A sulky is a lightweight
usually two-wheeled and single seated, pulled by horses or by dogs.
A sulky for horses is a lightweight two-wheeled, single-seat racing
cart that is used in most forms of
harness racing in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, including
Race sulkies come in two categories,
- Traditional symmetrical sulkies
- Asymmetric or "offset" sulkies
The asymmetric sulky was patented in Australia in the 1980s and came to
prominence in 1987 when a two-year-old gelding named Rowleyalla used one to
break the then world record for his category by a colossal seventeen times the
biggest previous margin that any southern hemisphere horse had ever broken a
world mile record. At 3.4 seconds under the existing mark, it was also the
greatest margin by which any world harness racing record was broken in that
In 1990 the asymmetric sulky was introduced into North America, winning seven
of its first nine starts at Freehold, NJ. Today the great majority of sulky
manufacturers in North America are producing asymmetric sulkies.
An additional sulky type is the "team-to-pole" or "pairs" sulky, a
lightweight single seat sulky designed for draft by two horses abreast.
These may also be split into two types:
- Traditional pole and yoke with draft by traces.
- Dorsal hitch with draft direct from the saddle to the yoke and, via the
pole, to the sulky.
Of the two, the dorsal hitch pairs sulky is the most recent, holding all
current world pairs speed records over the mile to July 31, 2005.
Smaller sulkies are also used for
dogs, both for racing
The dog driving sulkies can be divided into two main types:
- Conventional two-shaft carts attaching to harness on either side of the
dog or dogs.
- Single-shaft dorsal hitch carts, which attach to a single point on top
of the dog's shoulders.
A further distinction may be made between sulkies with the axles rigidly
connected to the vehicle, and those with the axles insulated from the vehicle by
springs and dampers. Those with springs and dampers may be further divided into
single-axle sprung carts and "independent suspension" sprung and damped carts.
Needless to say, those with independent suspension by coil springs and dampers
tend to be both more expensive and smoother riding.
Driving sulky construction materials run the full gamut from timber, through
powder-coated steel tube, aluminum tube, and stainless steel tube. The very
latest types (currently undergoing field tests in California) use
nanotechnology-based stainless steels of prodigious strength-to-weight ratio.
The great majority of driving sulkies available have the wheel axles rigidly
affixed to the frames. This makes for a rough ride on anything but smooth
surfaces such as pavement. But in recent years lightweight, single shaft,
independent suspension, driving sulkies have been introduced. These allow safe
high speed use in off-road conditions.
The most recent designs are of the single shaft type, as proponents believe
that this type gives the dog(s) greater freedom, less possibility of injury, and
a quicker and easier training regime. A single shaft dog sulky, made of
stainless steel tube and fitted with independent suspension and disc brakes,
weighs a little under 18 kg.
However, as at August 2005, multiple shaft types are still the most common.
For off-road use, dog sulkies with sprung and damped independent suspension
systems offer greatly improved comfort and safety over traditional unsprung
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