A legacy of innovation to help customers tackle tough jobs.

Our History

A Legacy of Innovation

Bobcat Company was founded on innovation. Since the beginning, we’ve engineered machines that empower people to accomplish more. That focus is what kick-started our business in 1947 and what drives us forward today – innovating the best equipment, technology and services to help customers tackle their toughest jobs.

Inventing an Industry

Bobcat Founders Innovated from the Ground Up

There was a time when compact equipment didn’t exist. Machinery only came in one size: big. If you were trying to tackle a tough job in a small space, your only choice was a shovel and a wheelbarrow. There wasn’t anything that was both compact and powerful.  

However, brothers and blacksmiths Louis and Cyril Keller of Rothsay, Minnesota, were accustomed to building small machinery for farmers. Their custom equipment tended to fall into one of two categories: farm work or clearing snow. The brothers excelled in both areas – building plowshares for farmers as well as walk-behind and self-propelled snowblowers to take on tough Minnesota winters.

Eddie Velo Operating The Keller Three-Wheeled Loader

Where It All Began

In 1956, local turkey farmer Eddie Velo approached the Keller brothers with a unique problem. He was looking for a machine to quickly clear manure from the second floor of his barn. Standard loader tractors in that era were too heavy to tread safely on a second story and too unwieldy to navigate barn poles. The Keller brothers didn’t have a machine in their shop to meet Eddie’s challenge, but they knew how to build light, maneuverable snowblowers and plows.

The Keller Brothers’ First Three-Wheeled Compact Loader

An Industry Was Born

Through a process of trial and error, field tests on Eddie Velo’s turkey farm and continuous tinkering and learning, the Kellers built the first three-wheeled compact loader. Before long, other farmers wanted one of their own, and the brothers couldn’t keep up with demand. In 1958, they partnered with the four Melroe brothers – Les, Cliff, Roger and Irv. The brothers owned Melroe Manufacturing Company, a North Dakota fabricating company, and began to mass produce machines. The compact equipment industry was born.

One Of The First Four-Wheeled Loaders On Display Outside Of Melroe Manufacturing Company

Introducing the Bobcat Brand

Soon after, the machines the Keller brothers invented and Melroe Manufacturing Company produced were officially branded as "Bobcat" equipment – in honor of the quick, agile and tough prairie animal. The rest, as they say, is history.

A Heritage of Solid Engineering

Building Tough Machines From the Start

It takes smart people to design and build tough, powerful machines. Now part of Doosan Bobcat, our engineers have continued to find ways to make equipment that is not only strong and tough but also as smart, agile and responsive as the prairie animal our company was named for.

A Historical Photo Of A Melroe Skid-Steer Loader Moving Snow

Driving the Industry Forward

For decades, the name “Bobcat” has been synonymous with loaders. After all, we brought the world its first true skid-steer loader in 1960: the M400. Our invention launched the compact equipment industry – which today is an $11.6 billion global enterprise – and made Bobcat the compact industry leader. In 2014, we produced our millionth loader. 

Along with an increase in the power, capability and tech prowess of our skid-steer loaders, our family of loaders has expanded considerably over the years to include compact track loaders (1999), mini track loaders (2002) and small articulated loaders (2020). 

We’ve also pushed the technological capabilities of compact machines. In 1996 – back when you still needed a key to unlock your car – we patented the first keyless start option on Bobcat® loaders. A few years later, in 1999, we introduced the first American compact track loader with a solid-mounted undercarriage. We added another industry first to the list in 1999: a deluxe instrumentation system that provides vital loader monitoring and diagnostic information in seven languages.

An M220 Bobcat Excavator Scooping Dirt On A Residential Jobsite

Expanding Our Lineup

To help customers take on even more challenges, Bobcat engineered and introduced new products and capabilities to its lineup. In the late 1990s, we launched our first compact excavator, and Bobcat quickly became one of the industry’s leading compact excavator manufacturers. In 2002, we introduced utility vehicles. As Bobcat looked for new ways to help its customers accomplish more, the brand evolved to more than just compact equipment. We went back to our roots on the farm with our reintroduction of compact tractors in 2019. Just a year later, we introduced a full lineup of zero-turn mowers. In the same year, we also made our entrance into the large excavator market. In 2023, Bobcat expanded its offerings to include forklifts, portable power, industrial air, aerators, turf equipment and an array of tools that help people tackle virtually any job that comes their way.

Bobcat 5600 Toolcat Utility Work Machine Drilling With An Auger

Building Industry Firsts

When the Toolcat™ utility work machine launched in 2002, it was the first of its kind in the industry. A cross between a utility vehicle, pickup truck and skid-steer loader, the Toolcat utility work machine can lift impressive loads, handle more payload than a half-ton pickup truck and even use rear-mounted implements (5610). These machines empower customers to perform a range of chores and tasks that cannot be matched by any other compact equipment.

Bobcat Employee Working At His Desk

Improving & Innovating

In many ways, innovation and technology are at the core of everything we do at Bobcat. In 1970, when we saw a need for a system to allow customers to easily mount attachments to their machines, we created the Bob-Tach® attachment mounting system. It quickly became the global industry standard – and it’s still used today. We further improved on the original design in 1999 when we introduced Power Bob-Tach. 

In 1970, we also introduced the first use of a roll-over protective structure (ROPS) to keep operators safe inside the cab. It appeared in the M970 loader. By 1974, the entire compact equipment industry had adopted ROPS as a standard operator safety feature.

Operator safety has been a high priority for decades. As safety features have evolved, Bobcat has continued to be at the forefront of the industry. In 1994, we developed the Bobcat Interlock Control System (BICS™), preventing the use of the lift, tilt and traction drive functions until the operator is safely in the seat with the seat bar lowered.

Bobcat Bob-Dock Attachment System Graphic

Advancing Machine Capabilities

Helping our customers do more also means advancing components of our industry-leading machines – like the enhancements we made to compact excavators from 2012 to 2018. This includes the patented excavator Pro Clamp™ system, which allows the extendable arm to adjust easily and grab different sizes of objects. Over the years, we’ve also built in additional capabilities to increase dig depth, reach and dump height. Our patented depth check system allows operators to accurately measure depth and grade – without having to leave the cab.

Revolutionizing Equipment With Advanced Technology

Technology is a key part of the engineering equation and innovative culture of Bobcat, and always has been.