Horsepower Over Horses. Are ATVs Shaping Rural America?

HorseFor centuries, cowboys on horses have worked on ranches and farms, helping to move cattle along and checking on fence lines. This image has been solidified in our collective consciousness by television shows and movies that show handsome cowboys on their trusty steeds, working hard from sun up ’til sundown.

But these days, instead of relying on horses to do the work, many have made the switch to all-terrain vehicles (ATV). Fans of ATVs love using the rugged wheeled machines for at least some of their traditional horse work:

Unlike horses, ATVs don’t need to rest

As ATV notes, you can work hard on your ATV all day long and you won’t have to take breaks to feed and water it. In other words, horses get tired, horsepower does not. When ranchers need to move a group of cattle over a long distance, someone on an ATV can ride ahead of the herd to make sure the various gates are properly opened or closed.

ATVs can also be easier for ranchers and farmers to use. Instead of saddling up a horse and making sure the horseshoes are in good shape, an ATV is pretty much ready to go 24/7. And, unlike horses that require regular vet care and the expenses that go along with it, many people can handle minor ATV repairs and parts replacements themselves.

Cattle should be acclimated to the ATV and the sounds that they make before setting off on a 15-mile roundup. Ranchers and farmers who buy one should take some time using them around the herd and keep a bale of hay in front to help the animals feel more at ease with the vehicle.

ATVs are ultra tough and rugged

Sure, horses are exceptionally strong animals that can carry and pull a lot of weight, but for a lot of jobs, an ATV is probably the way to go. A lot of newer ATVs can tow at least 800 pounds at a time, or hold up to 100 pounds on their racks. If your list of farm chores includes hauling firewood or building a new fence, an ATV can carry supplies around all day long and get through tight spots better than many work horses. As Tri-State Livestock News notes, ranchers who use dogs to round-up sheep or cows can drive them over to where they need to go, which prevents the dogs from tiring as early.

ATVs can handle tough terrain

An ATV can be extremely useful for farm owners and ranchers whose property includes a lot of dense woods or steep and rough terrain, . As Hobby Farms notes, ATVs have a lot of maneuverability that horses often do not, and they can get through thick groves of trees or up steep rocks with ease.