Tractor Manufacturers Adopt Animal Names

Beavers, bulls and bears, oh my! Tractor manufacturers use animal names so products seem wild and tough


| November 2004



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One of the advantages of the Bear tractor shown here is that it was built so the tracks automatically raised or lowered when the machine went over high or low spots.

"Hamster" and "Bunny Rabbit" are two names tractor companies never chose for their machines , for good reason: They aren't hardy or tough, two traits tractors need to perform hard labor on the farm. About 30 companies and tractors have been named after animals, like the modern-day Steiger Panther and Melroe Bobcat. Most, however, were built before 1930, and can be divided into three categories: tractor companies and/or their tractors with animal names, tractors with animal names from other companies, and tractor company and tractor names that might be a stretch.

Tractor companies with animal names

At least 20 companies adopted animal names so their products might seem wild, independent and tough. Some are well-known, like Bull Tractor Co. of Minneapolis, whose Little Bull sold 4,000 units the first six months after its introduction in 1914, the fastest-selling tractor ever up to that time; the Caterpillar Tractor Co. of Peoria, Ill.; and Buffalo-Pitts Co. of New York City.

Others are much less known, like Alligator Tractor Co. of St. Louis, which manufactured the Model 66-G crawler in 1964-65; little else is known about the company.

New York City seems an unlikely place for a tractor company, but in 1923 Bear Tractor Co. began manufacturing 25-35 crawlers there. These 3-ton machines sold for $4,250. Promotional writers touted the Bear's compactness (118 by 54 inches), flexibility, 6-foot turning radius, and no-trouble track, which moved independently up and down over large objects. The company's motto was "The tractor that delivers its power to the drawbar."

Beaver Manufacturing Co. of Milwaukee, often referred to as a tractor manufacturer, actually made tractor engines, the JA 4 1/2- by 6-inch and the JB 4 3/4- by 6-inch bore and stroke. Beaver Tractor Co., Stratford, Conn., made Beaver garden tractors in the late 1940s.

The Bull Dog 30 tractor is an odd-looking machine whose four equal-sized but unusual wheels made it resemble the toy Hubley Avery 18-36 tractor. Bull Dog Tractor Co. of Oshkosh, Wis., manufactured the Bull Dog 30, powered by a Waukesha four-cylinder engine of 5- by 6 1/2-inch bore and stroke in 1920. Selling for $4,250, it was overpriced at a time when the great tractor wars and Agricultural Depression were beginning.