What Is A Pack Animal?
A pack animal is a type of animal used by humans to carry heavy loads. These animals carry goods and supplies upon their backs across long distances or difficult terrain. They are not to be confused with draft animals, which pull weight on a cart or sled. The use of animals to carry cargo dates as far back as 3500 BC. Historical evidence suggests that donkeys have served as pack animals for longer than any other species. Other types of common pack animals include camels, yaks, horses, llamas, oxen, and water buffalos. This article takes a closer look at which pack animals are most common throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas.
Pack Animals Of Asia
Asia includes the following regions: central, east, southeast, west, and south. In this area of the world, the most common pack animals are yak, mule, donkey, Bactrian camel, water buffalo, and horse. Many of these animals are native to this continent and each serves a distinct purpose.
Several of these pack animals can be found working around the world. Relatively unique to Asia, however, are the water buffalo and yak. The water buffalo, for example, is the best animal for carrying materials across marshes and other wetlands as this is their native habitat. Yaks are an excellent pack animal for traveling through mountains because their bodies are adapted to high altitudes. They are commonly used in the Himalayan region of Asia. Both are also used as draft animals due to their high endurance.
Pack Animals Of Africa And The Middle East
Common pack animals used throughout Africa and the Middle East include donkeys, mules, oxen, and dromedary camels.
Camels are particularly suited to the climate found in much of these regions, deserts. The dromedary camel, also known as the Arabian camel, has 1 hump on its back that distinguishes it from the bactrian camel. This species has evolved to survive drought and arid conditions, able to lose up to 30% of the water in its body with no negative consequences. It was first domesticated approximately 4,000 years ago and can carry up to 661 pounds on its back.
Pack Animals Of The Americas
The Americas include North, Central, and South America as well as the Caribbean region. Pack animals typically utilized in this large area of the world include the: mule, donkey, horse, and llama.
The llama is a species native to South America. It has been used as a pack animal since by indigenous peoples of the area since prior to the arrival of Spanish colonists and even before the Inca Empire. During the period of Inca rule, llamas were the exclusive pack animal used throughout the Andes mountains. They helped transport goods for trade between the mountainous regions and coastal areas. During the Spanish colonial period, llamas were used to carry minerals out of the mines located in the mountains. They continue to be an important pack animal (as well as the source of wool and meat) in South America.
Pack animals play an important role in all areas of the world. A more detailed look at which animals are the most common in other regions can be seen in the chart published below.