Dog Power and Dog Engines>
Updated: 5 Jan 2013
With some sidelights on goat engines
This page deals with a power source that is now long gone- animal power. In earier times horses and oxen walked in circles to grind corn, and a donkey in a giant hamster-wheel was used to draw water from the well in Dover castle. Dog-power, however, has always been limited in its application by the limited horsepower of the average dog.
Dogs were used in smaller hamster-wheels to turn roasting spits in Britain. There was even a special breed, called not unreasonably "the turnspit" for the purpose. Some information on the turnspit breed, which sadly appears to be extinct:
www.martycrisp.com/turnspit.htm (external link}
www.gtj.org.uk/en/item1/7809 (external link}
THE RICHARDS DOG-ENGINE
Left: The Richards Dog Engine
This machine was originated by a M. Richards of Paris, who employed a large number of sewing-machines to make military uniforms. It could apparently power four heavy sewing machines, working intermittently; I would have thought this would require a pretty heavy and active dog. Unfortunately the engraving gives no scale, so it is hard to guess how big dog and machine were.
The description given is very sketchy, but it seems the dog walked on the wide belt that runs round the large and small rollers. The power is taken off from the small roller, and judging by the angle of the belting running off to the right, is further geared up to drive the sewing machinery. This seems like further evidence of the need for a pretty heavy dog. The Rottweiller would seem to be a possibility; however, the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war was probably not a good time to introduce German breeds to France.
The dog in the illustration is definitely not a Rottweiller.
From the French journal Nature 188?
It is only fair to add that Nature was not hell-bent on exploiting our four-legged friends. They said "This method always arouses grave objections, from the point of view of humanity as well as mechanics." They went on to point out that the sewing-machine work was intermittent, giving the poor dog frequent rests. Note that a bowl of water is thoughtfully provided in front of him; however I cannot rid myself of the suspicion that it might be placed just out of reach to encourage Fido to move forwards.
AN ENGLISH DOG-ENGINE: 1874
Left: English Dog-Engine: 1874
This dog-engine for sewing machine use was patented in England around 1874, but the actual patent has not so far been located.
I suggest this is a sketch of an impractical scheme rather than a drawing of real machinery. The dog-drive vertical shaft appears to be geared up by at least six time to the horizontal shaft, which is geared-up again by possibly eight times by the belt drive to the sewing machine itself. This would mean that Fido would have to exert a considerable torque as he paced round. Since he is shown here apparently as a small pug-dog, he does not appear to have what in a steam locomotive would be called "sufficient adhesive weight" to get the contraption moving. This is no doubt the reason for the disgusted look on his face.
Note that a hitching position for a second dog is provided, which would allow a "balanced drive".
From Patent Applied For by Coppersmith and Lynx. Co-ordination Press 1949.
THE FELDT DOG-ENGINE: 1888
Left: The Feldt Dog Engine: 1888
This dog-engine to drive a sewing machine was patented by Heinrich Feldt of Hamburg.
At the top left there is a brake shoe held down by a weight, which can be lifted by a string attached to the sewing-machine treadle, to control the flow of dog-power. This crude and inefficent approach to speed control has not discouraged Fido, who from his expression remains doggedly optimistic about his job.
From The Middle Ages of the Internal Combustion Engine by Horst O Hardenberg
DOG-ENGINES IN GERMANY
Germany seems to have been a fertile field for the use of dog-power.
Left: Model of Dog Engine in Deutsch Museum, Munich
This dog-engine is shown in the model as driving a bellows for a small nail-making forge. According to the label, the nail-maker would shout orders to the dog to speed up. "Faster, Wulfi! I need more heat!"
The label further states that such dog-engines were in use by nail-makers up to 1930. This seems extraordinarily late- surely all nails were made by machine much earlier than that? Perhaps some sorts of specialised nails were made by hand in small quantities.
Author's photograph June 2011
THE POOCHMOBILE: USA
Left: The Poochmobile: 1939
This surprisngly well-engineered vehicle was called the "Poochmobile". It was invented by eighty year-old dog trainer Z. Wiggs of Texas, who is presumably the man at the wheel here. It even appears to be fitted with headlights. (by the driver's right elbow) Note the placard at the top, attempting to raise some advertising revenue.
The dog looks less than enthusiastic.
From Popular Science, Nov 1939
GOAT-ENGINES IN GERMANY
This picture also comes from the Deutsch Museum in Munich. (Apparently the largest science museum in the world, and having spent a whole day failing to even cover the ground floor, I am entirely prepared to believe it) Goat engines are a new idea to me. Goats are not as docile as dogs and I would have though that they would not have co-operated. Nonetheless, a bit of research on Google shows that goat treadmills were used in the USA for driving small threshers (very small, surely?) and turning sharpening stones, which I find more plausible.
Left: Picture of Goat Engine in Deutsch Museum, Munich: 1550
A two-goat-power engine allegedly driving an ore mill in 1550. Surely that would need more power than you could get out of a couple of goats? Note that the drive is geared up considerably to turn what appears to be a grind-stone at top right, which would appear to make the available torque even more inadequate.
Author's photograph June 2011
If these drawings and stories have inspired you to create your own dog or goat-power device, try these patent and investment specialists: