Spike Teams

Oxen

Before bicycles became popular during the Civil War, people got about on foot or horseback, and in a variety of four-wheeled conveyances powered by horses, mules, or oxen.  A solitary horse could manage a light-weight buggy and lone mules pulled carts, but heavier wagons were attached to teams of animals, matched pair-by-pair not for their color but for their individual strength and temperament. Six horses were harnessed to stage coaches, ox teams of four to six animals brought the pioneer’s covered wagons across plains and mountains, and up to twelve pairs of yoked oxen were used to haul the massive Conestoga freight wagons between St. Louis and Santa Fe.  A “spike team” was a familiar term for an unusual turn-out of three oxen (two at the wheel and one in the lead) that always attracted much attention when it passed by on city streets.

 

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