A backhoe, also called a rear actor or back actor, is a piece of excavating equipment consisting of a digging bucket on the end of a two-part articulated arm. They are typically mounted on the back of a tractor or front loader. The section of the arm closest to the vehicle is known as the boom, and the section which carries the bucket is known as the dipper or dipperstick. The boom is attached to the vehicle through a pivot known as the kingpost, which allows the arm to slew left and right, usually through a total of around 200 degrees. Modern backhoes are powered by hydraulics.
Most backhoes are at their strongest curling the bucket, with the dipperstick next most powerful, and boom movements the least powerful.
Similar attachments for skid loaders are still called backhoes even though they are mounted on the front. This is because the name refers to the action of the shovel, not its location on the vehicle: a backhoe digs by drawing earth backwards, rather than lifting it with a forward motion like a bulldozer.
A backhoe loader is a tractor-like vehicle with an arm and bucket mounted on the back and a front loader mounted on the front. This type of vehicle is often known colloquially as a JCB in Europe and simply a Backhoe or a Tractor Loader Backhoe, or TLB, in North America. In North American terms, a Backhoe includes both a front bucket and a rear hoe, on a chassis originally derived from farm tractors. A dedicated hoe on its own chassis is more properly referred to as an excavator.
Backhoes can be designed and manufactured from the start as such, or can be the result of a farm tractor equipped with a Front End Loader (FEL) and rear hoe. Though similar looking, the designed backhoes are much stronger, with the farm variation more suitable for light work.
With the advent of hydraulic powered attachments such as a tiltrotator, breaker, a grapple or an auger, the backhoe is frequently used in many applications other than excavation and with the tiltrotator attachment, actually serves as an effective tool carrier. Many backhoes feature quick-attach mounting systems for simplified attachment mounting, dramatically increasing the machine's utilization on the jobsite. Backhoes are usually employed together with loaders and bulldozers. Excavators that use a backhoe are sometimes called "trackhoes" by people who do not realize the name is due to the action of the bucket, not its location on a backhoe loader.
Backhoes are general purpose tools, and are being displaced to some extent by multiple specialist tools like the excavator and the specialty Front End Loader, especially with the rise of the mini-excavator. On many jobsites which would have previously seen a backhoe used, a skidsteer (colloquially often called a Bobcat after the most well known manufacturer and inventor of the category) and a mini excavator will be used in conjunction to fill the backhoes role. Backhoes still are in general use, however.
The British company JCB developed the early hoes. Their first tractor equipped with both a hoe and a front mounted loading bucket was completed in 1953 and set the standard pattern for future designs of hoe loader. Because of the long-time predominance of this marque in the United Kingdom and Ireland, it has become a genericized trademark there, and all backhoe-equipped diggers are commonly called JCBs, while the term "hoe" is almost unknown to the general public. The founder of the JCB company holds the honour of being the only non-American in the US construction industry's Hall of fame.