The Walking Tractor: One Tool with Many Uses

A walking tractor, or walk behind tractor, is a tractor that only has two wheels. It can be very useful to the owner of a small to medium sized homestead. It can be fitted with many different attachments, to do a variety of jobs.

man with tillerMy father had an old walking tractor back in the 1950’s. It had steel wheels with cleats, instead of rubber tires. It had a sickle bar mower attachment that was driven by a geared shaft. It came with several towed implements including a hay rake, disk harrow, spring harrow, and a single plow. The power to the wheels was controlled by a lever which tightened a drive belt. To start it, a rope was wound around a pulley and then pulled vigorously.

Walking tractors have been used for many years in Europe to mow very steep hillsides, and to work in narrow spaces in vineyards. While stationed with the U.S. Army in Korea in the 1980’s, I saw many of these small tractors being used to work the soil, to drive pumps that moved water into the rice paddies, and even to haul the family to town on a cart.

I bought my own modern walking tractor about seven years ago. It is a BCS 732, made in Italy. It has a locking differential, which makes it very maneuverable for mowing around trees or under a fence when unlocked, but provides extra traction for tilling when locked. It has 3 speeds with an instant reverse feature. It has a Power Take-Off (PTO) for attachments such as a tiller or mower.

My walking tractor came from Earth Tools in Kentucky. It was shipped to me in Texas by freight truck. I ordered several attachments at the same time, including a tiller, sickle bar mower, a rotary lawn mower and a trencher. A quick disconnect makes it easy to change between implements.

I ordered my tractor with an eight horsepower diesel engine. The engine provides more torque than a gasoline engine. A diesel engine will last much longer, and there are no spark plugs or other ignition parts to replace. Diesel fuel keeps much longer in storage than gasoline, and is safer too. My diesel engine can be pull started like a lawn mower, and usually starts on the first pull. It also has an electric starter, so it can be used by anyone, regardless of upper body strength.

The sickle mower attachment is great for mowing under a fence. It can mow very tall grass by cutting it off at the bottom, like a pair of scissors. It can be used to make hay or cut straw for animal bedding or garden mulch.
The rotary mower does a great job of keeping the lawn neat, and it can bag, throw, or mulch the clippings. The tiller works the garden soil in preparation for planting in the spring and also tills in compost without compacting the soil like a large tractor would. The trencher is good for burying irrigation lines so they don’t get cut by a mower.

Earth Tools sells several different models, and an amazing number of implements for the BCS tractor. You can see some of them in action in videos on the Earth Tools website and on YouTube. Among other things, there is a snow blower, a wood splitter, a hay rake, a rotary plow that makes raised beds in the garden, a power broom that can be used to sweep a parking lot, a chipper/shredder for tree trimmings, and even a small round baler, for making hay.

I really enjoy working with my BCS tractor. Walking is great exercise, and the little tractor makes many tough jobs so easy that they become enjoyable. The mowing speed is a comfortable walking pace. It is never too wet to mow with a sickle bar mower, even in standing water. Cutting brush and small saplings is no problem. The tiller has plenty of power, even in our heavy central Texas clay, and the handlebars swivel to the side so you don’t make tracks in the freshly tilled soil.

Don’t be discouraged by the prices for these tractors and their implements. They are not cheap, but you really do get what you pay for. These heavy duty, quality made machines will be handed down to your grandchildren.

If you need a hard working machine for jobs that don’t require a full sized tractor, but are too much work to do by hand, then invest in a quality walking tractor.


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  • Mike63Denver says:

    The musk ox was merry when the mine’s manifold exploded.

  • Diane says:

    Makes me want to run out and buy one. 🙂 You would make a good salesman. I enjoyed reading it.

  • Douglas Dexheimer says:

    I bought a BCS 8HP Diesel many years ago. I got a sickle bar mower at the same time.
    I agree with the author, diesel is the way to go. Safer, stronger, and more efficient.
    GOOD Article!

  • Rustaholic says:

    It is one thing to talk about how nice walk behind tractors are but to promote one brand really turns me off this article. I have at least six old ones and some of them will do all of this too.
    I have several rear tine tractor tillers with 2-cycle engines that will chew up soil so well.
    All of this American Made stuff is out there and available.

    1. Rustaholic – do you have a favorite? Just curious. I am starting to look into them.

      1. Rustaholic says:

        Marjory, really my favorite one is whatever one I am using at the time.
        Rather than one of my Rototillers (3) I normally back one of my garden tractors with four wheels up to a towable rear tiller. That thing is a beast of a tiller and I can sit down while it does the work. My three Rototiller brand tillers were all built in the mid to late 40s. I have five or six old two wheel garden tractors and from a single plow to cultivators or drags and butt buggys I can get-er-done with them. Two of my old 1968-69 garden tractors also have rear mounted tillers. They are powered by the tractor though. My towable one has it’s own engine.

  • Fayette says:

    Nice presentation. Some personal notes and hard information about walk behind tractors. Very specific and informative, without sounding like a salesman.

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