Difference between an Ox, a Bull, and a Cow

By: | Updated: Feb-10, 2020

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. Oxen 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 cows.

Cows are less muscular than either oxen and bulls. They are often domesticated animals that can be seen grazing in the fields.

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