Oxen to Tractor October 2023 MSLHG Talk

OCTOBER 2023 TALK – FROM THE SUSSEX OX TO FORDSON MAJOR

On Tuesday 24th October, we were entertained by one of our very regular speakers, Ian Everest, on the progression from oxen on farms to the modern tractor. 

As usual, Ian’s talk was meticulously researched with excellent presentation and many pictures to tell the story.  Ian has a personal family background in farming, particularly in Sussex. He explained how oxen were used to pull everything on farms whereas horses did not come into use until much later. 

Sussex Red Oxen
Sussex Red Oxen

(Photograph from 1910 Contemporary Biographies by W.T. Pike, showing oxen on the South Downs near the village of Exceat in the Cuckmere Valley, East Sussex sourced from Wikimedia Commons.)

One little-known fact is that oxen were shod, like horses, but had cloven hooves and required two shoes!  Oxen were cheap to keep, yoked together in twos and kept that pairing for life.  Usually there was a team of 6 oxen, and they were separated from the other teams on the farm. 

However, oxen were slow and ponderous, albeit strong, and were replaced by horses which were just as powerful and much quicker.  Tractors did come into play until after World War II but got bogged down in the Sussex clay until more modern versions came along. 

Old Fordson Major Tractor
Old Fordson Major Tractor

Judging by the audience response, everyone enjoyed the morning’s talk, and we hope to have Ian back next year.

Photograph of Sussex Red Oxen – Unknown author (Studio of G. & R. Lavis, Eastbourne), Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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