The Tractor Quiz


By: Ian Fortey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Katrina Wittkamp / DigitalVision / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Farming has been a part of mankind's history since long before anyone thought of actually writing things down. It's as old as civilization. For as long as we've realized growing our own food was a good idea if we wanted to keep surviving, we've been innovating newer and better ways to get it done. From simple hand tools to more complex devices that were dragged behind oxen, we've come a long way. And it's possible no tool has done more for the world of agriculture than the tractor. It took working fields leaps and bounds into the future, cutting down the time and money needed to plant and harvest by an unbelievable amount. There's no doubt the world could never hope to feed all the people in it if not for tractors. So really, we owe these machines a lot, even if most people don't realize it. 

Tractor technology keeps evolving because you can't stop progress. But there's a lot of history there too! If you feel like you know a good deal about where tractors were, where they were, and where they're going, why not take the tractor quiz and show us what you've got?

What does ROPS mean in relation to tractors?

Safety is an important factor of any modern tractor, and you probably want some kind of rollover protection system, or ROPS, on any tractor you buy. This ensures that if the tractor does take a spill, you don't get crushed when it does so.


How do modern tractors ensure straight lines when they're being used?

GPS is arguably one of the greatest innovations in farming ever. With GPS navigation, a tractor can be set on a perfectly straight path, allowing the farmer to concentrate less on where they're going and more on what they're doing.


Do you know what a FEL is?

The front end loader is a kind of tractor attachment that puts a scoop on the front of a tractor so it can push or shovel or lift a load of something. They were actually first designed in Sweden but are pretty common all over the world now.


What is one of the categories of tractors that John Deere makes?

John Deere produces tractors in four main categories. Those include utility tractors, row crop tractors, specialty tractors, and the fourth category is four-wheel-drive tractors. Of course, in those four categories, there are numerous variations as well.


Even though rubber is the standard for tires these days, it wasn't always. What were the wheels on the first tractors made from?

Back in the day, most tractors had steel wheels. Often, to improve traction, they'd have bumps and even spikes added to them to help dig into the soil. This also meant they could not be used on roads without destroying them.


How many tractors are there in the world right now, give or take?

It's a rough number but it's believed that there are in the neighborhood of 26 million tractors currently in operation around the globe at the moment. Over 2 million were sold globally in 2017 alone.


What did tractor drivers use to ensure straight lines back in the day?

Most people don't consider how hard driving in a straight line is because roads have guide markings. Tractor drivers in fields used to have to line the hood ornament up with a landmark in the distance to ensure that they were staying on a relatively straight track as they plowed.


What was the name of the tractor company that John Deere bought in 1918?

In 1918, John Deere bought the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company which had been producing tractors that went by the name Waterloo Boy tractor since 1911. Word is they didn't sell any for a few years but eventually they became popular. Deere bought them out for over $2 million.


The word tractor didn't just come out of nowhere. What does the Latin word "trahere" mean?

Just like a ton of words in the Engish language, tractor traces its roots to the Latin language. The word "trahere" or "traho" means to pull, drag, or draw. That's why protracted, for instance, means "drawn out." They all come from the same place.


Which one of these companies is working on driverless tractor projects?

A number of manufacturers are looking at the evolution of tractors, including making them entirely autonomous and driverless. Case IH, the Autonomous Tractor Corporation, Fendt and John Deere are all working on models.


What innovation to protect farmers appeared for the first time in 1966?

The roll bar was first used in tractors back in 1966. This meant that in the event a tractor tipped over, which actually happens pretty frequently, the driver would still be protected from being crushed under the weight of the tractor.


Do you know what the John Deere company did for farmers during the Depression?

There's no doubt the Depression was a hard time for everyone and farmers were hit harder than many. While many went bankrupt, John Deere refused to repossess the tractors of farmers who couldn't pay them off and instead let them keep doing whatever work they could with the machines.


Which of these is the most powerful tractor in the world?

While all tractors are pretty powerful machines the Case IH Steiger/Quadrac 620 actually outperforms most high-powered sports cars under the hood and features a 692hp engine and a 500-gallon fuel tank.


Do you know what's special about a LeTourneau L-2350?

The LeTourneau L-2350 is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the absolute biggest tractor in the world. It's used in construction and mining operations to carry massive loads that can reach weights of over 80 tons.


Most tractors run on diesel these days. Which model was the first diesel model?

The John Deere Model R was the first diesel-powered tractor that hit the market, and it dates all the way back to 1949. It could haul nearly 7,000 pounds and reach a somewhat unimpressive 11.5 miles per hour in fifth gear.


A tractor pulling a 25-foot disc harrow can plow 40 acres of land in about an hour. About how long would it take four horses to do the same?

There's a reason tractors replaced oxen and horses on farms. The job a tractor can do in one hour could take a team of four horses over 55 hours to do. In fairness, the horses would be doing a harder job with the plow than a tractor would with a disc harrow, but still. The difference is dramatic.


Which world-famous sports car manufacturer also makes tractors?

Lamborghini designs tractors under the name Lamborghini Trattori. As you might expect, they're still some high-performance vehicles, and they can cost upwards of $146,000 making them at least more affordable than Lamborghini cars.


What connects a tractor to whatever equipment it's hauling?

A drawbar is what attaches a tractor to something like a harrow plow or a seed sprayer or whatever it's hauling behind it. For the most part, it's just a long piece of metal that connects to the tractor and the attachment like a tow line but made of solid material.


What is a GridCON tractor?

GridCON is John Deere's electric tractor model which is still being ironed out in the development phase though it has been shown off a few times. It's said to have an impressive 400 horsepower engine.


1951 was a big year for tractor production. How many were manufactured in the US that year?

Tractor production hit a historical peak in 1951 and 564,000 of them were manufactured that year. It's gone down slowly since then, but that was the year that they were clearly the most important thing any farmer could own.


When did tractor companies start selling tractors with rubber tires?

Around about 1932 and 1933 most tractor companies began offering rubber tires as a standard feature on tractors. During the same time period, a number of businesses, like blacksmiths, would offer their services to retrofit steel-wheeled tractors with new rubber ones.


John Froelich is credited with creating the first gasoline-powered tractor. Where did he do it?

John Froelich is credited with creating the first fully-functional gasoline-powered tractor that could drive both forwards and backward back in 1892 in Iowa. The word tractor was not in use at that time but it's still clear that's what it was.


How old is the oldest surviving internal combustion engine tractor anyway?

The oldest one anyone has in the world right now dates back to 1903. It was built by Charles Hart and Charles Parr, and if you want to see it you actually still can! Currently, it belongs to the Smithsonian Museum.


Tractor production really started amping up between 1916 and 1922. In that time, how many companies were making them?

Because farmers were just catching on to how useful tractors could be, everyone wanted a piece of the pie. Over 100 companies began producing tractors between 1916 and 1922 though very few of them are still at it today.


Do you know the land speed record for a tractor?

In 2019 a JCB 4000-series Fastrac tractor set a new speed record for tractors by hitting a staggering 103 miles per hour. The record was set in England, beating the previous 87 mph record set just the year before on the show "Top Gear."


How expensive could tractors get back in 1920?

A high-end tractor back in 1920 might set you back $785, which was a steep investment at the time. Adjusted for inflation that's only about $10,000. By 1922 they would cost less than $400 apiece. High-end tractors today can cost upwards of $150,000.


What company is the largest producer of tractors in the world by volume?

Indian tractor manufacturer Mahindra is actually the largest tractor manufacturer in the world, although John Deere has been doing it much longer. The company dominates the Indian market which is the largest in the world and also has facilities in places like Australia and the US.


John Deere is one of the largest manufacturers of tractors in the world. How many different models have they produced?

There are actually several hundred companies that have designed and sold tractors over the years, and though companies like Kubota and Massey Ferguson have designed over 600 kinds of tractors, John Deere leads the pack with over 900 models.


When you need a tractor that's more maneuverable and less bulky, what should you get?

A "normal" tractor can be referred to as a utility tractor and a smaller, more maneuverable version — like a lot of what John Deere sells — are called compact utility tractors or CUTs. These will generally have a smaller frame and perhaps less engine output overall than a full-sized utility tractor.


John Deere bought Blue River Technology in 2017. What did that company make?

Blue River Technologies was acquired back in 2017 by John Deere because of the work the startup had been doing in AI or artificial intelligence. This is part of John Deere's initiative to produce self-driving tractors.


Do you know where about half of all the tractors on Earth are sold?

Millions of tractors are sold every year and about half of them can be found entirely in India and China, the two largest and growing markets for agricultural machinery in the entire world.


Which car manufacturer also produced tractors?

Numerous auto manufacturers have also designed tractors over the years. Jeep only made a few models from the '40s through to the '60s while Ford has designed nearly 200 and Fiat over 100.


One of the earliest tractors was called "the barn engine." When was it made?

Richard Trevithick came up with the idea for the barn engine back in 1812. It was a bit of a ways off from what you'd consider a modern tractor. It was essentially a threshing machine outfitted with a steam-powered engine.


What milestone did the John Deere company hit in 1966?

By 1966 the John Deere Company had cracked its first $1 billion dollars which is a heck of a lot of money no matter what year it is. To give that some perspective, adjusted for inflation that's about $7.9 billion today.


What was the name of the first tractor produced by the John Deere company?

The Dain All-Wheel-Drive tractor was Deere's first foray into the tractor market after they'd acquired the Dain Manufacturing Company back in 1911. The founder of Dain, now working for Deere, created 100 units of that early design.


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