Our History

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

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 in 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.

Full History of Bobcat >

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.

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.

Introducing the Bobcat Brand

Soon after, the machines the Keller brothers invented and the 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.

Innovation is at the core of Bobcat and continues to be a driving force in our organization.

Bike Ballweber, President, Doosan Bobcat North America
Mike Ballweber

President, Doosan Bobcat North America

A Heritage of Solid Engineering

Building Tough Machines From the Start 

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

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 power, capability and tech prowess of our skid-steers, 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.

Expanding Our Lineup

To help customers take on even more challenges, we engineered new products and capabilities to build out our 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. 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.

Our engineering team works to solve problems in a unique way, always with an emphasis on how to improve quality, reliability and durability.

Troy Kraft, Senior Vice President of Global Engineering, Doosan Bobcat North America
Troy Kraft

Senior Vice President of Global Engineering, Doosan Bobcat North America

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 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.

Accelerating Engineering

In 2014, we opened the Acceleration Center in Bismarck, North Dakota. It’s an innovation accelerator that includes product development and design, prototype engineering and manufacturing, computer software engineering and product testing. Just one year after the Acceleration Center opened, the first product – an MT85 mini track loader – was introduced.

Improving Connections

Empowering customers to accomplish more also means taking work off their plate. That’s why our engineers patented the Bob-Dock™ attachment mounting system in 2019 for fast and easy hydraulic changes that don’t require operators 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.

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 the same year, we 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 the 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.

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.

Endless Possibilities

Over time, we’ve revolutionized every aspect of our machines, including the technology. The rise of semi-autonomous equipment and electric-powered – vs. gas or diesel – machines has led to a surge in technological advancements and capabilities within Bobcat. In 2019, we brought remote operation to our machines with the introduction of the Bobcat® MaxControl bundle, which allows equipment owners to operate their loaders right from their smartphone. And we aren’t stopping there. We’re just scratching the surface of the possibilities technology offers to enable customers to accomplish more.

We're using technology and innovation to push the entire compact equipment industry forward.

Joel Honeyman, Vice President of Global Innovation, Doosan Bobcat North America
Joel Honeyman

Vice President of Global Innovation, Doosan Bobcat North America