The Bull With the Pull

The Big Bull Tractor: 1915-1920

| September/October 2002

  • Big Bull tractor
    A circa 1917 Big Bull 12-24, serial number 13092. Note the large, protruding spine on the front wheel, designed to keep it running in the furrow. This Big Bull is in the possession of the Reynolds Museum, Wetaskiwin, Alberta, Canada.
  • Big Bull tractor

  • Big Bull tractor

  • Big Bull tractor

  • Big Bull tractor
  • Big Bull tractor
  • Big Bull tractor
  • Big Bull tractor

Introduced to Great Fanfare, the Bull Tractor Was Eagerly Met, But Ultimately Failed to Hold a Market

A victim of time, rusted and scarred by years of exposure to the elements, the Big Bull slumps silently in the shade of a warehouse lean-to. At first glance it resembles a machine assembled from an odd assortment of orphaned parts. The label 'clunker' seems somehow appropriate.

But in 1915 the Bull Tractor Company proudly decreed the Big Bull was the ultimate in tractors. Advertisements for the tractor were over zealous, it would seem, perhaps even somewhat misleading. Or were they? Not surprisingly, this tractor of ungainly appearance has an interesting story.


Around the time of the WW I, farmers in Canada and the U.S. were accustomed to the huge, powerful tractors being used for threshing on large acreages. Tractors like the Rumely OilPull, the Sawyer-Massey, the Twin City and others were popular. But they were expensive units to own and operate, and farmers operating on a smaller land base were demanding a smaller tractor to meet their needs. World War I placed many demands on society, including the need for more efficient food production, and this in turn spurred the demand for small, general-purpose farm tractors, which were almost non-existent prior to this time.

In a hurried attempt to be one of the first companies to meet market demand for a smaller tractor, the Bull Tractor Company of Minneapolis, Minn., was formed in 1914, introducing its first tractor that same year. For a short time the Bull tractor designed by D.M. Hartsough did seem to meet the need.

The Bull was an awkward-looking three-wheeled tractor. It had one large driving wheel with steel lugs that ran in the furrow, and a smaller 'land wheel' opposite the driving wheel that was smooth-faced and free wheeling, providing balance to the machine. The land wheel also could be adjusted to level the tractor when plowing. The single, steel front wheel was uniquely designed with a large, central spine on the rim and positioned to follow the furrow.

The 1914 model, known as the Little Bull, had a two-cylinder opposed engine rated at 5-12 HP. Unfortunately, the Little Bull was not the tractor sensation it was claimed to be. Underpowered and unproven in the field, it soon fell into disfavor.

John Mastin
2/2/2011 1:00:10 AM

I'm looking for a photo showing the hand throtle placement and how it hooks to the carb on the Big Bull. Thanks John


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