Remembering the Lanz Bulldog Tractor

A brief history of the Lanz Bulldog tractor, which featured a 1-cylinder engine.

  • An early 1920s Lanz Bulldog at the Deutches Museum in Munich.
    Photo by Sam Moore
  • A Lanz Lokomobile stationary steam engine.
    Photo by Sam Moore
  • Wouldn’t you love to have a Lanz Bulldog road tractor like this for parades and tractor rides?
    Photo by Sam Moore
  • Tool carriers similar to this Lanz Alldog were popular in Europe for a while. The box could be removed and a range of tillage and planting attachments mounted behind the front wheels.
    Photo by Sam Moore
  • A John Deere-Lanz Model 310 tractor and mower.
    Photo by Sam Moore

Heinrich Lanz was born in Friedricshafen, Germany, in 1838, the fourth of six sons and a daughter. He went to school until the late 1850s, when he travelled around the world to prepare himself for work in his father’s business. There, he seems to have arranged for the import of agricultural machines, such as threshers from England, and started a repair shop for them. 

Lanz soon recognized the untapped market in Germany for farm machinery. In 1867, he and one of his brothers began to make a fodder-cutting machine. Other implements followed. In about 1870, Heinrich took over sole management of the factory.

In 1878, the company produced its first steam engine, the Lokomobile. Soon the Lanz firm was making straw presses and threshers, virtually eliminating the imports from Britain. Lanz machines won many awards and honors at exhibitions all over Europe. By 1885, when Lanz sold their 1,000th steam threshing set, the company had become the largest agricultural machinery factory in Europe, employing more than 1,000 workers.

Company branches out

Heinrich Lanz died Feb. 1, 1905, leaving an enterprise with nearly 3,000 workers who annually produced 900 steam threshing sets and 1,400 Lokomobiles. He was succeeded by his son, Dr. Karl Lanz, who continued to expand the product line, introducing steam road engines and other machines.

More than 4,000 people were employed by Lanz on its 50th anniversary in 1909. One year later, at the world exhibition in Brussels, Lanz showed the largest Lokomobile in the world. It won three gold medals at the exhibition. In 1911, Lanz built 22 airships (zeppelins), and began to experiment with a 70-80 hp tractor with a 4-cylinder petrol engine. During the Great War, from 1914 to 1918, the company lost many employees; at the Armistice only 3,800 of the original 5,000 remained.

Birth of the Lanz Bulldog Tractor

The company struggled after the war and Dr. Karl Lanz died in 1921, at age 48. A then-unknown engineer named Fritz Huber developed a crude oil engine with 12 hp and glow-head ignition. This glow-head engine was put into a wheeled tractor that became the first Lanz Bulldog. In 1923 came the type HP, a Bulldog with all-wheel drive and center pivot steering, a machine that technically was decades ahead of its time.


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