Not Such A Stupid Ox After All

In Trekking The Great Thirst, Lieutenant Arnold W Hudson tells of some of the difficulties facing travellers into unexplored territory in the late 1800s. He was making his way into the Kalahari and stated that in this extremely dry part of Africa bullocks were invaluable.  “Indeed one can do nothing without them and in the sand they are more useful for slow work than horses so they are used a great deal for packing and riding. Packing is a complicated business. It takes three men to pack an ox.  One controls it by a riem (thong) passed through its nostril, then there is one on each side to balance and secure the load on the beast’s back.  The load is secured by passing a long riem round and round, over the back and under the belly of the animal and after each circle tightening it by pressing a knee against the ox and pulling for all they are worth.  This packing is a fine art because many an old bullock, used to the ways of the road, will blow himself op during packing and then, when he thinks the loaders are finished and ready to move off, he will breathe out and assume his normal size. The pack then becomes loose and falls off. There is no alternative but to start from the beginning again, but if the ox is not properly tethered while the load is being re-assembled – and this is often the case as the trek was ready to leave – he simply sets off. Once they get away they are extremely difficult to catch.”  Hudson had a great deal of trouble with pack bullocks. His loads kept tumbling off.

© Rose’s Roundup, July 2011 (No 210)

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