That which connects or binds; chain; link; bond of connection. Hence, specifically, the frame of wood by which two oxen are fastened together for drawing. The yoke for oxen is usually a piece of timber hollowed or made curving near each end, and is laid on the necks of the oxen, being secured in place by two bows, one enclosing each neck, and fastened to the timber. Hence, a frame worn on the neck like an ox-yoke, or shaped like one; as, a frame of wood fitted to a person’s shoulders for carrying a pail, &c., suspended on each side; as, a milk-maid’s yoke. — Webster, 1882
For Sale. One yoke of heavy oxen. Or will trade for horses. C.P. Sherwood. – De Smet Leader, June 1883
Im the Little House books, both Charles Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder have a team of oxen; they are used to break sod in Dakota Territory and Minnesota. In Farmer Boy, young Almanzo trains his young cattle and uses them to haul wood out of the timber lot, the same as his father does with his own oxen.
The wooden ox yoke rested on the shoulders of a pair of oxen and a curved piece of wood fit around the neck of each ox and through the yoke, where it was kept in place with a wooden or metal pin that went through the bow. The yoke kept the oxen in place, side by side, and allowed them to work as a team. An iron ring hanging in the middle of the yoke could be used to attach a chain and/or pole.
The photo below shows a team of oxen in yoke, pulling a wagon. A yoke of cattle is the pair of oxen who are trained to work together. They always occupy the same position in the yoke, either the nigh ox (the one closest to the drover, to the left of the off ox) or the off ox (the one farther from the drover, on the right of the nigh ox).
Neckyoke. In Little House in the Big Woods (see Chapter 8, “Dance at Grandpa’s”), men wear a wooden neckyoke or bucket carrier across their own shoulders in order to carry the weight of buckets of maple syrup hanging from them to the shoulders, not the arms and fingers. The wearer’s hands are simply used to steady the buckets (hanging from chains), not to carry them.
yoke (BW 2; FB 5, 9-10, 24, 27; BPC 8-11; SSL 9; TLW 11; THGY 16, 20; PG)
bow (FB 5, 9, 27)
bow-pin (FB 5, 9, 27)
calf-yoke (FB 5)
neckyoke / yoke (BW 8; FB 10; SSL 9, 11; TLW 29)
see-saw (FB 27)
yoke of cattle / oxen (FB 5, 9, 21; THGY 20; PG)
yoke-oxen (FB 21)