When you look out over your fields of crops, you probably see tractors, combine harvesters, and balers. What you don’t expect to see are horses, oxen, and buffalo (unless you also raise livestock and there’s a broken fence somewhere). However, for thousands of years before our recent advancements in ag technology, agricultural sites were powered by working animals, known as draft animals. Together, man and beast cultivated the land, sowing and reaping every kind of crop imaginable. To dig deeper into these productive partnerships, Equipment Trader is taking an in-depth look at three draft animals that worked on farms until they were replaced by ag equipment.
Fast and strong, horses helped with plowing and pulling other equipment used in field work. They could haul heavy loads quickly, which is where we get the term “horsepower.” Farmers that trained and directed horses and other draft animals were known as “teamsters.” These workers would sit on the equipment harnessed behind a pair of horses while using reins for control. In the beginning of the 20th century, early reapers and combine harvesters were pulled by several horses. This all changed when internal combustion was developed in the agricultural industry. Self-powered combines and tractors have now taken the place of horses on the farm.
While slower than horses, strong oxen had stamina for working long hours while pulling heavy equipment. Oxen were used to pull wagons, carts, stone-boats, and logs, and were used to plow fields. A pair of oxen were controlled by teamsters using goads, or long sticks. Wooden crosspieces, known as yokes, were placed over them to plow or pull equipment. In fact, the term “acre” was originally used to describe the amount of land a yoke of oxen could plow in a single day. Like horses, oxen were replaced by combines and tractors.
3. Water Buffalo
For centuries in southeast Asia, water buffalo have pulled wagons and plows, much like horses and oxen. Also known as carabao (not to be confused with caribou reindeer), domesticated water buffalo are still used today to work paddy fields in countries such as Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. For farmers without tractors, water buffalo have been reliable for their strength and stamina when it comes to rice production.
More Working Animals
Around the world and throughout history, many other draft animals have been used for agricultural work, such as transportation, herding livestock, hauling loads, pulling barges, threshing grain, and pumping water. Draft animals include dogs, donkeys, mules, camels, llamas, alpacas, goats, sheep, elephants, and reindeer.
Conclusion: For centuries, animals have been valuable for agriculture. As technology has developed, advancements to equipment have replaced working animals on farms. If you’re looking for your next piece of agricultural equipment, make sure to browse our selection of new and used listings on EquipmentTrader.com.