Old, Weird Tech: Fascist Italy's Mechanized Horse

irondobbin.png


Little is known about the origins of the Iron Dobbin, the product of an Italian inventor which first appeared in the April 1933 issue of Popular Science as "the mechanical horse that trots and gallops on steel piped legs, under the impulse of a gasoline engine."

With this horse, he declares, children may be trained to ride. The iron Dobbin is said to canter along a road or across a rough field with equal ease. Its design recalls the attempts of inventors, before the day of the automobile, to imitate nature and produce a mechanical steed capable of drawing a wagon.

The Italian military considered putting the vehicle into limited production to train the children of the Gioventù Italiana Littorio (Italian Fascist Youth Movement) to ride, but the military deemed it impractical. The Iron Dobbin was also rejected as a replacement for mountain troop donkeys. After seeing the above image in Popular Science, the German military drew up plans for their version to be named the Panzerpferd (Tank Horse) for their Gebirgsjaeger troops, who equally rejected that idea.

This amateur animation by Margarita Angel envisions the Iron Dobbin in action:


Image: Popular Science
Presented by

Jared Keller is a former associate editor for The Atlantic and The Atlantic Wire and has also written for Lapham's Quarterly's Deja Vu blog, National Journal's The Hotline, Boston's Weekly Dig, and Preservation magazine. 

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her middle school. Then Humans of New York told her story to the Internet—and everything changed.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

Video

What Fifty Shades Left Out

A straightforward guide to BDSM

More in Technology

Just In