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Ox vs. Cow: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 8, 2023
"Ox" generally refers to a working bovine, often castrated and trained for labor. "Cow" refers to an adult female bovine, especially one that has given birth.

Key Differences

An "ox" is typically an adult male bovine that has been castrated and is used for work, like plowing or hauling, known for its strength and docility. A "cow" is an adult female bovine that has usually borne offspring, often raised for her milk and breeding potential.
The term "ox" is not a specific breed but an indication of the animal's role in agricultural work, requiring training and management for tasks like pulling carts. In contrast, "cow" refers to the animal's sex and reproductive capability, with dairy cows selectively bred for high milk production.
Historically, "oxen" were essential for tasks requiring strength, such as transporting heavy materials, and they are still used in many societies today. "Cows" are primarily valued for their ability to produce milk and sustain the herd through reproduction, vital in dairy and beef industries.
"Oxen" are known for their endurance and strength, making them suitable for heavy labor over long periods. "Cows," on the other hand, have a biology suited for reproduction and lactation, with physical characteristics vastly different from oxen, such as larger udders.
Both "oxen" and "cows" hold significant cultural and economic value. Oxen are celebrated for their role in human labor and historical development, while cows are often revered for their nurturing role, providing milk and representing fertility in various cultures.

Comparison Chart


A bovine trained for work.
An adult female bovine, usually a mother.


Labor, such as plowing and hauling.
Milk production, reproduction, beef.


Strong, muscular, castrated male.
Adult female, often with visible udders.


Work animal in agricultural settings.
Dairy and beef production, mother to calves.

Cultural Value

Symbol of strength and labor.
Often symbolizes fertility and nurturing.

Ox and Cow Definitions


Any bovine used in heavy labor, regardless of sex.
They yoked the ox and started to till the soil.


A fully grown female animal of a domesticated breed of ox.
The cow grazed peacefully in the pasture.


An adult bovine animal used for labor.
The farmer used an ox to plow his fields.


A source of milk, beef, and leather.
Many households depend on a cow for daily sustenance.


A castrated male bovine trained for work.
The heavy cart was drawn by a sturdy ox.


The mature female of cattle of the genus Bos.


A single animal of a team of oxen.
The lead ox had a distinct white marking on its forehead.


The mature female of certain other large animals, such as elephants, moose, or whales.


A symbol of strength and endurance.
In many cultures, an ox represents hard work and resilience.


A domesticated bovine of either sex or any age.


An adult castrated bull of the genus Bos, especially B. taurus, used chiefly as a draft animal.


To frighten or subdue with threats or a show of force.


A bovine mammal, especially one that has been domesticated.


An adult female of the species Bos taurus, especially one that has calved.
Cow milk is the most common form of milk in Europe.


An adult castrated male of cattle (B. taurus), especially when used as a beast of burden.


(formerly inexact but now common) Any member of the species Bos taurus regardless of sex or age, including bulls and calves.


Any bovine animal (genus Bos). A neat, a beef.


(uncommon) Beef: the meat of cattle as food.
The only meat I eat is cow.


Abbreviation of oxygen


(uncommon) Any bovines or bovids generally, including yaks, buffalo, etc.


The male of bovine quadrupeds, especially the domestic animal when castrated and grown to its full size, or nearly so. The word is also applied, as a general name, to any species of bovine animals, male and female.
All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field.


(biology) A female member of other large species of mammal, including the bovines, moose, whales, seals, hippos, rhinos, manatees, and elephants.


An adult castrated bull of the genus Bos; especially Bos taurus


A woman considered unpleasant in some way, particularly one considered nasty, stupid, fat, lazy, or difficult.


Any of various wild bovines especially of the genera Bos or closely related Bibos


(mining) A chock: a wedge or brake used to stop a machine or car.


To intimidate; to daunt the spirits or courage of.
Con artists are not cowed by the law.


The mature female of bovine animals.


The female of certain large mammals, as whales, seals, etc.


A chimney cap; a cowl


A wedge, or brake, to check the motion of a machine or car; a chock.


To depress with fear; to daunt the spirits or courage of; to overawe.
To vanquish a people already cowed.
THe French king was cowed.


Female of domestic cattle:
`moo-cow' is a child's term


Mature female of mammals of which the male is called `bull'


A large unpleasant woman


Subdue, restrain, or overcome by affecting with a feeling of awe; frighten (as with threats)


A female bovine animal, especially one that has produced a calf.
That cow is the best milk producer in the herd.


A large domestic bovine mammal.
The children enjoyed petting the cow at the farm.


A term used in contempt or irritation.
He called his adversary a nosy cow.


Is an "ox" always a male bovine?

Typically, yes, though "ox" refers more to the animal's use for labor than its gender.

How long does a "cow" produce milk?

Cows can produce milk for several years but require regular breeding to maintain milk production.

Can a "cow" be male?

No, "cow" specifically refers to adult female cattle.

At what age is a heifer considered a "cow"?

A heifer becomes a cow after bearing her first calf.

Are "oxen" used modernly?

Yes, in many societies, oxen remain vital for work, especially where machinery is less accessible.

Do "cows" have good memory?

Research suggests cows have impressive long-term memory.

What type of work do "oxen" do?

Oxen commonly do tasks like plowing, pulling carts, and other forms of heavy labor.

Is there a difference in the meat from a "cow" and a steer?

Yes, there can be differences in texture and flavor due to hormonal variations and lifestyle.

How long does it take to train an "ox"?

It varies, but training an ox for work can take several months to a year.

Are "oxen" typically aggressive?

No, oxen are usually trained to be docile and cooperative.

How many stomachs does a "cow" have?

Cows have one stomach with four compartments.

Can "oxen" be used for meat?

Yes, though they're often valued more for labor, oxen can be used for meat.

Do "oxen" work alone or in pairs?

Oxen can work alone but are often trained to work in pairs for better efficiency.

Can "oxen" be of any cattle breed?

Yes, oxen can be from any breed; their designation comes from their role as work animals.

Are "cows" and bulls the same species?

Yes, they're both cattle; the term "cow" refers to females, and "bull" refers to males.

Are "oxen" still relevant in modern agriculture?

In certain regions, yes, oxen are still integral due to their cost-effectiveness and sustainability.

Can you milk a "cow" indefinitely?

No, cows need to be regularly impregnated to continue milk production.

What's the lifespan of an "ox"?

With good care, oxen can live about 12-15 years, sometimes longer.

What's the gestation period for a "cow"?

Approximately nine months.

Can "cows" recognize humans?

Yes, cows can recognize and become familiar with individual humans.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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