When travail is a good thing

Posted: October 8, 2014 in Animals, Travel
Tags: , , , , , ,


noun \trə-ˈvāl, ˈtra-ˌvāl\

: a difficult experience or situation

: painful or difficult work or effort

In the past in the Vosges, oxen were often used as work animals.  Oxen, like horses, must be shod to protect their hooves.  A recalcitrant ox, however, is much more difficult to handle than a horse.  According to the Rural Heritage site, an ox might weigh, depending on breed, between 1600 and 2400 pounds!  Imagine an ox of  that weight, at best, leaning on you and trying to avoid raising its hoof and, at worst, fighting you!  As someone who’s tried to look at a horse’s hoof when the horse doesn’t want to lift said foot and chooses instead to lean on me, I can appreciate the need for something to make shoeing easier.

To avoid problems, a structure aptly dubbed a travail was used.  The sturdy wooden structure and stiff, heavy rope webbing allowed the ox to lifted and the hoof kept in the air.  The head was kept from moving and the shoeing could then be accomplished relatively simply.  Without it, shoeing could easily have been a time of travail for the farrier!

  On one of our drives, we came upon this travail, beautifully decorated and in excellent condition.  Even without the accompanying picture, it’s easy to see how the travail made a potentially difficult, even dangerous bit of work much easier.

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photo 4(61)


  1. Interesting post. 😀

  2. M-R says:

    FASCINATING ! – never heard of one of these, Janet ! 🙂
    How beautiful this one has been made to look …

  3. Tish Farrell says:

    This is a real glimpse into the past, Janet.

  4. billgncs says:

    I like to travail to new places 🙂

  5. […] house.  Here’s a sampling of photos from the trip we took the same day we saw the travail.  The roof of this church’s steeple show the classic colorful Burgundian tile.  Even the […]

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