Bulldozer History: What You May Not Have Known

For many, bulldozers are a simple and utilitarian piece of construction equipment. Heavy machine operators use them every day in order to carry out the many earthmoving applications that are necessary on various job sites. Dozer rentals are readily available from most heavy construction equipment supply companies.

Bulldozer or Dozer Crawler

However, bulldozers have an interesting history. There are no clear answers to who first invented the bulldozer. Many believe that American Benjamin Holt first devised the “caterpillar” as he dubbed it, or crawler tractor. What’s closer to the truth is that Holt first implemented the endless chain tread for his steam engine in 1904. While this machine was more a track-laying traction engine than a bulldozer proper, it did evoke the spirit of a modern bulldozer.

While it’s not known with certainty who invented the first bulldozer as we know it, the first bulldozer blade was used before any tractor. Pushed by mules, a large blade mounted to a frame would spread dirt or fill a hole. As you can imagine, this arrangement was much harder to throw into reverse than a modern bulldozer.

The term “bulldozer” has a colorful past as well. Few know that the term actually refers only to the blade at the front of a tractor, though it has come to represent the entire machine in years since its first use. Speculation is that the term refers to a habit in which bulls will push against each other in harmless displays of strength. During mating season, when more rides on such displays, these competitions grow more fierce.

Another potential meaning comes from the antiquated term “bull-dose,” used in the 1800s, which was a large or efficient dose of any medicine or punishment. Giving one a bull dose involved a beating or intense coercion ( perhaps at gunpoint). By the late 1800s, the term had morphed into “bulldozing” which involved using force to push through any obstacle.

The bulldozer is an iconic piece of equipment for good reason, and has built an interesting history in its wake (though nothing else was left standing).