Head Yoked Oxen and Sledge

Team of Oxen and Sledge circa 1860-1875.
Team of Oxen and Sledge circa 1860-1875.

The observer is immediately struck by the power and strength portrayed through the gutsy sculptural forms of this boldly conceived pair of oxen.  Though the maker’s carving skills were limited, his mastery of simplicity resulted in artistic success. This unknown Maine toy maker’s oxen exude spirit and power.

‘Strong as an ox,’ aptly describes this pair.

The toy oxen are yoked with an unusual type of  wooden yoke. They are secured together with a head yoke. Leather bindings secure the yoke around the forelocks and horns of the oxen’s heads. Typically yokes have rounded, ‘U’ shaped hoops which fit around the oxen’s necks. The tops protrude through the top of the yoke at the shoulder piece. Metal hooks on the yoke held a ring, which attached to the sled or a wagon tongue.

Like full scale prototypes, the toy wooden dredge sled is built in two sections. This allows the loaded sled to negotiate turns and curves. When snow covered the ground, large wooden sleds were used to haul lumber, feed to the animals, and to gather maple syrup buckets. The handmade wooden oxen pulling a double sledge sled are toy versions of the oxen pulling a sledge loaded with logs shown in Durries’ 1866 painting.

  • Maker: Unidentified.
  • Origin: Found in Maine.
  • Circa: 1860-1875.
  • Material: Carved wood oxen with painted wood yoke and dredge sled.
  • Size: 24”L x 7”W x 6”H.
  • Provenance: Made and found in Maine.