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.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.