Duluth’s oxen brothers may be headed south.
Darrin Wixo purchased Biscuit and Gravy, a pair of Scottish Highland cattle, to help clear more than 300 fallen trees on his family’s 16 acres of land outside Duluth in 2018.
But on March 4, he posted this to the Ox Rock Facebook page:
If you are interested in the chores of Ox Life please message us. … We have Yokes, halters, feed buckets, troughs, pitchforks, wheel barrel, manure forks, some fence material, a couple saddles.
Wixo has been contacted by interested buyers from British Columbia and Pennsylvania, and he is currently negotiating with “a country singer’s wife” in Nashville. The final details are transportation and price, which was around $10,000 the last the News Tribune spoke to Wixo.
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They’ve been a significant investment, mostly of time.
Wixo did a deep dive into the history of the logging industry, he read “Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and he trained Biscuit and Gravy to lie down, wear a yoke, pull a wagon together and lead individually.
Through this process, they became oxen, a term for trained bovine.
Biscuit and Gravy will turn 4 in May. They’re about 1,500 pounds each. Other than size, they haven’t changed. “One’s more aware than the other one; they really kept their same personality,” Wixo said.
Biscuit is easy-going; Gravy is independent and stubborn, with bigger ears and darker fur.
Wixo always knows which ox is behind him because of their maneuvers.
“Gravy will give me a nudge with his horn by my rib. Biscuit will use his whole forehead. They’re not landing me or harming me. A little affection, ‘Hey, just check back here for a second.’”
And Biscuit is usually behind on his right, Gravy on his left.
It costs about $1,000 a year in hay to feed them. During the summer, they eat out of the trees and swamp. In a 2018 News Tribune story, Wixo recalled an early trip to the feed store, where he asked for oats to feed them, and the clerk suggested corn.
"I'm not butchering them; I don't need fat cows. I need Schwarzenegger cows," he said
Biscuit and Gravy made appearances in the Bent Paddle parking lot; outside the Epicurean warehouse; and at Ox Cart Days in Crookston, Minnesota. They last pulled a fish house off the ice in Two Harbors a couple weeks ago. In the early days, Wixo joked about seeking an endorsement from Red Bull.
Talking about Biscuit and Gravy, Wixo dips into his logging history knowledge.
“The Arrowhead Trail and the Gunflint Trail, all those were logged by beasts,” he said, employing a term of endearment.
He hopes that wherever Biscuit and Gravy land, they’re appreciated and well cared for. A steer often doesn’t make it past two years; they’re sold to the butcher by then, he said.
Asked if he had considered that, Wixo offered a brief and quick, “No.”
His tips for the future owners, or anyone considering training Scottish Highland cattle, are all about being receptive.
“You got to listen to them. You got to think about what they’re feeling and thinking — and watching. There’s a lot of nonverbal communication.”
Raising these “beasts” is a lot of time, he said.
“Tractors are definitely worth their value in technology. I can understand why they were doing something different if they spent 11 days with teams of oxen to get work done.”
But, given the chance and the time, he’d train oxen up again.
“I still have their old yoke, the smallest ones. I don’t know if I’ll sell them.”