It seems something has gotten lost in the history shuffle.
What about the Ox?
A lot has been said about the role horses have played in our past and the building of our nation, but nothing much is ever said about Oxen.
We get excited about finding horse rings, horse rosette’s, and sometimes even horse shoes, but no one seems to get excited about finding ox shoes or ox knobs. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until recently that I even knew what an ox knob was, and I call them “unfortunate” because when I did find out what they were, I realized I had been tossing them in the garbage for years simply because I didn’t know what they were.
The “unfortunate ox knob” I’ve discovered is an item often misidentified or thrown away by detectorists along with a pile of shotgun shells and nails. Understandable, because they appear to be some random piece of plumbing hardware that when found, makes you wonder—what the heck is this doing in the middle of the nowhere? Ahh… I should have known, since its in the middle of nowhere, but then again, I find pull tabs in some pretty remote areas that one would swear no one has ever set foot on.
Of course, as is my nature, when I dig up or discover some type of relic that intrigues me, I do a little bit of research on it. I’ve written a little about oxen in the past because of my uncanny ability to locate every oxen shoe at every site I hunt. Not something to brag about for sure, but as I said previously, those darn oxen shoe signals get me every time.
So for those of you who are wondering why there are so many oxen shoes and ox knobs out there, here is a little history of the majestic ox:
The early colonists knew that cattle could survive under conditions that would kill a horse, so they had no choice but to use oxen.
Oxen preferred cool weather, and having no fear of water they were worked in the wet soils and swamps of New England, providing the power necessary to bring people to newly settled areas.
Oxen worked at a slow pace, and had a patient manner, which made them less likely to break farm implements pulled through rocky hillside fields. They were used for logging, moving stones, pulling stumps, plowing fields, making roads, hauling carts and sleds, and they even pulled covered bridges into place and moved large buildings.
Their importance continued through the 18th and 19th centuries, and long after much of America had given up using the ox, they continued to be used in New England because they were well suited for the needs of the New England farmers.
As for the unfortunate ox knob (also called horn knobs and ox balls), these items were usually made of brass, and were a decorative way to keep the oxen from instinctively sharpening their horns. The knobs were screwed onto the horns, and then the sharp tips were either filed down or cut off. They also protected people and other animals from the oxens sharp horns.
So, with all the oxen used in settling this country, it’s easy to see how these knobs are a frequent find among detectorist’s, and now that I know what they are, I won’t be throwing them away anymore.
Comments on “The Unfortunate Ox Knob”
Very informative! I liked this.
Thx Jess–It makes me wonder how many other things I may have thrown away that actually were something.
Have a feeling I might have one or two of those in my UMO boxes, but they are buried in the garage along with everything else but our cars. You taught me something here Diva… Thank you.
Well at least you saved yours!
I have so many ox nobs but now I usually just throw them in my brass and copper scrap bucket. I hate them because they sound exactly like a copper coin. The good thing is that they have a good brass weight content which will return a decent dollar amount when exchanging my copper and brass scrap.
Well it was either you or Dave that clued me in on what the “unfortunate” item I found was, so thanks to you–or to him. And yes the signal does sound very promising.
I’m looking forward to another day of hunting for oxen shoes with you guys.
Thanks for the info on Ox Knobs. I thought they were a brass nut used on plumbing fixtures. I have found a few but now I will look at them with more interest, I enjoy finding ox shoes and feel they date mostly pre – 1850’s???
I also thought they were some type of plumbing hardware.
From what I’ve researched, oxen’s use steadily declined through the 1800’s. If you find an oxen shoe, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, as that usually means the site your hunting is pretty old.
Great info, great site! Good to have a little background on this seemingly insignificant find that IS actually significant.
Hope it was helpful. Can’t tell you how many ox knobs I threw away before I knew what they were. Poor Ox gets no respect.
Hello! I’m a small-scale dairy farmer in Vermont. I leave the horns on my cows (most farmers burn or cut them off) and I’m looking for some ox knobs to install on their horn tips. New knobs are pretty expensive and it looks like they pretty much last forever. Would anyone be willing to sell or donate some to me?! It would also be neat to put some old stuff to good use. Check out my website.. http://www.mountainhomefarm.com and please email. firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested. Thanks so very much! Lindsay
We recently purchased what we thought were powder horns at an auction under careful examination and help from your article we realized we had a set of ox horns with knobs still on them . Thank you! A little peice of American history and a treasure!
Fantastic! Glad I could be of help. Thanks for stopping by.
Thank you for this info!!!
I as you have thrown many of these away But I will no longer……
You’re welcome. They are an odd relic until you know what they are. Happy Hunting!
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