Ox Vs Cow (Classified, Differences and Quick Facts)

Ox Vs Cow

Despite both being cattle, an ox is different from a cow. An ox is an adult male cattle (called bull) that has been castrated. The cow is female cattle basically reared for meat and milk production. Conversely, oxen are majorly raised for heavy-duty functions like plowing, transport, or hauling wagons, where the ox’s tremendous strength comes in valuable.

The OX vs. cow is an ageless confusion. In this guide, we will do more than differentiating the ox from the cow on just the basis of gender. We will talk about their temperament and appearance differences. Also, this article sheds light on how oxen and cows are related, the digestive systems of cows, and their milking regimen.

What are Cows Classified as?

Cows are classified scientifically as Bostaurus. This is the cattle family, which also consists of cows and bulls. The existence of this Bostaurus family can be traced to no less than 10,000 years ago.

Animals in this family are believed to have evolved from Aurochs, a cluster of wild beasts. Compared to the modern Bostaurus (as seen in cows and bulls), the Aurochs were two times bigger.

Such Aurochs had their predominant populations situated in Europe, North Africa, and Asia. There were significantly more aggressive.

Sustained cycles of evolution and natural selection are said to have caused the Auroch to produce offspring – as in the Bostaurus family – that are much docile and easier to domesticate.

What is an Ox?

The existence of oxen can be traced as far as 4000BC, where massive oxen populations were spread across North America and Europe.

An ox yet belongs to the same cattle family as cows. But unlike the bull – which is the adult male cattle – the ox has been neutered. Such castration contributes enormously to its ruggedness and tenacity.

These hardy features are helpful in high-intensity physical exertions like pulling machinery, plowing, and pulling wagons. Despite such high levels of resilience, the ox is far more docile, losing the bull’s notorious aggressiveness.

Over the years, the population density of wild oxen is dwindling across the world. While there are yet substantial wild oxen populations in Asia and Africa, there is barely a handful in South America and Australia.

Differences Between Oxen and Cows

Despite both being cattle, there are several differences between both, spanning appearance, temperament, and even deployment. How about we examine these differences?


Compared to oxen, cows are smaller. More than their size difference, a cow can be identified from a regular ox by the udders decking the cow’s rear flank.

Of course, mature cows (say those older than 4 years) have pronounced breasts. For younger cows – called heifers – their udders don’t hang that like the adult cow.

Oxen don’t have such mammary glands. Instead, they have teats, and no scrotum, with the latter’s absence attributable to their neutering.


In contemporary society, oxen and cows have very dissimilar uses. Prevalently, cows are reared either for breeding purposes or their milk. Cows are mega milk producers, with only the first two years of their lifespan spared from milk production.

It is only by its tenth year that the cow will stop milk production or breeding calves. By then, their use is now exclusive to meat production or their hides being processed into leather products.

For oxen, their primary purpose is agricultural deployment. You see oxen being deployed in plowing or pulling machinery or carts in less mechanized agriculture or subsistence farming.

The ox is up to such laborious tasks as it is more muscularly built than the normal cow. Its resilience levels to physical exertion are much higher, with the ox being more manipulatable than bulls. The latter’s inflammable temperament makes them unfit for such tasks.


Cows are far more hostile than the ox. Being castrated, the ox loses a massive bulk of its aggressiveness. Far more docile, the ox is easier to control.

Such levels of obedience are not readily attainable in cows who rarely shy away from conflicts. It is no secret that cows are quicker to ram, kick, crush, or even bite when infuriated.

Are Oxen Native to North America?

Well, oxen are not indigenous to North America. Large herds of oxen and cattle generally are known in a time to move through North America.

A dig in history reveals that oxen (or cattle) were first introduced to the North American continent by Spanish conquistadors seeking gold. These explorers had brought along a sizable population of Andalusian cattle (commonly called black cattle and were notably wiry with slender legs). These cattle were eventually left to wander on the Caribbean Islands.

Abandoned to their own, these herds thrived independently, soon becoming the wild herds that moved across the continent.

Such cattle impressively adapted to the rougher and less polished conditions of the wild, consequently growing stronger bones, becoming swifter to gain more speed. Also, their temperament became more prone to vigorous bursts of aggression.

Are Oxen Still Used Today?

Compared to the early 40s and older times, we have far lesser use for oxen today, especially in very developed and industrial societies. There, traditional roles of oxen agriculture have been massively mechanized or automated. Therefore, the need for neutering such bulls is almost non-existent.

Nonetheless, oxen still retain critical responsibility in more rural parts of North America, Africa, and Asia. Such oxen yet have their place in the subsistence agriculture practiced in such interior villages.

In such areas, oxen are more valuable than just logistics (or transport) duties. Their waste is also deployed as fertilizers to manure farms. Oxen are also used in such communities in rice paddies. The oxen are valuable in such scenarios where machinery would be hampered.

Are Oxen Related to Cows?

There is no doubt about the biological connection between oxen and cows. As said, cows are female adult cattle. Oxen are male cattle (otherwise bulls) adapted into draft animals by castration.

Can Oxen Swim?

Like cows, oxen are not the most avid of swimmers, but they would when the necessity arises, or their deployment demands it. It is not uncommon to find an ox swimming through a lake either for grazing or farming deployment.

Oxen swim just as well as cows. In the September of 2019, when the infamous Hurricane Dorian blasted Cedar Island, three cows hit the headlines for swimming through a distance equivalent to 5 miles of the Atlantic Ocean. Oxens can repeat such swimming feats too.

Do Oxen Have Horns?

Yes, they have horns as typical of cattle.

Do Oxen Have Front Teeth?

Oxen – as characteristic of the cattle family – are herbivores. This means they don’t have the regular upper front teeth most animals (especially carnivores or omnivores) have.

Such lack of frontal teeth alludes to the evolution of cows. With the bulk of their food derived from grasses and forages, oxen from time didn’t have much need for incisive cutting.

Instead, there was more need for grinding and transportation of fodder into their oral cavity. This could explain why oxen’s tongues are adapted to pack and pull in grasses, while their lower frontal teeth excel at shearing off the foliage. 

With such a reduced need for the traditional front teeth, the frontal incisors wouldn’t have done oxen any good, hence their absence.

Is Ox Meat Considered to be Beef?

Of course, ox meat is beef. Beef is generally meat obtained from cattle, and ox happens to be cattle. However, compared to a cow, ox beef is leaner and more muscular.

Are Cows Milked Every Day?

Cows have serious milking needs. It is understood that a mature cow must be milked twice daily for ten months in the year. Sounds yummy or like work?

A cow that is not regularly milked suffers tremendously, and her milk production would be altered. If you own a cow, you are at liberty to arrange your milking regimen.

You can milk them at just any time in the day, provided the two times (recommended for one day) are at least 12 hours apart. Commonly, cow owners milk them around 8 in the morning and then around 6 in the evening.

Are Cows Aggressive?

Agreed, cows are not the most docile of animals, but this doesn’t mean they are avid aggressors. It is rare to see a cow display aggression when unprovoked.

Naturally, cows get aggressive when they are introduced to new surroundings, or they feel threatened. Expect aggression from a mothering cow who perceives its calf as threatened.

When a cow is introduced into a new herd, and the pecking hierarchy is consequently reordered, the cow would show aggression to stake its social status or rank in the herd.

Of course, cows can also get aggressive in response to pain. When you hit a cow or spook it such that it feels notable levels of discomfort, expect it to respond with aggression. This said, cows are rarely as aggressive as bulls.

How Many Stomachs Does a Cow Have?

Basically a cow has one stomach that has four compartments – a common trait of ruminant animals. This explains why cows are commonly said to have four stomachs. These compartments include the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum.

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