What Animal Is an Oxtail? 6 Things to Know About the Origins of This Meat

Oxtail is a culinary delicacy that has gained popularity across various meals around the world. However, Oxtail is not an ox. In this article, we will explore the origin of oxtail, and the animal it comes from, and delve into my personal experience and research on this intriguing ingredient.

Understanding the Origin

The term “oxtail” originated from the traditional use of the tail of an ox in cooking. Cattle, before the age of modern machinery, were a common sight in agricultural work. Oxtail, a dish made from the tail of these hardworking animals, serves as a historical reminder of that era. At the end of their service, cooks often use these animals’ tails because they’re packed with connective tissue. This tissue breaks down when cooked, creating a rich and gelatinous texture. However, today the term oxtail refers to a cut of meat from the tail of any cattle.

During my culinary adventures, I had the pleasure of indulging in various dishes featuring oxtail. One notable experience was savoring a rich and hearty oxtail stew. The meat was tender, falling off the bone, and infused with a deep, savory flavor. The gelatinous nature of the tailbone marrow added a luxurious texture to the dish. It was evident that oxtail had a unique taste and culinary appeal.

1. Oxtail Is Especially Popular in the Caribbean

However, enjoyed globally, oxtail holds a special place in the hearts (or stomachs!) of Caribbean communities and their descendants in the US.

Maybe the nation that uses oxtail the most is Jamaica. As Business Insider points out, Jamaican oxtail echoes African one-pot cooking traditions brought to the island by enslaved people and maroons in the mid-1500s.

According to data from the Migration Policy Institute for the 2015–19 period, two-thirds of Caribbean immigrants living in the United States live in the states of Florida and New York.

Business Insider features a New York-based eatery, or rather, food truck, that offers real Caribbean fare, including oxtail. Island Spice Grill utilizes oxtail and creates dishes such as braised beef and jerk chicken.

2. Oxtail Is an Expensive Cut of Meat

A small piece of beef that was once believed to be a waste is now an expensive treat. According to a 2019 Business Insider story, oxtail can cost anywhere from $4 to $10 per pound. The cost of this cut of beef has only gone up as of late.

The price of oxtail, an already expensive cut of meat, has increased due to its somewhat general popularity in recent years. In a February 2023 article, Brigid Washington, a journalist, educator, and writer of Caribbean Flavors for Every Season, told TODAY.com:

We’ve learned that like many of these foods that were once linked with the poor, oxtail has become a part of a wide society.

Moreover, using data from the USDA’s National Monthly Grass Fed Beef Report, the same article found that oxtail has risen in price to nearly $14 per pound.

3. Oxtail Is Offal

Not “awful,” please. For years, oxtail was dismissed as an undesirable cut, but now chefs are celebrating its rich flavor.

Meat defined as “offal” includes oxtail. According to TODAY, this term has been used to refer to the animal parts that stay after killing. Offal encompasses a diverse range of animal parts, from hearts and internal organs to feet and oxtail. Oxtail, for instance, includes the tailbone, bone marrow, and even some meat.

Offal is a common ingredient in many nations’ meals of old. According to Eater, Chinese food menus often include a wide range of chicken foot options. Other Chinese food recipes use cow tripe mixed with fresh ginger and duck blood.

Liver and onions, a dish originating in Italy and now enjoyed worldwide, is a staple of Italian cuisine. Different types of offal are used in different parts of the nation. While cow liver is a common dish in Rome and Florence, pani ca meusa, a sandwich made in Sicily, consists largely of liver and two varieties of cheese.

4. Enslaved People Were the First to Cook with Oxtail

The use of oxtail in food has been around since the start of the American slave trade. A law prohibited workers and rich people from consuming luxurious cuts of meat like prime rib and mutton. As gastronomy historian Adrian Miller clarified to TODAY.

Enslaved people often had limited access to fresh, high-quality food. Their enslavers typically gave them scraps, leftovers, and the parts of animals they considered less desirable. Still, during the Middle Journey, many crops made it from Africa to North America, including black-eyed peas, watermelon, and okra.

Finally, slaves combined the food habits of the Southeast Native Americans. And the West Africans, using yams, onions, cabbage and collards, mustard, and turnip greens. Cooking oxtail requires a low and slow method. So you’ll often find this meat in some form of stew or soup.

5. Oxtail Is a Gelatin-Rich Meat

Although oxtail is a meat high in gelatin, what does that mean? The website Spruce Eats states that the meat cut known as oxtail has a large amount of bone, cartilage, and connective tissue. In reality, however, there is not much real meat in it.

For this reason, cooking oxtail slowly in a liquid is the best way of cooking. Oxtail cooked releases delicious jelly from the bone and cartilage, creating a delicious sauce. While slow-cooking oxtail may seem difficult and require a lot of time, the effort is well worth it.

Oxtail is a common ingredient in traditional recipes across several nations. Simple Chinese oxtail soup recipes are easy to find online. And may include items like cabbage, fresh ginger, or Chili pepper. Kkkori-gomtang, the Korean take on oxtail soup, usually comes with rice or is used as a base for tteokguk, a rice cake soup.

6. An Oxtail Typically Weighs Eight Pounds

Historically, an entire oxtail cut weighs about 3.5 kg (8 pounds). The complete cut rarely goes for the whole, however. Instead, it is cut into pieces and stripped for sale at the market. Following cutting, the oxtail is divided into pieces of different sizes. With the center containing more meat, fat, and bone. And the tail narrowing toward the end.

Oxtail is typically offered for sale by weight. It could be helpful for you to place an order in advance with your local shop. Certain American companies allow customers to order oxtail online. Hearthstone Farm, River Watch Beef, and White Oak Pastures are a few choices.


Despite its name, oxtail is not derived from an ox but rather from the tail of a cow. Its rich flavors, gelatinous texture, and versatility have made it a beloved ingredient in meals worldwide. Through my personal experiences and research, I have come to appreciate the unique qualities that oxtail brings to the culinary table.

So, the next time you come across a recipe featuring oxtail. Remember that it’s not just about the animal it comes from. But the incredible flavors and textures that it can add to your dining experience.


Is oxtail really from an ox?

No, oxtail is not derived from an ox. It comes from the tail of a cow.

Why is it called “oxtail” if it’s not from an ox?

The term ‘oxtail’ reflects a historical era when cattle were the workhorses of agriculture. The name ‘beef’ stuck, even though the meat comes from cows.

What does oxtail taste like?

Oxtail has a rich, beefy flavor. When cooked properly, it becomes tender and succulent, with a deep and savory taste.

What is the texture of oxtail?

Oxtail has a gelatinous texture due to the presence of collagen. When slow-cooked, the connective tissues break down, resulting in a luxurious, melt-in-your-mouth texture.

How do people typically cook oxtail?

To achieve tender, flavorful meat, braise or stew oxtail for an extended period. It is a popular ingredient in hearty stews, soups, and braised dishes.

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