Nine times out of ten, when someone mentioned a tractor, you picture Farmer Brown or Old MacDonald sitting atop an old red or green John Deere.
Of course, this isn’t wrong, but it’s only the tip of a proverbial iceberg when it comes to what tractors look like.
The term “tractor” can be used to describe any vehicle that provides high traction at low speeds. They can be found in various forms in agricultural, commercial, construction, and industrial settings.
Let’s take a look at some different types of tractors, many of which might surprise you.
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Types of Tractors
1. Artillery Tractor
Taking a basic tractor and reinforcing the frame to withstand a land mine blast, artillery tractors are used exclusively by the military.
These sturdier vehicles are used for hauling artillery, as well as construction and demolition in war zones. Some are even amphibious or semi-amphibious.
2. Autonomous Tractor
These driverless tractors use an AI to pilot the vehicle. A single operator could easily control a dozen of these tractors from one location, making them an excellent option for large farmlands.
3. Backhoe Loader
These versatile tractors combine the front shovel of a bulldozer with a rear-mounted excavator arm. As a result, they’re often used for both construction and demolition, such as replacing roads or excavating pipes and foundation zones for new buildings.
One of the most iconic types of earth-moving tractors, the bulldozer, is often called a crawler because of its slow, deliberate movements.
A plate-like shovel at the front allows it to shove debris out of the way, while the treads enable it to cover almost any terrain.
5. Earth-Moving Tractor
You may or may not be surprised to learn that many construction vehicles are actually tractors. In fact, the bulldozer was originally little more than a farm tractor with a plow on the front.
These days, you’ll find some earth-moving tractors on wheels, while many are on treads. Their primary purpose is to move dirt, rocks, and debris. Some even have multiple attachments to allow them more flexibility in their duties whether it’s loading dirt into dump trucks or simply piling it up.
These tractors have a rotating cab and engine section mounted atop treads. Attached to the cab section is a long hydraulic arm that ends in a bucket shovel. Depending on the task at hand, the shovel can also be replaced with various other tools.
7. Implement Carrier Tractor
These tractors have an extended chassis, allowing them to mount various tools, such as drills, dusters, loaders, seed drills, and sprayers.
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8. Lawn Tractor
These commonplace tractors are relatively small and usually run at under 10 HP, although some 20 HP models are starting to roll out. Due to their smaller size, they’re most often used for mowing large lawns or preparing gardens.
While there is much debate on whether or not a locomotive engine can be classified as a tractor, they both fit the definition and have very similar origins. Locomotive engines pull heavy loads along set rail lines and are extremely powerful.
The original locomotives dated back to 1802 and were little more than a steam engine and boiler on wheels. Nowadays, those who argue against the locomotive being a type of tractor point out that it’s a modified form of rail car or train.
However, the first tractors were created in 1812 and were nearly identical in design to steam locomotives for most of the 19th century. The only difference is that locomotives used rails to steer.
11. Orchard Tractor
Vaguely resembling a farm tractor but much taller, orchard tractors (or vineyard tractors) are designed specifically for use in orchards.
They’re able to maneuver around trees and structures while also being tall enough to allow the operator to pick or prune without leaving the driver’s seat.
11. Rotary Tiller
This form of farm tractor has a section on the back that’s fitted with blades to till the soil. They’re able to cover smaller farms in a short amount of time and can break down even baked soil or heavy clods.
It’s not unusual for a rotary tiller to be smaller, allowing it to get into tighter spaces or scale small hills with ease.
12. Row Crop Tractor
When you want an efficient multitasker for various types of farming, there are few tractors better than the row crop. They can fit a multitude of attachments for harrowing, leveling, plowing, weeding, and most other everyday tasks.
13. Small Landscaping Tractor
Slightly larger than a garden tractor, these have more power and are most often used by contractors for landscaping.
However, they’re also popular with homeowners who want something a little more rugged and are frequently used to maintain sports fields.
Perhaps the last thing you’d expect to be a tractor is the tank. The very first tank was designed by Leonardo DaVinci and was man-powered. A replica was built by the Doing DaVinci team in 2009, proving the design actually worked.
However, the military tanks you’re more familiar with were invented much later in 1914. Britain wanted a mobile weapons platform, so they began armoring Caterpillar tractors.
To confuse spies, they camouflaged the program as an attempt to develop a vehicle that integrated a fuel or liquid tank for easy transportation. Then, they added guns and introduced the Mark I and Schneider CA-1 to the battlefields in 1916.
While tanks diverged from this initial reliance on modified tractors, the idea has been revisited, most notably with the Depression-Era Disston tractor tank.
15. Tow Tractor
Originally called tuggers due to their job of towing loads, these heavy-duty industrial tractors are mainly used to pull heavy items in factory settings. However, they may also be fitted with crane booms for additional functionality.
One type of tractor you see every day is the tractor-trailer. While they look nothing like a farm tractor, the cab units of trucks are known as tractors because they perform the same high traction tasks. The big difference is that they’re designed to haul one or more trailers containing a wide array of solid and liquid goods.
Note that because these are also technically a type of truck, there’s some debate on whether they should be considered a truck-tractor hybrid. Some claim they shouldn’t be identified as tractors at all due to their closer similarity in appearance to trucks.
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17. Two-Wheel Tractor
Sometimes referred to as walking tractors, these small, lightweight tractors have small motors and are steered by the operator who walks behind them.
Their small size makes them perfect for gardens and small areas, and a variety of attachments allow the tractor to perform common tasks such as tilling and harvesting.
18. Pushback Tractor
Used primarily in the aviation industry, these low-clearance tractors are specially designed to fit under an aircraft’s nose. In addition, most have a push bar that is mounted around the aircraft’s front landing gear to either pull or push the aircraft.
A tow-barless pushback tractor uses a hydraulic lift to pick up the front gear and tow the aircraft much like a trailer. These vehicles are powerful enough to move a DC747 with ease. In fact, NASA even used large-scale versions to tow space shuttles.
19. Utility Tractor
These general-purpose tractors are usually used to pull auxiliary equipment and are used by both farmers and contractors. They come in a wide range of shapes and sizes but tend to have low to medium-powered motors.