last update: 30th NOVEMBER 2012

[Dog and Cart] Introduction [Dog and Cart] Main Page Contents
[Dog and Cart] First Draught [Dog and Cart]Carting Calendar
[Dog and Cart] Finding A Cart [Dog and Cart] Two Carting Video Clips


Once someone decides that they'd like to cart with their Bernese (or any other breed for that matter), several practical problems have to be overcome first. "Where do I get a cart?", "Where can I get a harness?", "How do I go about teaching my dog to cart?", "I don't want to go to the expense of buying a cart and harness and then find that my dog doesn't want to pull a cart - how do I get round this?".

This on-line guide is intended as a brief introduction to some of the help that is available in the UK. It isn't exhaustive, and at present is somewhat limited in scope, but we hope that as time goes on, we'll be able to expand the coverage of this page to include as much information as possible, in order to get you going.


Some years ago, a group of us recognised that the need existed for a dedicated training day where people could learn how to teach their dogs to cart. The opportunity for ad hoc training already existed (and still does) as an extra attraction at some other events, but there were no events aimed solely at carting training.

Thus First Draught was born, with the aim of giving the dogs and handlers as much individual help and attention as possible, in order to provide as much encouragement to their dogs as they needed. The event was created under the auspices of the Central Bernese Mountain Dog Club, and is run by their Carting Sub-Committee. To date, it has been extremely successful, and we've trained not only Bernese to cart, but also Rottweilers, Leonbergers, German Shepherds, Newfoundlands and St.Bernards too. It's an ideal way to discover whether your dog is likely to take to carting or not, before you spend significant sums of money on a harness, a cart, and perhaps a trailer to transport it.

First Draught is normally held in Leicestershire during April, which provides an opportunity for the successful dogs to consolidate their achievement during the summer months ahead. Ideally dogs should be around 18 months old before they start carting on a regular basis, but providing dogs are between 15 and 18 months old, then some participation will probably be possible, though how far a dog under 18 months of age can progress, will be a matter of judgement on the day, depending on the dog. The numbers of dogs taking part are limited to ensure that everyone gets all the help they need.

This year's First Draught training day was held on April 13th at Kirkby Mallory, in Leicestershire.

For those in the South East of England (especially those with Leonbergers, though all breeds are welcome) James & Lhi Elligott run a draughtwork training group, which meets between October and the end of April at Shorne Country Park, near Gravesend, in Kent. For more details, contact James & Lhi direct.

The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Great Britain also have a fairly comprehensive guide to 'Starting Carting' on their website, compiled by Steve & Jeanette Green. To read it, please click on the following link.

[Dog and Cart] GB Club's Starting Carting Article


[2 Berns in a cart]

The carts used by Bernese carters in the UK are mostly a combination of converted European handcarts, original Swiss carts, and homebuilt carts in a variety of designs, from copies of Swiss carts, through to covered wagons and fire engines!


The easiest to obtain, and therefore the most widely used, are the European handcarts. These can be obtained from a variety of sources, the cheapest generally being some of the major Antiques Fairs, such as are held periodically at Newark and Ardingley. They can also be found in Antique Shops and warehouses, but tend to be more expensive from these sources.

Carts bought in this way can be in varying states of disrepair, and will need restoration work on them, before converting them to take a pair of shafts for the dog, instead of the single 'handpull shaft' that many of them come with. Wheels will need to be examined carefully for soundness, since these are the most difficult part to restore, unless you happen to have a friendly Wheelwright nearby. Spare wheels can usually be found in piles at Antiques Fairs, but finding a matching pair, let alone four suitable replacements, can be difficult.
[Unrestored handcart]
Click to view full size photo (45kb)

Click'BACK' to return here
An unrestored European Handcart as purchased. Note the badly fitting replacement tyre on the front right wheel, and the unusual curved top rails - these are normally straight.
The same handcart following restoration, which involved a complete strip down to the bare wood, total dismantling, replacement of most metal fittings, and re-tyring. Note the transverse bar on the front forks, for mounting the shafts. [Restored handcart]
Click to view full size photo (49kb)

Click'BACK' to return here

Within the breed, there are a few people who buy several old carts at a time and restore them for a hobby, with the aim of selling them on later. These same people can usually help with shafts as well.

It's just possible that you might come across a genuine Swiss cart for sale, since a number of carters have one, but unfortunately, they rarely part with them. If you're really lucky, you might even come across an old, unrestored example, but they are extremely rare. We found one some years ago decorating the bar of the Passage House Inn in Devon, but despite several offers to the owners, they wouldn't sell. Imagine our distress therefore, when on another visit in 1999, the cart had gone. Our enquiries as to its whereabouts revealed that it had been "dumped" due to its condition! Aaaaaargh!!!
[Old Swiss handcart]
Click to view full size photo (60kb)

Click'BACK' to return here
Old Swiss handcart, formerly in the Passage House Inn, Kingsteignton, Devon, until 'dumped' during early 1998
Detail of turntable on an old Swiss handcart [detail on Swiss cart]
Click to view full size photo (35kb)

Click'BACK' to return here


An increasing number of people both within and outside the breed, are handbuilding new carts to a variety of designs - mostly in wood. Some have been around for ten years or more, while others are only just getting started.

They've recently been joined by Brian Boyd, one of the Pennine Carters, who has turned his hand to producing replica Swiss carts, based on measurements taken from an original Swiss cart owned by one of the other carters. He's also produced replicas of the Old Swiss cart above, based on detailed photographs taken while it was still in the pub.

[Handbuilt Swiss-style cart]
Click to view full size photo (15.1kb)

Click'BACK' to return here
Side view of Brian's handbuilt, Swiss-style cart

Underside of cart, showing turntable and front forks, to which the shafts will be attached. [Underside detail of cart]
Click to view full size photo (15.8kb)

Click'BACK' to return here
With ease of transport in mind, many of the carts are designed to fold down simply, without the need to remove the wheels unless you want to (not quite "flat packs", but getting that way!), so that they can be fitted into a wider range of vehicles and trailers than would be the case for a normal cart. All are built of hardwoods for durability, are reasonably lightweight, and come complete with shafts (which are not illustrated).

[Handbuilt Swiss-style cart]
Click to view full size photo (14.4kb)

Click'BACK' to return here
Rear three-quarter view of Brian's handbuilt, Swiss-style cart

Demonstration of how light the carts are (thumbs & forefingers only!) [Lightweight demonstration!]
Click to view full size photo (11.6kb)

Click'BACK' to return here

[Dog and Cart] For more details, prices, enquiries or to place orders, please E-Mail Brian direct.

Jeeves proudly showing off Brian's handiwork[Jeeves showing off the cart]
Click to view full size photo (14.2kb)

Click'BACK' to return here


From time to time, former carters will find that they have a cart which is surplus to requirements, and advertise it for sale, sometimes by word of mouth, and sometimes in the club magazines. Regular carters will often know the cart, and be aware of its intended disposal long before the vendor advertises it formally however, and thus it will sometimes be sold privately to an existing carter, before it ever reaches the open market.

While this might seem a bit disheartening for the beginner, there are ways around the problem. Some prospective carters socialise their pups and young dogs for a year or so, by joining in with a group of display carters, such as the Midland or the Pennine Bernese Carters, walking their dog into the ring as part of the display, to meet the public, and to accustom the dog to the rattle of the carts and the clanging of the bells. This way, they can get practical help from their friends in the team to introduce their dog to a cart once it's old enough, AND get to hear about any carts for sale, and find out where to buy a harness when the time comes.

One possible supplier of carts in the UK is The Old Garden Pot Company based in Hampshire UK. Go to the Other Items link on their website and there are two carts at the bottom of the page.

To help bring together those who want to buy a cart with those who may have one to sell, we've added the following Forum / Message Board:

[Berns and Hearts]