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Japan’s Meiji period ushered in revolutionary changes to the country. As over 200 years of self-imposed isolation came to an end, centuries of economic, political, and scientific advances came flooding into Japan, and the nation’s thinkers and entrepreneurs began scrambling to modernize. Thanks to their efforts, soon after the Meiji period began in 1868, Japan had its first railways, banks, and apparently a dog-powered butter-making machine.

While the first few years of the Meiji period were marked by an inflow of foreign technology, it wasn’t long before Japanese innovators began crafting inventions of their own. In 1877, the first industrial exhibition by domestic inventors was held in Tokyo’s Ueno Park. No doubt many of the items on display made use of newly introduced coal or steam power, but one presenter instead decided to employ dog power.

As shown in this illustration shared by the National Archives of Japan, one of the inventions on display was this dog-powered butter churn. The animal would walk atop a treadmill, which in turn would spin a wheel connected to a group of connected shafts, the last of which would pump up and down into a container of cream to transform its contents into butter.

Oddly enough, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of harness keeping the dog in place atop the treadmill, and some online commenters wondered what would stop the animal from wandering off when it got bored and/or knocking over the container and eating the butter itself. Maybe the inventor was counting on Hachiko-like levels of commitment to keep the pooch working, but since the apparatus never saw widespread use, we can’t say for sure.

In any case, given the propensity of some Japanese companies to already work their human employees like dogs, perhaps it’s for the best that canine labor never caught on in Japan.

Source: Hamster Sokuho
Top image: Twitter/@JPNatArchives