Do you ever go to a flea market and wonder what something is and how it was used?

You never know what unusual collectible you can come across. Here is one that could surprise you. One of our former employees has spent years researching and writing about oxen. She has shared her special knowledge of oxen horn knobs.

Oxen horn knobs fit onto the tips of oxen horns to prevent injury to the oxen in the team and the teamsters who handle them. Oxen horns are made of keratin (like our fingernails) and are filed, so that the horn knobs, which are threaded on the inside, can be screwed onto the horn tips. Horn knobs are removable. For more permanence, epoxy glue can be used. Horn knobs are metal, frequently brass, which is cast in a mold. The tops can be closed or open.

Styles may vary in shape and decoration: round or faceted, plain or engraved. In New England, for example, horn knobs are traditionally round with open tops. A rule of thumb in dating horn knobs: older ones are usually plain in appearance. Today, open tops of oxen horn knobs may be decorated with applied colorful marbles or imitation jewels to add bling. As a collectible oxen horn knobs sell for about $20 each.

 

~From a chapter on working oxen in the forthcoming book Muscle, Bone, and Heart — The Horse and Mule Carried the Burden of the American Civil War by Evelyn Hayes, auctioneer and appraiser of antiques.

oxen horn knobs

Photos: Tim Huppe, co-owner of New England Ox Supply, neoxsupply.com.

 

 

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