What’s the Difference between Cow and Ox?

Today we are going to talk about cattle, especially ox and cows.
As is often the case with farm animals, there are small subtleties between these names. Do you know them?

Oxen and cows are cattle, from the same family: “Bos taurus”. The cow is the female and can be used for milk and meat production, while ox refers to the castrated male.

That’s it for the quick answer 🙂
If it’s not clear yet, don’t worry, I’ll come back detailing all these subtleties in the rest of the article.



A cow is a large female animal that is kept on farms for its milk.

Collins Dictionnary

Here is a simple definition as we like them.
As you probably already understood in the introduction, the “cow” part of this difference is easy to understand, the cow is the female of the cattle, nothing more.


The cow belongs to the species scientifically named “Bos taurus”, in other words, cattle, as I said before.

But within this family there are many varieties, or breeds.
Each region has its variant, with an aspect that can change and with different colors.

Here are some examples of famous breeds:

  • Abondance : Savoyard breed, brown with a white head, allowing the production of several typical cheeses (notably Beaufort and Reblochon).
  • Charolais : white cow, originally from Burgundy, and famous for its meat. You will regularly find them on the Corsican beaches 🙂
  • Corse : the Corsican cow, famous for its resistance to heat and poor food
  • Normande : white with brown spots, is a mixed breed producing both milk for cheese making and quality meat.

Obviously, this is only a glimpse, sorry if your region’s star cow is not listed, there are dozens of them.
And yes, I’m french, so I listed the one I know here 🙂
In fact, each country has their favorite breeds.

Human Uses

As you have already had a glimpse of, here are the main purposes of a cow farm:

  • Milk production: the cow produces milk from the moment it has given birth to a calf (a cow that has never given birth is called a heifer).
  • Meat production: Once the cows are reaching the end of their lives, when they no longer produce milk, they are fertilized and then sent to the slaughterhouse to be sold on the market. Some breeds of cows are exclusively destined for meat production.
  • Breeding : Incidentally, cows allow breeding of the herd. Gestation lasts 9 months as for humans. Except for twins, cows give birth to about one calf per year in their early years.


You were expecting them here are some pictures of cows 🙂



An ox is a bull that has been castrated. Oxen are used in some countries for pulling vehicles or carrying things.

Collins Dictionnary

The ox is the castrated male of the species “Bos Taurus” which includes cows and bulls (non-castrated males).

In the following section, I will mainly focus on the role of oxen in the industry, but keep in mind that beef corresponds to the production of the two animals presented in this article.


Without going into detail, there are a few vocabulary terms to know about the evolution of the male bovine species.
A young male, called “bullock”, is rarely good news for the farmer.

It is known from birth that it will probably be less useful than females.

Some males can be kept for breeding, they are called “bulls” and there are usually only one or two per herd.

The essential majority will be castrated quickly, called “oxen” and will be intended for meat production.
Oxen have the advantage of being much more docile, and calmer with the cows in the herd.


Oxen are predestined for two main uses :

  • Meat production: As I said before, most bulls are fattened and then slaughtered to produce meat.
  • Agricultural work: Some bulls are kept, to be used for various jobs on the farm: pulling a plow or cart, transporting crops (a minority).


As for the females, here are some pictures of male bovines:

Differences between cows and oxen


Cows and oxen come from the same species: cattle or “Bos Taurus” for the scientific name.
This species also includes bulls, heifers, bull calves, calves and zebus.

There are many breeds of cows (and oxen).


For the cow it’s simple. It is the adult female of the cattle.
For ox on the other hand, there are two possible definitions

Either we are talking about the animal, and in this case it is the castrated male of the same species.

Beef can be cow meat or ox meat (it is usually cow meat).


Then the two animals also have different uses for humans.
Cows will produce mainly milk, but also for breeding, then for meat at the end of its life.
Oxen will be used mainly for meat, but can also help farmers on various tasks


That’s it for this new difference, I hope you liked this post, and that it was helpful to you.
Finally, the difference between ox and cow is simple once we understand the main definition of both animals 🙂

Feel free to check my other articles about animals comparison if you want to learn something more today!

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