.

Dairy cattle have been a primary source of draft (pulling) animals throughout history. Indeed, some dairy breeds are dual purpose (milk and meat) or triple purpose (milk, meat and draft). The past will come alive at the Harrisburg show when teams of oxen an their drivers will get their time in the spotlight.

What is an Ox? There is no special breed of oxen. Any bovine bull calf (dairy or beef) may eventually become an ox. Generally, the calf is castrated at around six months of age. At this point he is often called a steer. If he is being trained to work he is called a "working steer". At four years of age the steer may be called an "ox" if he is trained to work.

All seven breeds of dairy cattle shown at the AADS can be and are used for oxen. In addition, lesser known dairy breeds such as Milking Devon, Dutch Belted and Lineback provide oxen. Many oxen result from crossing dairy breeds or by combining beef breeds with dairy breeds.

Working steers and oxen are novelty animals. Rarely seen in Pennsylvania, they attract large crowds at fairs and public events in the New England states, which have very active 4-H oxen clubs and programs. The largest oxen show in the world today is held at the Fryeburg, Maine Fair. Now in its 163nd year, over 300 teams of oxen compete in performance and pulling contests at this renowned fair. The grandstands are filled with several hundred spectators for each event.

To justify costly travel by oxen ownersfrom Pennsylvania, surrounding states and New England, oxen demonstrations will be held on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons of the 50th anniversary All-American Dairy Show. Details follow:

Saturday, Sept. 14, from 1:00 - 3 :00 p.m. in the Large Arena
Sunday, Sept. 15, from 1:00 - 3 :00 p.m. in the Equine Arena .

The idea for the oxen demonstrations came about when Darwin Braund of State College attended the Fryeberg Fair in Maine and was amazed to see several barns devoted just to oxen and working steers. They competed in teams by class weight of 500 lbs. intervals from 500 lbs. to 35011bs. and over. Most impressive was the size of the enthusiastic crowds which applauded the judge's decisions following each class.

Darwin returned to Fryeburg in 2011, accompanied by Charlie Itle, former manager of the All-American Dairy Show, to get more personal expereince with the world's greatest oxen show. They made several key contacts during three days, and had productive meetings with the Fair's livestock superintendent, official judge and experienced exhibitors.

In addition they met with Mark Winslow who is "Mr. Oxen" in the State of Maine. Charlie and Darwin discussed several ideas at length and the oxen exhibition at the 50th anniversary of the All-Ameican Dairy Show was one of of the results.