Ox vs Bull: What’s the Difference?

Written by August Croft
Updated: October 27, 2023
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If you have always wondered what the differences are between ox vs bull, you’re in the right place. While both of these animals belong to the same species, known as Bos taurus, there are many subtle differences between them. While this answer may surprise you, there are many things you can learn about these two hooved creatures!

In this article, we will discuss the primary differences between ox and bull, including their differences in breeding and gender. We will discuss these creatures primarily as domesticated animals, given their overall breeding and genetic purposes as cattle. If you’ve always wanted to know more about oxen and bulls, read on to learn more.

Comparing Ox vs Bull

Ox vs Bull
CategoryOxBull
GenderMale or femaleAlways male
SizeLarger than bulls on averageSmaller than oxen on average
Castrated?Yes, for the most partNever, for breeding purposes
BreedingBred for work, including pulling carts, heavy machinery, and moreBred for breeding and continuing his preferred bloodline in a herd
PriceLess expensive than bullsMore expensive than oxen

The 5 Main Differences Between Ox vs Bull

ox vs bull

Bulls are bred for their bloodline and continuation of a herd of cows, while oxen are bred for heavy duty work.

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There are many key differences between Ox vs bull. For example, bulls are always male while oxen can be either male or female. Oxen breed for entirely different purposes than bulls. Bulls are bred for their bloodline and continuation of a herd of cows, while oxen are bred for heavy duty work, such as pulling and transportation. This also leads to a significant difference in the price or cost of these two animals. 

Let’s discuss some of these differences in more detail now. 

Ox vs Bull: Gender Differences

One of the main differences between oxen vs bull is their gender. Oxen can be either male or female, though they are often only male, while a bull refers to strictly male cattle. Oxen can be either males or females, depending on their size and hauling capabilities. 

Ox vs Bull: Size and Strength

Another key difference between oxen and bull lies in their respective sizes and strengths. For example, oxen are usually both larger and stronger than bulls are, given that they have been bred for work and transportation purposes. Bulls, while still large, have only been bred for further breeding. 

However, this does not mean that bulls are not strong. Considering their naturally territorial nature over their herd, bulls can cause some serious damage if they feel as if their herd or their own personal safety is threatened. While oxen remain the larger of the two animals on average, their disposition is calmer and they tend to use their strength for work rather than territorial disputes. 

This isn’t to say that oxen weigh more than bulls. While most oxen are physically larger than bulls, they tend to weigh less overall. This is largely due to the fact that bulls have a lot of lean muscle and strength to them, despite their lack of breeding to say otherwise. 

ox vs bull

Oxen can be either male or female, though they are often only male, while a bull refers to strictly male cattle.

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Ox vs Bull: Castration

Another key difference between ox and bulls lies in their sexual maturity and whether or not they are castrated. A bull is never castrated given that his purpose is for breeding, while nearly all oxen are castrated once they reach sexual maturity. This may be a subtle distinction, but it is a key one. When you consider that bulls are bred to further a herd’s bloodline, it is obvious that they cannot be castrated. 

ox vs bull

A bull is never castrated given that his purpose is for breeding, while nearly all oxen are castrated.

©Laura Hedien/Shutterstock.com

Ox vs Bull: Breeding Purposes

We have already mentioned this, but the primary difference between oxen and bulls lies in their breeding purposes. Oxen breed for work, while bulls breed for their genetics and their ability to further the bloodline of their herd. This leads to two very different types of cattle.

While no one would argue that bulls are powerful, oxen have been made much stronger than bulls given their genetic breeding and make up over centuries of farming practices. Bulls are not used to pull heavy machinery or work around a farm like oxen are. The male leader of a herd of cattle is responsible for breeding and protecting his fellow cows and calves, while oxen are made for physical labor. 

ox vs bull

Oxen are bred for work, while bulls are bred for their genetics and their ability to further the bloodline of their herd.

©Flying broccoli/Shutterstock.com

Ox vs Bull: Overall Cost and Purchase Price

A final difference between ox vs bull lies in their purchase price and overall cost. While it is something that you may not have considered yet, bulls are often more expensive than oxen. This is likely due to the fact that bulls are purchased for their bloodline and good breeding, while oxen are purchased as working cattle and it doesn’t necessarily matter what their bloodline is.

There are many different requirements for breeding bulls, and there are many different breeds and beyond. Oxen on the other hand are not held to the same standards. Oxen are reliable, no matter their bloodline. The purchase price of a reliable breeding bull can be extremely high, especially when compared to the price of a humble working oxen.

Is Oxtail Really from Ox, Or Does It Come from Another Animal?

Close up of raw sliced oxtail, spices and rosemary on a wooden board top view

Oxtail is a cut of meat that is used in many dishes.

©Elena Rui/iStock via Getty Images

While we are talking about oxen and bulls, let us dive into another word that often causes some confusion. You may have seen oxtail at the grocery store and wondered if it is what it sounds like and which animal in particular it comes from.

Firstly, oxtail is exactly what comes to mind: meat from an ox’s tail section. This meat selection is cut into sliced segments down the tail. Typically, oxtail is cooked slowly over time to make the meat more tender and also to provide rich flavors to dishes. Oxtail is used by cultures all over the world where beef is raised and eaten.

Secondly, oxtail comes from any type of cattle. Originally, however, the cut of meat came solely from oxen and nothing else.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Wayne Marinovich


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About the Author

August Croft is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on astrology, symbolism, and gardening. August has been writing a variety of content for over 4 years and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theater from Southern Oregon University, which they earned in 2014. They are currently working toward a professional certification in astrology and chart reading. A resident of Oregon, August enjoys playwriting, craft beer, and cooking seasonal recipes for their friends and high school sweetheart.

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