A cart is a vehicle or device, using two wheels and normally one horse, designed for transport. A handcart is pulled or pushed by a person. It is different from a dray or wagon, which is a heavy transport vehicle with four wheels and normally at least two horses, which in turn is different from a carriage, which is used exclusively for transporting humans.
Carts have been mentioned in literature as far back as the second millennium B.C. The Indian sacred book Rigveda states that men and women are as equal as two wheels of a cart. Hand-carts pushed by humans have been used around the world. In the 19th century, for instance, some Mormons travelling across the plains of the United States between 1856 and 1860 used handcarts.
Carts were often used for judicial punishments, both to transport the condemned – a public humiliation in itself (in Ancient Rome defeated leaders were often carried in the victorious general's triumph) – and even, in England until its substitution by the whipping post under Queen Elizabeth I, to tie the condemned to the cart-tail and administer him or her a public whipping.
The term "cart" (synonymous in this sense with chair) is also used for various kinds of lightweight, two-wheeled carriages, some of them sprung carts (or spring carts), especially those used as open pleasure or sporting vehicles. They could be drawn by a horse, pony or dog. Examples include:
An animal-drawn cart can bear the archaic name of wain (from the Old English and German root-word for wagon), for example a haywain, and the builders of such vehicles became known as "cartwrights" or "wainwrights". These terms survive as surnames of families descended from those practising these trades; also note the surname "Carter".
Carts have many different shapes but the basic idea of transporting material (or maintaining a collection of materials in a portable fashion) remains. Carts usually have two or four wheels. Those with four wheels (drays or wagons) will often have a pivoting front axle that has a pole connected to the collars or yoke of the two guiding draught animals. The traces from the draught animals are connected to the pivoting axle and then, by chain, to the rear axle. Two-wheeled carts normally have shafts, one along each side of the draught animal that supports the forward-balanced load in the cart. The shafts are supported by a saddle on the horse. The draught traces attach to the axle of the vehicle. In all cases the traces are attached to a collar (on horses), to a yoke (on other heavy draught animals) or to a harness on dogs or other light animals. One-horse carts are common, on the other hand drays are pulled by many animals, as many as 8 or 10 depending on what is being hauled.
Traces are made from a range of materials depending on the load and frequency of use. Heavy draught traces are made from iron or steel chain. Lighter traces are often leather and sometimes hemp rope, but plaited horse-hair and other similar decorative materials can be used.
Of the cart types not animal-drawn, perhaps the most common example today is the shopping cart (British English: shopping Trolley), which has also come to have a metaphorical meaning in relation to online purchases (here, British English uses the metaphor of the shopping basket). Shopping carts first made their appearance in Oklahoma City in 1937.
The golf cart, designed to carry golfers and their clubs around a golf course faster and with less effort than walking, is another well known modern type of cart – in this case, self-propelled.
A soap-box cart (also known as a Billy Cart, Go-Cart, Trolley etc.) is a popular children's construction project on wheels, usually pedaled, but also intended for a test race.
The term "Go-Kart", which exists since 1959, also shortened as "Kart", an alternative spelling of "cart", refers to a tiny race car with frame and two-stroke engine; the old term go-cart originally meant a sedan chair or an infant walker
"Autocarts" are a type of small, hand-propelled wheeled utility carts having a pivoting base for storage in vehicles. They eliminate the need for plastic or paper shopping bags and are used by tradespersons to carry tools, equipment or supplies. (Photos)