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Newfoundland Club of America Draft Equipment Guide - Approved 2001

Draft Apparatus

Apparatus for non-snow conditions (Wagons, Carts, Travois) 


A wagon is a four-wheeled apparatus. It is usually spacious and can accommodate a larger load than a cart. Because it has 4 wheels, it does not tip, so balance of the load is not critical in a wagon. But what you gain in stability, you lose in maneuverability. A wagon is more difficult than a cart to back and a large wagon may need an auxiliary brake for going down hill when loaded. Wagons work best on level ground with fairly even surfaces. They are ideal on asphalt and on other road surfaces. The shafts for a wagon bear no weight from the load, so the position of the shafts is not as critical in a wagon as it is in a cart. 


A cart is a two-wheeled apparatus. It is a very versatile piece of equipment as it is highly maneuverable and is easily backed. But what you gain in maneuverability, you lose in stability; so balancing a load correctly is critical in a cart. Modification to the center of gravity, point of balance and type of wheels allow a cart to be adapted for use by different dogs and in different situations. 


A travois is essentially two long shafts, attached to the sides of a dog, which drag on the ground. A load is strapped to the shafts behind the dog. 

Understanding the historical use of a travois provides draft work enthusiasts with some insight into the appropriate use for a travois. According to N. Henderson, 'Replicating the Dog Travois Travel,' Native American travois were suited to travel through open landscapes and seem to be limited to the Plains. Henderson makes a reference to the travois gliding over the tall prairie grasses. Through thick brush or woodlands, dogs were outfitted with backpacks. 

Because a travois drags directly on the ground, there is always significant friction between it and the ground. The dog must work constantly and pull harder than with a wheeled apparatus. Due to the constant drag, 5 pounds of weight hauled with a travois is essentially equal to 25 pounds pulled by a wheeled apparatus. However, with a travois, there is no relief or let up on the dog. 

A travois is not suitable for general draft work because it is so inefficient. It could be used in open pastures and on uneven plains, or in areas where wheels might get mired down. Wherever a wheeled apparatus can be used, it is always preferable. Carts and wagons are more comfortable and efficient and less  demanding on the dog. A travois is not suitable for use on asphalt or other solid surfaces well suited to wheels. 

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