Vroom! Vroom! Have you ever taken a ride on a tractor? Wonder Friends who live on or near a farm may have enjoyed being pulled by a tractor on a hayride at harvest time.

Some Wonder Friends may have even been lucky enough to help drive a tractor as it does important farming work, such as harvesting, cultivating and planting. Tractors are used to pull all sorts of farming implements, including wagons, cultivators, seeders, plows, bailers, mowers and sprayers.

People have farmed for thousands of years, but tractors have only been around for the last hundred years or so. What did farmers do before tractors? They used horses to pull their farming machines.

After the Civil War, farmers began to have competitions to see whose horses could pull the heaviest loads. Some of the competitions involved hitching a horse to a barn door laid flat on the ground. As the horse started to pull the door, people would jump on the door to create more resistance. The horse that could pull the most people the greatest distance was the winner.

With the invention of the tractor, it didn’t take long for farmers’ competitive spirit to move from their horses to their tractors. Instead of bragging about their horses’ physical strength, they began to brag about their tractors’ mechanical power.

Horse pulling competitions eventually gave way to tractor pulling competitions. The first tractor pulling event occurred in 1929 in Bowling Green, Ohio. Tractor pulling events didn’t grow in popularity until the 1950s and 1960s.

Competition rules varied from state to state and sometimes even county to county. Eventually, in 1969, competitors settled on a common set of rules and formed the National Tractor Pullers Association.

In the earliest years of tractor pulling, competitors used standard farm tractors. They lived by the motto, “Pull on Sunday, plow on Monday.” In other words, they used their regular farm tractors in competitions.

Over time, though, competitors began to modify their tractors to take competition to a whole new level. Today, professional tractor pullers use very sophisticated tractors with multiple engines and turbochargers to compete. These specialized tractors are only used for competitions and will never see a field or real farm work!

There is one thing that remains from the days of horse pulling, though. In competition, tractors pull a special sled — called a sledge — down a dirt track. The sledge contains a weight that moves closer to the tractor the farther it is pulled. This increases resistance the farther the tractor pulls the sledge. Like in the old days, the tractor that pulls the sledge the farthest with the most weight wins!

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    • Good morning, Samuel! Happy Saturday! We’re glad you are the very first Wonder Friend to leave us a comment on today’s Wonder of the Day®! Thanks for that! :-)

  1. I was very close to guess today’s wonder. :) I loved today’s wonder! :D I also think tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be about knots.


    • Hi, TJ! We think it’s awesome that both you and Samuel think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about knots. We can’t wait to visit Wonderopolis again in the morning to see if your guesses are correct! Have a GREAT day! :-)

  2. What kind of tractors do you think they are!? They must be bulldozers or rockets or maybe a gorilla inside! Because it’s impossible to let a single tractor pull something probably 5 or 10 times its weight!

    • We agree, Carlos! Those tractors are REALLY strong! We like the way your creative Wonder brain thinks…bulldozers, rockets and gorillas! Thanks for leaving us this AWESOME comment today! You are a SUPER Wonder Friend! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT guess for tomorrow’s Wonder, Julia! Thanks so much for sharing it with your friends in Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • You sense of WONDER and positive attitude ROCK, Betsy! We’re glad you enjoyed exploring this Wonder of the Day® about tractors! :-)

    • Hello, Julia! Thanks so much for letting us know what you think the next Wonder of the Day® might be about! We appreciate hearing from you today! :-)

    • Hello, Mrs. Laburn and Kids with a View! We REALLY like your class blog! Those iPad portraits were really COOL! Thank you for adding the Wonderopolis widget to your blog…we hope you have as much fun learning in Wonderopolis as we do! :-)

  3. I have seen horse pulls before and they can pull really heavy stuff! I did not think that the tractor was going to go that fast! I’m surprised that it can do that.

    • We’re glad that you were surprised by the speed of the tracker in the video, Patrick R! We are happy to be WONDERing with you today, Wonder Friend! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What can a tractor pull?
  • Which animal did farmers rely on before tractors?
  • Where was the first tractor pull held?

Wonder Gallery

Tractor Pull Casselman, Ontario,Canada July 2, 2011DE PERE, WI - AUGUST 18: A red Allis-Chalmers tractor pulling weights at the Tractor Pull event at the Brown County Fair on August 18, 2012 in De Pere, Wisconsin.622_3 customtractor_shutterstock_430153-800x460Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Find a friend or family member interested in tractors to help you explore one or more of the following fun activities:

  • Can’t get enough of tractors? Don’t worry! We have more exciting videos for you to watch. If you want to see tractors in their natural habitat, check out these Tractor Videos online. You’ll be able to see tractors in action, doing what they do best: plowing, tilling, cultivating, bailing, harvesting and planting!
  • If you want to see more powerful tractors pulling sledges at fairs and other events, check out these Tractor Pull videos online. You can watch over two dozen different types of tractors in action. Which one is your favorite?
  • Up for a challenge? Learn more about the science behind the sledge that modified tractors pull at competitions. You might be surprised to find out how much science and technology goes into these unique contraptions. Jump online and read The Sleds to learn more about the history of the sledges used at one particular tractor pulling competition in California.

Still Wondering

Check out Science NetLinks’ Farming 1: Farm Machines lesson to learn about how machines help people grow, package, transport and store food.

Test Your Knowledge

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day will have you climbing to new heights! 

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