Star and Stripe have been getting a workout twice a day when I am at the farm. The process provides a glimpse into our agricultural past, when farmers grew their own "tractors" to get their heavy work done. It also brings to life stories that many of our visitors have read, like "Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder, in which Almanzo trains his calves Star and Bright, and Ox Cart Man written by Donald Hall and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ox-Cart_Man
In addition to giving a living portrayal of farmers in the past, and in literature, Star and Bright give us a look at the lives of millions of farmers around the world who rely on oxen for farm work and transport. I have been fortunate to learn about training oxen from Dick Roosenberg, who directs Tillers International, out of Michigan. You can see Tillers in action on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLZkZ-4Y9fY
A favorite training method of Dick's is the "long walk". I have been using this on a daily basis with Star and Stripe. We yoke up and drag a heavy logging chain for a quarter to half a mile. Oxen learn best by repetition, and by slowly increasing what is demanded of them. Every week they do a little more, pull a little more weight, and go a little further. The Swahili proverb I learned in Kenya, "haba na haba hujaza kibaba" is appropriate here. It means "little by little, the container is filled". Small steps over a long period end up in a long journey.
At the turn of the 20th century, New Jersey farmers had largely set oxen aside in favor of horses, but there were some still at work in our neighborhood around 1900. I like to talk about the horse team and wagon being my Great Grandfather's "pickup truck" and the ox team and cart being George Washington's.