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A Haitian hand cart. Dockworkers in Cap-Haitien.jpg
A Haitian hand cart.

A cart or dray (Aus. & NZ [1] ) is a vehicle designed for transport, using two wheels and normally pulled by one or a pair of draught animals. A handcart is pulled or pushed by one or more people.


It is different from the flatbed trolley also known as a dray, (for freight) or wagon, which is a heavy transport vehicle with four wheels and typically two or more humans.

Over time, the term "cart" has come to mean nearly any small conveyance, including shopping carts, golf carts, and UTVs, without regard to number of wheels, load carried, or means of propulsion.

The draught animals used for carts may be horses, donkeys or mules, oxen, and even smaller animals such as goats or large dogs.


OHand-propelled wheel cart, Indus Valley Civilization (3000-1500 BC). Housed at the National Museum, New Delhi. Hand-propelled wheel cart from Indus Valley Civilization.GIF
OHand-propelled wheel cart, Indus Valley Civilization (3000–1500 BC). Housed at the National Museum, New Delhi.

Carts have been mentioned in literature as far back as the second millennium B.C. Handcarts pushed by humans have been used around the world. In the 19th century, for instance, some Mormons traveling across the plains of the United States between 1856 and 1860 used handcarts. [2]

The history of the cart is closely tied to the history of the wheel.

Carts were often used for judicial punishments, both to transport the condemned a public humiliation in itself (in Ancient Rome defeated leaders were often carried in the victorious general's triumph) and even, in England until its substitution by the whipping post under Queen Elizabeth I, to tie the condemned to the cart-tail and administer him or her a public whipping. Tumbrils were commonly associated with the French Revolution as a mobile stage elevating the condemned on the way to the guillotine: this was simply a continuation of earlier practice when they were used as the removable support in the gallows, before Albert Pierrepoint calculated the precise drop needed for instant severance of the nerve column.

Donkey cart is most commonly used for transportation in Thar desert THARPARKAR SINDH.jpg
Donkey cart is most commonly used for transportation in Thar desert

Types of carts

A donkey cart used in the Gambia Gambia beach.jpg
A donkey cart used in the Gambia
Cart to carry the victims of the 1813 plague in Malta, at the Zabbar Sanctuary Museum Rare dead cart at the Zabbar Sanctuary Museum.jpg
Cart to carry the victims of the 1813 plague in Malta, at the Żabbar Sanctuary Museum
Tourist carts in Petra Siq (Jordan) PetraCart.jpg
Tourist carts in Petra Siq (Jordan)
Carts from different Malay regions, exhibited at the Muzium Negara. National Museum KL 2008 157 pano.jpg
Carts from different Malay regions, exhibited at the Muzium Negara.
Kids in handcart. Leh, Ladakh, India Kids in cart. Leh, Ladakh.jpg
Kids in handcart. Leh, Ladakh, India

Larger carts may be drawn by animals, such as horses, mules, or oxen. They have been in continuous use since the invention of the wheel, in the 4th millennium BC. Carts may be named for the animal that pulls them, such as horsecart or oxcart. In modern times, horsecarts are used in competition while draft horse showing. A dogcart , however, is usually a cart designed to carry hunting dogs: an open cart with two cross-seats back to back; the dogs could be penned between the rear-facing seat and the back end.

The term "cart" (synonymous in this sense with chair) is also used for various kinds of lightweight, two-wheeled carriages, some of them sprung carts (or spring carts), especially those used as open pleasure or sporting vehicles. They could be drawn by a horse, pony or dog. Examples include:

The builder of a cart may be known as a cartwright; the surname "Carter" also derives from the occupation of transporting goods by cart or wagon. Carts have many different shapes, but the basic idea of transporting material (or maintaining a collection of materials in a portable fashion) remains. Carts may have a pair of shafts, one along each side of the draught animal that supports the forward-balanced load in the cart. The shafts are supported by a saddle on the horse. Alternatively (and normally where the animals are oxen or buffalo), the cart may have a single pole between a pair of animals. The draught traces attach to the axle of the vehicle or to the shafts. The traces are attached to a collar (on horses), to a yoke (on other heavy draught animals) or to a harness on dogs or other light animals.

Traces are made from a range of materials depending on the load and frequency of use. Heavy draught traces are made from iron or steel chain. Lighter traces are often leather and sometimes hemp rope, but plaited horse-hair and other similar decorative materials can be used.

The dray is often associated with the transport of barrels, particularly of beer.

Of the cart types not animal-drawn, perhaps the most common example today is the shopping cart (British English: shopping trolley), which has also come to have a metaphorical meaning in relation to online purchases (here, British English uses the metaphor of the shopping basket). Shopping carts first made their appearance in Oklahoma City in 1937.

In golf, both manual push or pull and electric golf trolleys are designed to carry a golfer's bag, clubs and other equipment. Also, the golf cart, car, or buggy, is a powered vehicle that carries golfers and their equipment around a golf course faster and with less effort than walking.

A Porter's trolley is a type of small, hand-propelled wheeled platform. This can also be called a baggage cart. since the 13th century.[ citation needed ]

Autocarts are a type of small, hand-propelled wheeled utility carts having a pivoting base for collapsible storage in vehicles. They eliminate the need for plastic or paper shopping bags and are also used by tradespersons to carry tools, equipment or supplies.

A soap-box cart (also known as a Billy Cart, Go-Cart, Trolley etc.) is a popular children's construction project on wheels, usually pedaled, but also intended for a test race. Similar, but more sophisticated are modern-day pedal cart toys used in general recreation and racing.

An electric cart is an electric vehicle. [9]

The term "Go-Kart", which exists since 1959, also shortened as "Kart", an alternative spelling of "cart", refers to a tiny race car with frame and two-stroke engine; the old term go-cart originally meant a sedan chair or an infant walker

A Donkey Cart used for transporting goods in Northern part of Ghana Donkey with Cart.jpg
A Donkey Cart used for transporting goods in Northern part of Ghana

See also

Related Research Articles

Chariot Carriage using animals to provide rapid motive power

A chariot is a type of carriage driven by a charioteer, usually using horses to provide rapid motive power. Chariots were used by armies as transport or mobile archery platforms, for hunting or for racing, and as a conveniently fast way to travel for many ancient people.

Trolley may refer to:

Shopping cart

A shopping cart or trolley, also known by a variety of other names, is a wheeled cart supplied by a shop or store, especially supermarkets, for use by customers inside the premises for transport of merchandise as they move around the premises, while shopping, prior to heading to the checkout counter, cashiers or tills. Increasing the amount of goods a shopper can collect increases the quantities they are likely to purchase in a single trip, boosting store profitability.

Carriage Generally horse-drawn means of transport

A carriage is a private four-wheeled vehicle for people and is most commonly horse-drawn. Second-hand private carriages were common public transport, the equivalent of modern cars used as taxis. Carriage suspensions are by leather strapping and, on those made in recent centuries, steel springs. Two-wheeled carriages are informal and usually owner-driven.

Wagon Four wheeled vehicle (mostly pulled by draught animals)

A wagon or waggon is a heavy four-wheeled vehicle pulled by draught animals or on occasion by humans, used for transporting goods, commodities, agricultural materials, supplies and sometimes people.

Working animal Domesticated animals for assisting people

A working animal is an animal, usually domesticated, that is kept by humans and trained to perform tasks. They may be pets or draft animals trained to achieve certain tasks, such as guide dogs, assistance dogs, draft horses, or logging elephants. Those whose tasks include pulling loads are called draught animals or draft animals. Most working animals are either service animals or draft animals. They may also be used for milking or herding. Some, at the end of their working lives, may also be used for meat or other products such as leather.

A gun carriage is a frame and mount that supports the gun barrel of an artillery piece, allowing it to be manoeuvred and fired.

Bullock cart

A bullock cart or ox cart is a two-wheeled or four-wheeled vehicle pulled by oxen. It is a means of transportation used since ancient times in many parts of the world. They are still used today where modern vehicles are too expensive or the infrastructure favor them.

Horse-drawn vehicle Vehicle pulled by horse; mechanized piece of equipment pulled by one horse or by a team of horses

A horse-drawn vehicle is a mechanized piece of equipment pulled by one horse or by a team of horses. These vehicles typically had two or four wheels and were used to carry passengers and/or a load. They were once common worldwide, but they have mostly been replaced by automobiles and other forms of self-propelled transport.

The un-sprung cart was a simple, sturdy, one-horse, two-wheeled vehicle used by roadmen, farmers and the like for small loads of relatively dense material like road metal or dung. In Australia and New Zealand, it is frequently called a dray. Elsewhere, that is a name occasionally used. The name dray is also used for a wagon.

Trolley (horse-drawn) Horse drawn goods vehicle

Among horse-drawn vehicles, a trolley was a goods vehicle with a platform body with four small wheels of equal size, mounted underneath it, the front two on a turntable undercarriage. The wheels were rather larger and the deck proportionately higher than those of a lorry. A large trolley is likely to have had a headboard with the driver's seat on it, as on a lorry but a smaller trolley may have had a box at the front of the deck or the driver seated on a corner of the deck and his feet on a shaft. With a very small trolley, the 'driver' may even have led the horse as a pedestrian. They were normally drawn by a single pony or horse but a large trolley would have a pair.


A dogcart is a light horse-drawn vehicle, originally designed for sporting shooters, with a box behind the driver's seat to contain one or more retriever dogs. The dog box could be converted to a second seat. Later variants included :


An ox-wagon or bullock wagon is a four-wheeled vehicle pulled by oxen. It was a traditional form of transport, especially in Southern Africa but also in New Zealand and Australia. Ox-wagons were also used in the United States. The first recorded use of an ox-wagon was around 1670, but they continue to be used in some areas up to modern times.

Driving (horse) The use of horses to pull vehicles or other equipment

Driving, when applied to horses, ponies, mules, or donkeys, is a broad term for hitching equines to a wagon, carriage, cart, sleigh, or other horse-drawn vehicle by means of a harness and working them in this way. It encompasses a wide range of activities from pleasure driving, to harness racing, to farm work, horse shows, and even international combined driving.

Horse harness is a device that connects a horse to a vehicle or another type of load.

Michigan logging wheels

Michigan logging wheels are a type of skidder that was introduced in the nineteenth century United States logging industry as a state-of-the-art technology for transporting lumber and timber over rough terrain. They proved most valuable in the winter months as they could extend the logging season since they were not dependent upon good seasonal weather conditions. It enabled a set of domestic labor animals to be able to transport many heavy logs of various sizes over a long distance of uneven wet ground.

Governess cart Small two-wheeled horse-drawn cart

A governess cart is a small two-wheeled horse-drawn cart. Their distinguishing feature is a small tub body, with two opposed inward-facing seats. They could seat four, although there was little room for four large adults. The driver sat sideways on one of these seats. The centre rear of the body was lowered, or else had a small hinged door, and there was a step beneath. The wheels were of moderate size, always fitted with mudguards, and usually carried on elliptical springs. The axle was either straight or dropped, giving a low, stable, centre of gravity.

Outline of animal-powered transport Overview of and topical guide to animal-powered transport

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to animal-powered transport:

Human-powered land vehicle

Human-powered land vehicles are land vehicles propelled over ground by human power. The main ways to support the weight of a human-powered land vehicle and its contents above the ground are rolling contact; sliding contact; intermittent contact; no contact at all as with anything carried; or some combination of the above. The main methods of using human power to propel a land vehicle are some kind of drivetrain; pushing laterally against the ground with a wheel, skate, or ski that simultaneously moves forward; by pushing against the ground directly with an appendage opposite to the direction of travel; or by propeller. Human-powered land vehicles can be propelled by persons riding in the vehicle or by persons walking or running and not supported by the vehicle.


  1. "Dray". Lexico Dictionaries: English. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  2. Lyndia Carter, “Handcarts,” in Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, 461–63.
  3. CAAOnline: Carriage Tour. Archived October 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine The Carriage Association of America, Inc.
  4. pp. 61-62.
  5. p. 279.
  6. "Horse Drawn Carriages". Retrieved August 25, 2014.
  7. "Horse drawn vehicles in the 19th Century - Driffield Post Times". 2012-01-27. Archived from the original on February 20, 2015. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
  8. "RootsWeb: STAFFORDSHIRE-L [STAFFORDSHIRE] Whitechapel". July 1, 2014. Archived from the original on February 22, 2015. Retrieved August 25, 2014.
  9. "Mobility and Wheelchair Assistance - Alaska Airlines". Retrieved October 15, 2020.