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Forrest dies at O’Bannon Woods

Forrest, one of two working Durham Shorthorn oxen at the Hickory Hollow Nature Center at O’Bannon Woods State Park, died of natural causes recently at age 14.

Forrest had been a park ambassador since coming to reside at O’Bannon Woods with his partner Gump in 2008. Forrest represented the park at local parades, led First Day Hikes with park staff each New Year’s Day and visited the Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair.

The oxen were raised and trained in Maine for 18 months as a 4-H project, and interpretive naturalist Jarrett Manek continued their training when they arrived at O’Bannon Woods.

Forrest’s main role was operating the park’s reconstructed historic haypress. He did this by walking in circles to turn a large screw, which lifted a 500-pound block that, when it drops, compresses loose hay into tighter bales the way it would have been done in the mid-1800s. During that era, the bales would have been transferred to boats for shipping down the Blue River to the Ohio River and beyond for sale.

Park officials said Forrest was a gentle giant who weighed 2,500 pounds. He loved carrots and animal crackers in addition to his steady diet of hay and grain.

Gump will continue to be a part of haypress demonstrations and other park activities.

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