Breeds of a different color

Last week's Saratoga County Fair was the perfect place for any animal lover. Every animal from traditional horses, chickens, cows and pigs, to llamas, goats, sheep, oxen and even baby reindeer are available to be seen and petted.

A few may even fall in love with a type of animal that is very non-traditional.

Working at the Saratoga County Fair when he was young, Kenny Plummer was put in charge of driving around a yoke of oxen for the week. He fell in love with them and decided to buy a couple to keep as pets.

Plummer and Pat Guilmette now raise four Brown Swiss oxen at their home on Hop City Road in Ballston Spa.

Clem and Clyde are 7 years old and weigh about 2,500 pounds each. Briggs and Stratton are 5 and weigh about 2,100 pounds.

The large size of oxen can be misleading. Plummer said these large animals are very gentle. They like to be rubbed and stroked and barely flinch when a person climbs on their backs.

Oxen are mainly used as work animals, pulling plows or hauling carts. These oxen are not used for work, but as pets and exhibits in area fairs such as the Saratoga County Fair, the Washington County Fair and the fair in Schodack. Plummer said they also use the oxen to pull sleighs for rides during the winter.

Guilmette said the oxen are not high maintenance animals, and don't need a lot of space to live. They each eat a bale of hay and two quarts of grain per day, and have about 1 acre of land to live on. The oxen pay for themselves through appearances at fairs and sleigh rides.

Plummer and Guilmette rescued the animals from cattle farms where they would have become veal or beef.

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