Animal traction

Animal traction refers to the use of draft animals (also draught animals) to provide motive power for vehicles or machinery. It is believed to be the first significant non-human source of power.

The earliest uses of domestic animals were for meat and direct personal transportation (that is, they were ridden). Their use for traction power followed. The first such use was probably for pulling sledges, sleighs or carts. They came to be used subsequently for pulling plows, providing power for mills and other stationary equipment, and pulling other farm equipment.

Livestock was also used in logging operations to drag logs out of the woods. Today, some people still swear by this method as being far less destructive to the woodland environment than using heavy equipment.

Animal traction is still widely used in the world today. It has several major advantages over mechanical traction:
*The "fuel", or feedstock, can be locally produced by the user of the traction, has no extrinsic cost, and does not depend on vagaries of the market.
*All waste products are natural products and essentially nonpolluting if properly used (Note: this does not apply to feedlots!). In fact, waste products are valuable fertilizer.
*The animals are able to negotiate difficult terrain that the mechanical vehicles cannot.
*The ground surface often suffers less damage from the animal use than from vehicle use.
*The livestock is far easier and cheaper to maintain (with the exception, of course, of infectious illness).
*The livestock used is also a source of milk, meat, and even blood and other products.
*Historically, in colder climates, the livestock sometimes helped to provide heat for homesteads.

Types of draft animals

*Horses: "draft horses" refers to large breeds such as Percherons, Clydesdales, Belgians, which were often used for field work or pulling heavy wagons, but many breeds were used for riding and carriage work
*Cattle: including oxen (castrated bulls), yaks (native cattle of the Himalayan region), water buffalo (cattle native to south-central Asia)
*Goats: sometimes used to pull small carts
*Elephants: Asian elephants, used for heavy draft work, such as logging, in southeast Asia
*Dogs: used to pull sledges in the Arctic, also sometimes used to pull small carts


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