The withers yoke is only used with humped zebu-type cattle, such as Brahmans. The yoke is a wooden pole resting on the hump of the animal and is held in place by a rope or leather strap around the neck. Note that the rope does not take any of the weight of the load. Sometimes wooden staves projecting downward from the pole add extra stability; these do not bear any weight, either.
This yoke is by far the simplest and is easy to make, repair, and fit to a team. Unfortunately, its very simplicity tends to invite some slipshod construction that will inflict pain on the oxen. This is quite unnecessary—the withers yoke is easily modified to allow for maximum comfort.
On the other hand, the withers yoke is also easily broken. It tends to give the teamster less control of the animals than other yoke types.
Again, the withers yoke can be used only with zebu cattle, which have the hump necessary to hold the yoke in place. The withers yoke is used primarily to harness this type of cattle simply and inexpensively.
A good ox collar is made out of wood with leather pads lining the inside surfaces for comfort.
One of the most critical differences between an ox collar and a horse collar is the way the power of the draft animal is applied. A horse pushes into the lower part of its collar, while an ox pushes into the upper part. The ox also has more prominent, mobile shoulders, which are accommodated in the design of the proper collar.
A major advantage of an ox collar over a yoke is that the teamster can use one ox instead of two. From the ox’s perspective, it is probably more comfortable, as well, as the force is applied over a larger (and better padded) area. The result is greater efficiency.
However, cattle are herd animals. While one ox can provide sufficient pulling power for a small farm, it will probably be calmer and more content working with a friend. But a whole team of oxen can still be worked with collars. In fact, collars are easier to fit to oxen than yokes.
Probably one of the biggest disadvantages of the ox collar is its cost. Due to its complexity, it can be difficult to manufacture at home, as well. Please do not try to economize by putting a horse collar on your ox—it is guaranteed to rub and cause painful sores.
The ox collar frequently requires more maintenance than any of the three types of yoke.
Despite the fact that teams of oxen can be worked with collars, the ox collar is nevertheless typically used as a way to put a single ox to work.
A Final Note
Perhaps even more important than the type of yoke is the fit of the yoke. No ox can work efficiently if his yoke or collar does not fit properly. If the ox tosses his head frequently or is unwilling to work, he is probably uncomfortable.
Proper training and conditioning is also important for best results, regardless of yoke type.