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sled, vehicle that moves by sliding. A sledge is typically a heavier, load-carrying sled drawn by a horse or dog, while a sleigh is a partially enclosed horse-drawn vehicle with runners that has seats for passengers. The simplest form of the sled is a board turned up in front, as in the toboggan. Developments include the addition of wooden or metal runners, the coupling of two sleds in tandem (the bobsled), and the introduction of light and graceful horse-drawn passenger sleighs. Small sleds with runners are used in winter sports.
Evidence indicates that the sled was used in the Neolithic period, before the invention of the wheel or the use of any draft animal except the dog. Probably it was first drawn by a person. Whether the sled originated in the Old World or the New, or independently in each, is not known. Eskimos used a dogsled in pre-Columbian America. In ancient Egypt sleds were used to haul blocks of stone. The sled is still commonly used in northern regions.
a common type of vehicle without wheels, usually equipped with runners. Sleighs without runners include certain types of travois, the toboggan of the Canadian Indians, and Lapp sledges. Sleighs pulled by horses, deer, or dogs include drags and narty (drawn sledges used by northern peoples). There also are various kinds of sleighs with bodies; open sleighs with a hood include the Russian balochok and kibitka.
Sleighs predate wheeled vehicles and were known in both southern and northern countries. Many peoples whose civilization already had wheeled transportation, such as the peoples of ancient Egypt and Rus’, customarily used sleighs in their burial rites. Until the end of the 17th century Russian tsars and patriarchs used sleighs as ceremonial vehicles even in the summer, as it was considered more of an honor to ride in a sleigh than in a carriage. In regions without roads in the Far North and in parts of Southern Siberia sleighs were often used in place of wheeled vehicles in the summer.
Sleighs are used in rural areas of countries with snowy winters. They are also used in sports. Some sectors of the economy use aerosleighs.