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In most of the Danelaw counties, the public obligations were assessed in carucates and bovates. The word bovate is derived from bos, Latin for an ox; similarly, carucate derives from caruca, Latin for a plough. Since there were eight oxen to the standard Domesday plough team, there were eight bovates in a carucate. An eight-oxen plough team could plough one ploughland in the course of an agricultural year. Carucate, bovate, ploughland, and plough team were thus conceptually linked, and all derived from agricultural processes.
Domesday Book, however, makes it clear that the real world bore only a rough and ready approximation to these Platonic ideals. The artificiality of such fiscal units is apparent in many entries, perhaps the most vivid being that for Stanford in Bedfordshire where it is recorded (BDF 57,9) that there was:
Land for 1/2 an ox; it is there
Not, as Maitland famously observed, 'a monstrous birth' but simply a statement that there was 1/16th of a ploughland, or 7 1/2 acres, of arable land.
For further information, see J.H. Round, Feudal England (1895); F.W. Maitland, Domesday Book and beyond (1897); and Cyril Hart, The Danelaw (1992).