HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Are oxtails really ox?

  • j

Or is it cow? It just doesn't make sense to me that the only part of the ox that is commonly cooked is the tail...if it is what is the rest of the animal typically used for? Just curious, thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. They have always been beef when I bought them, although Im sure tails from real oxen must available somewhere.

    1. Just whatever cattle is used for beef wherever you are.

      1. An ox is a cow, or more likely a steer, bred and raised for work as a draft animal. When too old to work, an ox could be butchered and eaten. But there are very few, if any, such animals in the USA, much less a part of the food chain.

        'Ox' just part the conventional name (for some obscure historical reason), not an indicator of the occupation of its former owner. The tails come from the same animals that provide the chuck and porter house steaks.

        11 Replies
        1. re: paulj

          I recall reading an article about using oxen to log in the mountains. This was very dangerous for the ox and one of the drovers commented that they always kept the ox fat so they would be good to eat when one was invariably injured or killed.

          1. re: paulj

            "An ox is a cow"

            I don't know. I remember there was a conversation that an ox is an ox, a cow is a cow..etc.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              An ox is a beast of burden of the bovine persuasion. Normally a steer but apparently early pioneers would also use their milk cow to plow the garden. I'm sure that somewhere in the history of mankind someone hitched a bull to a plow but they tend to be intractable.

              For culinary purposes, see the up thread replies. It is from whatever the rest of the beef is from.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                An ox is a castrated adult male cattle. In the old days ox were commonly used in Europe and other continents for ploughing fields.

                I don't think one would be able to find many ox in Western industrial societies so I would guess that oxtail comes from cows and bulls.

                1. re: iliria

                  "An ox is a castrated adult male cattle"


                  "I don't think one would be able to find many ox in Western industrial societies so I would guess that oxtail comes from cows and bulls."

                  Can we castrate the bulls right before we get the tails?

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Nearly all males are castrated as calves, and are called steers.

              2. re: paulj

                In Spain I was close-up to oxen that were in harness pulling decorated carts in a religious procession and they were bigger than any cow I ever saw---they were like a fur-covered wall. But online dictionaries define "ox" as "an adult castrated bull". What? Back to Spain---I could hear the driver whispering babytalk to his ox and he definitely was calling her "little girl"---"Vete, vete chica, vete nena, vamos mi amorcita, vete, chica" etc. A gender mystery. But they are 'way big.

                1. re: Querencia

                  Paul Bunyan called his pet ox Babe.

                2. re: paulj

                  An ox is a bovine, just like a beef or dairy cow -- just typically a different breed -- just like a Chihuahua, a greyhound, and Newfoundland are all dogs -- just different breeds.

                  1. re: GH1618

                    For the record, the German Deli stant that used to be in the Grand Central Market (NYC) used to label thier in house made roast beef as "roast ox"

                  2. In western Canada (I can't speak for aywhere else) oxtails will be from beef carcasses, i.e. usually from steers or heifers, not from cows who produce calves or milk. For some reason that cut is called oxtail, it's actually just beef tail, and way back it was considered trim and sold very cheaply but not anymore.

                    1. The first pioneers pretty well used only milk cows for heavy work. That way they got a 'twofeer'. Castrated bovines were generally too much trouble and in the winter ate too much put-up hay. Bulls were too hard to handle in harness. So how were the 'baby' bovines made? Farmer Jack would take Sally the cow over to farmer Bill's who had a good bull in a pasture somewhere. The bull would be caught and penned and nature would take it's course. Farmer Jack would have most likely bartered labor or something for the 'services' of farmer Bill's bull.

                      1. When I was a kid, I thought hamburgers came from pigs. My mother would just roll her eyes. Now, how did a beefburger become a hamburger?

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: pine time

                          The same way sausages became wieners and frankfurters. It's about where they came from, not what they're made of. Hamburger has nothing to do with Ham.

                          1. re: acgold7

                            In a more frivolous tone, I was going to ask how a German townie became a British aristocrat (burger => sandwich. But then I find out that the current House of Windsor was the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha before WW1.

                            1. re: paulj

                              Hardly surprising our monarch's ancestors decided to change the family name - Germans were hardly popular here after 4 August 1914.

                              1. re: paulj

                                Queen Victoria's husband Albert was German -- he's credited with bringing the tradition of Christmas trees to England.

                                All European Royalty was interbred at one point or another....

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  And indeed, technically, Victoria herself belonged to a German Dynasty, since she was a member of the House of Hanover as were the three monarchs before her. The only reason her son (Edward VII) wasn't was that as women were not allowed to be Kings of Hanover, upon taking the throne, she had to appoint someone else to the position, and it passed to his decendents.

                                  1. re: jumpingmonk

                                    Ah the aristocracy of the Hamburg. Try explaining it to an 8 yr old! :)

                                    1. re: pine time

                                      In the USA the name 'hamburger steak' fell out of favor, and was replaced, for a while at least, with Salisbury steak. Dr Salisbury had been promoting his own minced meat low-carb dish decades earlier.

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        Maybe, but they are not the same thing.

                                        1. re: acgold7

                                          quotes the doctor's 1888 recipe
                                          "Eat the muscle pulp of lean beef made into cakes and broiled. This pulp should be as free as possible from connective or glue tissue, fat and cartilage . . . The pulp should not be pressed too firmly together before broiling, or it will taste livery. Simply press it sufficiently to hold it together. Make the cakes from half an inch to an inch thick. Broil slowly and moderately well over a fire free from blaze and smoke. When cooked, put it on a hot plate and season to taste with butter, pepper, salt; also use either Worcestershire or Halford sauce, mustard, horseradish or lemon juice on the meat if desired."

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            I dunno.
                                            Don't like the part about "free from blaze and smoke" otherwise sounds fine to me.

                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                    I found this--

                                    "Christmas trees became popular in the UK in 1800, when Queen Charlotte, German-born wife of George III, had the first decorated Christmas tree in Britain, at a Windsor Castle party. Royal family members had Christmas trees long before common people. When Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, also German, allowed The Illustrated London News to display an image of the Royal Family gathered
                                    around their Christmas tree, the tradition took off. After that, everyone wanted one, and they became popular in the Commonwealth and the US."


                              2. re: pine time

                                Beefburger became hamburger when your mother rolled her eyes. Before that, it was made of ham. :D

                                1. Got a good chuckle out of this because I thought the same thing. How come you never see ox chops or ox cutlets or ox burgers? Where do all the tailless oxen go? Do oxen have tastier tails than cattle? I eventually assumed they are one in the same.

                                  Here is something you will not hear every day."Hey Mom, what's for dindin?" Reply, "ox kabobs."

                                  Oxtail is a good Scrabble word, or these days a Word with Friends word. Anytime you can burn an X is a good thing. Hate getting stuck with a Q though.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: CCSPRINGS

                                    "I eventually assumed they are one in the same"

                                    How dare for you to assume a man is the same as a woman.

                                        1. re: CCSPRINGS

                                          they come from the same place as legless frogs and boneless chickens.

                                        2. Hi, JCap:

                                          Technically an ox is just an older, fully-filled out steer. But "oxtails" can come from cattle of any age. In the modern age of beef, the chances of you getting a tail from an ox is about 0.0001%.


                                          1. I have a friend in Buffalo who makes Ox-Roast