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Some idioms ("chase the carrot" / "carrot and stick") and a popular image (as shown below) implies that you can make a mule move forward (and pull a cart), by placing a carrot or any other food hanging from a stick in front of its face.

For example, a dictionary of urban idioms explains:

"chase the carrot": attempting to reach the unreachable, in the old days a carrot was tied to a stick in front of a wagon's mule or stubborn horse to make them step forward and walk ahead... they were never able to reach the carrot.

Is this known to really happen so? Have this (or some variation) been used as a practical locomotive trick? (things like the rabbit at dog races don't count; the key is that the animal itself moves the object it is seeking).

carrot without the stick

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carrot and stick method usually means punishment and reward, aka hitting with the stick and tempting with the carrot –  ratchet freak Oct 4 '13 at 13:01
Do you need the carrot at all? –  Gordon Oct 4 '13 at 13:37
@Gordon it is all about; being bad against it, when it does wrong and being good against it, when it does right. –  Berker Yüceer Oct 4 '13 at 14:23
I think it is very clear what is being asked. –  Mew Oct 7 '13 at 10:10
@Chris I think you can can get a mule to pull a cart merely by harnessing it to a cart: neither the carrot nor the stick is always necessary. –  ChrisW Oct 7 '13 at 22:29

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Yes it works to coax the animal to move, but probably not as means for consistent forward locomotion. Some evidence:

  1. Footage of a man "training donkey to move with a target stick/lure/feeder."

  2. Amateur video showing a "pony move under saddle while being baited with a carrot dangling from a string attached to a stick."

  3. From Every Woman's Encyclopedia, 1910-1920:

    Stick-and-carrot race. Each competitor tries to incite her steed to its top speed by dangling a fine carro' before its nose spirits of the place, who will be sure to enter into the fun, and make things go with a swing, before inviting the less enterprising boys and girls and smaller children.

    enter image description here.

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