Difference between an Ox, a Bull, and a Cow

By: | Updated: Nov-11, 2021
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Some people find it hard to differentiate between the varieties of cattle. They might think that oxen and bulls are the same, and that “cow” is just another term for all cattle. So how then are these animals differentiated from each other? Read this article to learn the characteristics of an ox, a bull, and a cow, and understand how these animals differ from one another.

Summary Table

Ox Bull Cow
Male cattle Adult male cattle Adult female cattle
Castrated bulls Fertile Fertile
Docile in nature Aggressive in nature Domesticated animals
Often larger than bulls Smaller than oxen but more muscular than cows Less muscular than an ox and a bull
Used as a draft animal (for pulling machinery) or for riding Stud animals, used to mate with females Used to mate with bulls and carry calves


An ox

An ox is an adult male cattle. This animal is commonly castrated, and is utilized primarily for plowing, hauling wagons, or transport. It is a strong and resilient animal and is a sturdy companion for pulling vehicles and even heavy machinery. Oxen are typically docile in nature.

A bull

The term bull is used to identify fertile male cattle. They are not castrated and are used as stud animals to mate with female cattle. Bulls are not sterilized to maintain the cattle population size. These animals are often aggressive in nature.

A cow

Cows are the adult female cattle. They are fertile animals and can mate with bulls and carry calves. Cows are often docile in nature.

Ox vs Bull vs Cow

The main difference between an ox, a bull, and a cow is the use of each type of cattle. Both the ox and the bull are male cattle, while the cow is female. Another differentiation between an ox and a bull is that the oxen are castrated but bulls remain intact.

Bulls and cows are both fertile animals and are expected to mate in order to maintain the cattle population.

The bull is able to keep his testicles and pass along his genes through natural or artificial breeding.

Oxen who are often misrepresented as water buffalo are docile in nature and often used as riding animals or for pulling heavy machinery. Bulls, on the other hand, are aggressive. They are often smaller than oxen but more muscular than dairy cows.

Oxen have four legs while bulls have two legs. Oxen also have smaller horns while bulls have larger horns.

Oxen are generally heavier than bulls, weighing up to 1,000 pounds compared to 600 pounds for bulls. The heaviest ox is thought to be over 2,000 pounds while the heaviest bull is thought to be over 1,500 pounds.

Oxen are domesticated animals while bulls are wild animals that live in herds with the cows. However, in the past, wild oxen were found to move freely across North America.

Bulls may live up to 20 years in the wild whereas oxen may live up to 10 years in the wild.

Bulls usually mate with cows or heifers which produce calves every year and usually give birth during the summer months between May and July.

Cows also typically give birth during this time of year but calve every year throughout the spring and summer months between April and June as well as during November through January as well as February through March depending on the region of the world where they live.

Bulls are also generally bred for meat production while oxen are bred for other purposes such as for traction, agriculture, and draft work. Oxen are also used in heavy duty equipment.

Bulls have horns that grow out of their heads whereas oxen do not have horns that grow out of their heads. Oxen also do not have horns on their tails and tails of bulls can grow up to four feet long.

Bulls and cows or beef cattle usually live together in herds although some bulls live alone and some cows live alone in herds without bulls.

Oxen live alone in herds because they were bred for labor instead of breeding for beef production.

Cows were bred to produce milk and calves so it is more efficient to breed them with bulls than with oxen.

Bulls and cows or can produce milk while oxen cannot produce milk.

Bulls and cows can live up to 20 years of age in the wild whereas oxen live up to 10 years in the wild.

Characteristics of Oxen

Although they both are breed of cattle, oxen have several differences from bulls.

Let’s take a look at some of these differences:

Oxygen intake: Ox (plural oxen) requires less oxygen than Bulls to breathe since their bodies are shorter than those of bulls.

Feeding: Oxen or also known as a bullock in Australia, eat very little; bulls like to eat all the time!

Characteristics of Bulls

Bull is usually addressed as a male cow. These adult male of the species Bos taurus are strong, powerful and majestic creatures. The bull has been a constant symbol of strength and power.

But these animals require more food to maintain their body weight as compared to oxen.

Bulls will eat just about anything that they can get their hands on such as hay, corn, oats, apples, or even sweet potatoes! They will even attack other animals such as chickens if they think that they might be getting food out of it!

Bulls also have a stronger and more muscular body as compared to oxen. Bulls tend to be willful and sometimes violent, but oxen are generally calm and peaceful.

A bull may try to take control of the oxen when they are in harness, but the bull cannot keep control of them once they are unhitched from the cart or plow.

Bulls also have a more aggressive temperament than oxen. Because of these aggressive temperament, Bull calves have been used in bull fighting and bull riding.

Is Taurus an ox or bull?

The general nature of the Taurus personality is known to all astrologers. Its noble, honest, honest and sincere character gives it a fixed nature. It is usually the embodiment of truth, justice and integrity.

The physical characteristics of the constellation are not very obvious either. It does not have a prominent star that stands out in the sky to catch the eye. This star is called Aldebaran, or better known as Alpha Tauri.

Alpha Tauri is at present considered to be a hot star which makes it appear red in colour when viewed from Earth’s surface.

When looking at Alpha Tauri from the south-west hemisphere towards the north-east, it appears to stand on one leg with its other leg being at about 40 degrees elevation from its left side (it’s direction).

When viewed from our northern hemisphere towards our southern hemisphere however, this same star appears on one leg with its other leg being at about 80 degrees elevation from its left side (again, it’s direction).

This is the same star that the ancient Greeks knew as Taurus. From this point of view, we can see that Alpha Tauri is in fact an ox and not a bull.

However, when viewed from the northern hemisphere towards the southern hemisphere, we will see that it is indeed a bull and not an ox.

The same applies to other stars in this constellation; we will find that all these stars are in fact oxen and not bulls. This makes it obvious why this constellation was given the name of Taurus (the Bull).

The “Bull” is the zodiac sign of Taurus. It symbolizes loyalty, tenderness and family values and love for one’s home and family. This sign is usually very kind and warmhearted towards others and they tend to be very protective of their loved ones.

While, the “Ox” is the zodiac sign of Aries. It symbolizes a strong personality and it’s an extremely bold and stubborn sign. This sign is quite dominant in many ways, but sometimes tends to be overbearing with its rules and restrictions. In the animal kingdom, this animal represents all four legs of a quadrupedal animal such as a cow, ox, buffalo or steer.


Oxen and bulls are similar in appearance but there are a few differences between them. Both oxen and bulls belong to the same family of animals called cattle family.

These male domestic cattle belonged to b. taurus produce meat and dairy products such as milk, cheese, etc. but oxen do not produce any other by-products like manure, leather or tallow.

The only difference between bull vs ox is that oxen are used for plowing whereas bulls are used for breeding purposes. Oxen are also heavier than bulls, have smaller horns, do not have horns on their tails, and cannot produce milk.

Both these species of cattle are work animals that are used for many different purposes including draft work, traction, agriculture, construction, carrying heavy loads, ploughing soils, etc.

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