In this blog post, we talk to Phil Gorrian, Volunteers Administrator, to catch up with the training of our pair of Sussex Oxen, Sol and Saxon.
“Initially a small team of seven was established, who began their training by getting to know the oxen – something we achieved by entering their pen and talking to the oxen quietly.
The oxen were naturally a little nervous but relaxed after a few days and appeared to look forward to our company!
Jamie Quinn, a cattle trainer, visited us for a week and patiently taught us how to put on a head harness, tie-up and groom. Sol and Saxon particularly enjoyed their grooming sessions!
After a couple of days, Jamie felt that they were ready to move on and the next test was to put a single yolk on each of the oxen, which they took to really well. Within an hour we progressed to a double yolk, with the boys stood perfectly together.
The double yolk is very heavy and some of the team struggled to lift it, but eventually we all mastered the technique.
During one conversation with Jamie, it was felt that Sol and Saxon were ready to be entered into the Museum’s Rare Breed Show, which takes place each July. Jamie came back to the Museum a week before the show, to continue training and getting the boys ready for their debut in the ring.
This time we brought Sol and Saxon out of their pen for the first time and walked them to the small paddock by Bayleaf farmstead, where they worked around the paddock with their double yolk.
We quickly progressed to attaching a log on a chain to the yolk, so that the oxen could get used to pulling an object.
Stars of the ring
Sol and Saxon were intensely worked and groomed in preparation for their appearance in the ring at the Rare Breeds Show, with most team members taking part.
On the day of the show we had a very early start to give them both their final spruce up. The oxen settled down well in the show pen and performed beautifully in the show ring, winning three rosettes (a first place, second and a third).
Sol and Saxon are now regularly taking a cart around different areas of the Museum as they continue to experience new sights and sounds.
You will be able to see the oxen demonstrating their skills at our Autumn Countryside Show on 8 & 9 October.
We are very proud of Sol and Saxon, and all they have achieved so far. We look forward to working with them as their training journey continues.”
The Museum team would like to thank Arts Council England for supporting the training of our Oxen.