Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Back in the old days, before pickup trucks were invented, lots of Europeans used dogs to pull carts loaded with milk, bread, and goods to peddle.  Many of these people could not afford a horse, mule, or ox to pull their cart.  And in places where the streets were narrow and crowded, it was easier to maneuver with just a small cart pulled by dogs.

Most delivery carts had two or more dogs hitched to them.  Peddlers sometimes used only one dog.  During World War I, dogs were used to pull small field guns.  And in World War II, the Soviets hitched dogs to carts with stretchers for wounded soldiers.  During the First Crusade, after the horses and mules had starved, dogs carried people and supplies on toward Jerusalem.

In the UK, the use of carts came to be thought of as cruel to dogs.  So a law was passed in 1839 banning dog carts within 15 miles of Charing Cross.  Part of the idea behind this prohibition was that when dogs were overworked, they were more likely to get rabies.  The medical journal The Lancet reported in 1841 that the number of rabies cases had indeed gone down, but no one could say for sure if this decline was due to the legislation.

Interlaken is a town and municipality in the Swiss Alps.

Parliament had previously passed other laws to limit cruelty to animals.  The first of these, in 1822, prohibited cruel treatment of horses and cattle.  And in 1835, bull-baiting and cock-fighting were banned.  Parliament's next act in favor of animals, in 1841, was to decree the use of dog carts illegal throughout the kingdom.

The Sologne is a region of north-central France.

The logic behind some of these laws was strange because the British saw no problem with using horses, donkeys, mules, and oxen to haul wagons, even if the animals were basically worked to death.  But because dogs were seen as beloved pets, their use to pull carts was called "cruel servitude" by the RSPCA.

This seems like much too big a load for those two dogs to pull!

Further legislation required a tax on all working dogs.  Sheepdogs had their tails docked to show that the tax had been paid.  Poor people who could not afford the tax were often forced to abandon their dogs or destroy them.  Instead of using dogs to pull carts, people used children, because there were no laws against child labor.

Zeeland is the farthest western province of the Netherlands.
It is made up of several islands and peninsulas.  

Anyway, even though dog carts were banned in the UK, their use continued on the continent, especially in the low countries.  Working dogs were quite valuable to the people who used them, and they were usually treated well.  In rural areas, dogs who pulled carts were often family dogs who served as guard dogs at home.

Many dogs played more than one role, since they could also guard the cargo they were transporting.  Rottweilers, for example, were originally known as "Rottweiler Metzgerhund," which means "Rottweil butcher's dog."  Butchers particularly favored this fierce type of dog for pulling cartloads of meat and other products to market.

The milk inspector is saluting the family, so he must think their milk is okay.

Most of the dog cart pictures I am using in my blog today are postcards that Mom bought on eBay.  As I have probably told you before, Mom tends to spend way too much money on eBay.  Usually, she buys things that are not very interesting to me as a dog, but I think these dog cart postcards are really cool.  Right now they are in Mom's antique booth, so if you want one, you should rush over there and buy it immediately!

And now, for a change of continents, this boy and his cart are in Quebec.


  1. This is a great article! I train dogs for carting recreationally and you really give a depth to the history of this ancient practice. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for your comment. It's interesting to know that dogs are still being used to pull carts, even if just for recreation!

  2. thank for the good topic,Thanks for your sharing.