A character dangles some kind of treat on a stick in front of an animal, or even in front of another character, similar to fishing with a rod, line, and bait. This is usually done in order to trick the subject into going somewhere at a fast pace (or sometimes, to run on a treadmill). The classic example is "carrot and stick" dangled before a horse, mule, or donkey to get it to pull a cart.
Related to Food as Bribe and X on a Stick. Will often involve a Trademark Favorite Food, or something from the Stock Animal Diet.
The problem of the bait swinging on the string, so that the target can simply grab it, is never mentioned.
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Anime & Manga
In Sasami Magical Girls Club, while riding on a cart pulled by an ox-like creature, Anri complains about how slow it is, so Washu pulls out an "Acceleration Device" that turns out to be a bundle of hay hanging from a stick. The ox takes off like a rocket and catches the hay once they reach their destination, with the quick stop flinging everyone out of the cart.
Jughead Jones was convinced to ride a stationary bike (using a bag of potato chips) this way in one story.
In another story, a variant is used to motivate to run faster for the track team. Jughead is outfitted with a special harness with a mirror in front that's positioned to let him see the photo mounted in back, so it looks like his Abhorrent Admirer is always right behind him.
In Mulan, the title character uses a dog and bone to feed the chickens. The bone-on-a-stick is tied to the dog's back so the bone is always in front of the dog, and the dog runs around with a feedbag leaking grain behind him.
Films — Live-Action
Used in the Tropfest short film Cargo which can be watched here. A man is bitten by zombie and knows that he will turn but he is alone with his baby (mommie was the one who bit him). He has to get the baby to an area that he thinks may safe, and he doesn't want to kill his baby when he turns. So he gathers some organs, suspending them in front of him, and ties his hands together so his zombie self will trudge along till he reaches the safe area, unknowingly carrying the baby on his back. He even puts a balloon on his back to keep the baby quiet and not alert his zombie self. The film manages to play this to a devastatingly tearjerking effect.
One of the Mad Max films used this with the hero being sent into exile on a donkey with a small jar of water hanging in front of its head.
In The Boondock Saints, Detective Greenley humorously suggests that the only way they're going to catch the MacManus brothers is by "...dangling a potato on a string" — of course, they walk in just as he's saying this.
Connor: You'd have better luck with beer.
In one short in The Little Rascals series, the boys had a "taxi" that was powered by a mule/donkey pushing from the back and a carrot on a stick in front of it was used to make it push.
In Jack Vance's novel Cugel's Saga, ships are powered by large worm-like sea creatures bound to either side of the vessel. Bait is hung in front of the ship to make them move.
Unseen Academicals features a scene with the wizards riding on the backs of the university porters and motivating them with a bottle of beer on the end of a stick.
The Benny Hill Show: In a sketch, Benny is at a weight-loss camp and is jogging. Three girls show up in front of him and flash their breasts at him, so he speed up. He gets tired and slows down; they flash him again and he speed up again, etc.
Scribblenauts allows you to set this up using a "plank", "glue" and something the character wants.
In Zettai Hero Project, the Appetite Engine accessory is a carrot on a stick worn on the player's head. It reduces EN consumption by 50% while equipped, and can be eaten to restore EN in a pinch.
In Minecraft, you can put a saddle on a pig and ride it, but it wasn't until the game introduced carrots that you got a method to steer the pig: by combining a carrot and a fishing pole, you can make a "carrot on a stick" item that lets you steer a saddled pig you're riding.
Final Fantasy XIV: The collector's edition of the game came with a custom mount: the Fat Chocobo. Your character dangles Gysahl Greens in front of it when riding.
Team Fortress 2 has the Sammy Cap, a hat for the Heavy that attaches one of these to his head, with a whole Sandvich somehow attached to the string. Unfortunately, it doesn't make him run any faster.
Yogi's Gang and Yogi's Ark Lark: The Ark was powered by Magilla Gorilla pursuing a banana while running on a treadmill, as seen here at 2:25. Note that he occasionally ate the banana.
In the Family Guy episode "He's Too Sexy for His Fat", Peter gets Chris to run on a treadmill by sticking a plumber's helper to his forehead with a Twinkie hanging from it. Chris eventually figures out how to get the Twinkie: lay on his back.
Chris: I'm turning you into poo!
In "Road to the North Pole", Brian and Stewie use a mutant elf's torn off arm to make the mutant reindeer fly pulling Santa's sleigh.
Avatar: The Last Airbender does this on the episode "The Great Divide", where the heroes use it to ride fearsome creatures up a cliff.
In Kick Buttowski, Gunther's backside is used as the carrot on the stick to get Oscar the dog to chase him and thereby pull the sled to rescue the school bus full of kids from a snow-filled gully.
In Hanna-Barbera's version of The Little Rascals, the Rascals have a wooden vehicle which Pete pulls while pursuing a bone.
The Beast With a Billion Backs opens with a pastiche of 1930s cartoons, and has Zoidberg powering the Planet Express ship by chasing a fish on a stick.
At the end of Bender's Game, with dark matter rendered useless as a fuel, Professor Farnsworth proposes an alternative fuel: Nibbler power! Which turns out to be a fair number of Nibblonians motivated to pull a ship by a single chicken hanging from a stick.
In an episode of Trollkins where most of the cast take part in a road race, the Sheriff modifies his car for the race. His idea of tuning? By having a male rabbit, in a treadmill that powers the car, run like crazy when he's shown a caged female.
Popeye had one episode where he and Brutus are in a joust, only Popeye's mount is a stubborn mule. He finally gets it to run with a carrot dangling from his lance.
Extreme Omnivore Toot Braunstein from Drawn Together does this to herself by giving Ling-Ling a stick with a Hostess treat attached to the end so he can use it to make her move while carrying him on her back. She even encourages him to move it a little as her vision is based on movement.
In an episode of Garfield and Friends, Garfield is ordered to plow the backyard for Jon's garden. He ties Odie to the plow and puts a harness on him with a bone that Odie chases after to plow up the yard.
On Yogis Space Race, Jabberjaw uses a stuffed raccoon on a stick to make Buford run on the treadmill.