A pack animal, also known as a sumpter animal or beast of burden, is an individual or type of working animal used by humans as means of transporting materials by attaching them so their weight bears on the animal's back, in contrast to draft animals which pull loads but do not carry them. Traditional pack animals are diverse including camels, goats, yaks, reindeer, water buffaloes, and llamas as well as the more familiar pack animals like dogs, horses, donkeys, and mules.


The term ''pack animal'' is traditionally used in contrast to ''draft animal'', which is a working animal that typically pulls a load behind itself (such as a plow, a cart, a sled or a heavy log) rather than carrying cargo directly on its back. For instance, sled dogs pull loads but do not normally carry them, while working elephants have been used for centuries to haul logs out of forests. The term ''pack animal'' can also refer to animals which naturally live and hunt in packs in the wild, such as wolves, hyenas, dogs etc.


Traditional pack animals include ungulates such as camels, the domestic yak, reindeer, goats, water buffaloes and llama, and domesticated members of the horse family including horses, donkeys, and mules. Occasionally, dogs can be used to carry small loads.

Pack animals by region

* Arctic - Reindeer and sled dogs * Central Africa and Southern Africa - Oxen, mules, donkeys * Eurasia - Donkeys, oxen, Horses, mules ** Central Asia - Bactrian camels, yaks, Horses, mules, donkeys ** South and Southeast Asia - Water buffaloes, yaks, Asian elephants * North America - Horses, mules, donkeys, goats * North Africa and Middle East - Dromedaries, horses, donkeys, mules, oxen * Oceania - Donkeys, horses, dromedaries, mules, oxen * South America - Llamas, donkeys, mules File:Eylcamel.jpg|A nomad's pack camel in Eyl, Somalia File:Reindeer and pack, with Lapp driver.jpg|Pack reindeer with Sami driver from ''The land of the midnight sun'', c. 1881 File:Fleischextrakt 0002773 m.jpg|1900 advertisement showing pack yaks in Tibet File:Lloyd the Llama.jpg|Pack llama, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado File:COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Bimanees met lastkarbouwen Res. Timor Soembawa TMnr 10013888.jpg|Pack water buffalo, Sumbawa, Indonesia, early 20th century File:Pack donkeys, Bucks Mills, Devon.jpg|Pack donkeys, Devon, England, c. 1906


Hauling of goods in wagons with horses and oxen gradually displaced the use of packhorses, which had been important until the Middle Ages, by the sixteenth century. Pack animals may be fitted with pack saddles and may also carry saddlebags. While traditional usage of pack animals by nomadic tribespeople is declining, a new market is growing in the tourist expeditions industry in regions such as the High Atlas mountains of Morocco, allowing visitors the comfort of backpacking with animals. The use of pack animals "is considered a valid means of viewing and experiencing" some National Parks in America, subject to guidelines and closed areas. In the 21st century, special forces have received guidance on the use of horses, mules, llamas, camels, dogs, and elephants as pack animals.

Load carrying capacity

The maximum load for a camel is roughly 300 kg. Yaks are loaded differently according to region. In Sichuan, is carried for 30 km in 6 hours. In Qinghai, at 4100 m altitude, packs of up to are routinely carried, while up to is carried by the heaviest steers for short periods. Llamas can carry roughly a quarter of their body weight, so an adult male of can carry some . Loads for equids are disputed. The US Army specifies a maximum of 20 percent of body weight for mules walking up to 20 miles a day in mountains, giving a load of up to about . However an 1867 text mentioned a load of up to . In India, the prevention of cruelty rules (1965) limit mules to and ponies to . Reindeer can carry up to 40 kg for a prolonged period in mountains.

See also

* Pack station


External links

Llama Backpacking
Documentary produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting {{Authority control Category:Domesticated animals Category:Animal-powered transport Category:Military animals