By: Judas Makwela, Junior Curator – DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History


The history of transport includes the era of the ox wagon. The DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History (DNMCH) is proudly home to diverse heritage assets. Amongst them that caught my attention and interest is the Museum’s wagon collection and specifically the development of the ox wagon, of which there are various types that were used for different reasons.


Figure 1. An open ox-drawn or transport wagon such as this example was used by different cultures to load, and transport goods such as farming produce and other large loads.


Figure. 2 Ox-drawn traveling wagon covered with a canvas tent for protection.

Wagons were built in different sizes according to the purpose for which they were used. In South Africa, 17 varieties of wood were used for wagon building. South African wood varieties are regarded as the best for wagon building.

Some wagons were used to travel long distances to other towns or farms. Most of the load-carrying area was covered in canvas, supported by wooden arches, and protected the travellers from rain and the hot sun. They could also sleep in their wagons. Larger wagons were built for transporting goods and large raw materials.


Figure 3. Ox-drawn transport wagon.



This article addressed some aspects in the development of the ox wagon. They were initially used by Europeans for transporting goods or when taking long journeys/trekking. African people managed to acquire these ox wagons and utilize them. Even after automobiles were introduced in South Africa (1896), it still took many decades to completely phase them out and replace them by cars. Even today, in some rural areas, ox wagons are still in use as an alternative means of transport or for leisure purposes.



Rosenthal, Eric. 1975. Victorian South Africa. Tafelberg: Cape Town.

DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History, “Transport Collection. Accession Number: L 2311 (Figure 2).

Wagons in history: the bokwa: Figures 01 and 03.

Photographs by Judas Makwela (Junior Curator), DNMCH.

Ditsong Logo