*© 2010 RC deWinter ~ All Rights Reserved
These large, strong oxen are barely breaking a sweat as they haul the two-plus tons on the stoneboat during an oxen pull. Their trainer/driver runs alongside, shouting encouragement.
Note the crop in the driver’s hand. For those of you concerned about animal welfare, as I am, please know that the crop – or plain old stick, used by most drivers – is generally employed only to direct the animals into position; rarely is an animal struck, and then only lightly to get them to pay attention.
I cannot speak for other states, but Connecticut has a strict code in place as far as conduct during pulls and other animal events, and it is rigorously enforced. In any case, the people who compete in pulls are proud of the time, training and grooming they have invested in their expensive stock, and would be mightily embarrassed to be thought mistreating them.
In the many years I have been observing and photographing pulls in Connecticut, my overwhelming impression is that the participants respect their animals and more often than not will pull their teams out of an event rather than push them to compete when they are tired or clearly cannot handle the weight on the boat.
Digital oils from an original photograph that caught the action of this team which, because of their maturity, size and years of experience, will go on to pull many more tons before they are through for the day.*