Friday, August 5, 2011
Some Horse Sense About Oxen--the Transportation of The Trail!
If you've ever seen an old Hollywood Western about frontier days, the Oregon Trail, or other Westward migrations, you've been fed a small falsehood.
Those movies, while quite entertaining, insisted on using horses as the animals who conveyed the migrants' covered wagons to the new Territories.
In truth, oxen were the preferred vehicle for Oregon Trail travelers. They cost less than horses, were sturdier, and needed less maintenance. Oxen ate grass, not oats. If there was green on the ground, they could graze to their heart's (and stomach's) content after a long day's trek on the Trail.
Oxen aren't as photogenic as horses, plain and simple. (We think they look pretty cool--they're fun to draw, as well!) Thus, movie makers chose the handsomer horse to lead wagoner's creaking carts on that long, dusty trail.
Next time you see a classic Oregon Trail movie, like the Jimmy Stewart-led 1952 Bend of the River, or the grim, excellent 1951 film Westward, the Women, try to find an ox in the cast! There may be one or two in the background, but the covered wagons will be drawn by horses.
Our graphic novel hopes to put an end to this horsey myth. Oxen rule!