In today’s throwback Thursday photograph, a Cortland County farm family uses a horse-powered treadmill to saw wood. For centuries, draft horses have been used on farms to plow fields, haul wagons, and for various other forms of hard labor. During the 19th century, farmers also used horses to provide their machinery with a dependable source of power. The horse treadmill utilized a system of gears and belts to harness the power of horses to thresh hay, saw wood, and even churn butter. The amount of force necessary to operate these treadmills was measured in “horse power,” a familiar term that is still used today. Horse treadmills remained popular until the 1920s, and there were even smaller treadmills powered by dogs and sheep. Affordable gas powered tractors and electrical motors eventually replaced horse treadmills.
Tune in for the premiere of “Harvest,” WSKG’s new original documentary chronicling the history of agriculture in our region, on November 19th at 8PM to learn more about family farm life.
Photograph courtesy of the Cortland County Historical Society