The term sheep treadmills refers nowadays to the exercise devices designed to keep a farmer's sheep in good health. In 1990 inventor Victor Tribelhorn came up with the concept of sheep treadmills for conditioning and exercising a large number of sheep at the same time. The patent was published in 1992. With this device, the sheep are arranged side by side on these sheep treadmills with their front legs on a stationary stand and their back legs on the treadmill belt. The range of speed for these sheep treadmills is 14 to 22 inches for second.
Earlier sheep treadmills, however - those that existed in the nineteenth century - were not about offering exercise to the sheep. Instead, they were farming machines powered, in these pre-electricity days, by sheep and sometimes dogs or goats. Useful for threshing, these sheep treadmills were originally designed in 1834. For treadmills that required heftier weights to run them, horses provided the power. Most treadmills, however, ran just fine powered by the smaller farm animals.
J.A. and H.A. Pitts were the original animal treadmill inventors, designing their treadmills not as sheep treadmills but as horse-powered ones. They were designed with links made of iron and rollers made of hardwood, to power farmers' groundhog threshing machines. The next year these treadmills were improved, by means of a wooden cog belt assembly.
Some years later the level tread design was introduced.
Dog, goat and sheep treadmills came into being for the running of smaller, lighter-weight machines - farming implements that could shell corn, churn butter, grind stone, separate cream and perform fanning tasks for milling.
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