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Draft Animals

Last updated date: 10th Dec 2023
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What are Draft Animals?

A working animal is a domesticated animal that is kept by humans and trained to perform duties. They might be pets or draft animals that have been taught to do certain duties, such as guide dogs, aid dogs, draft horses, or logging elephants. Draught animals or draft animals are animals whose jobs entail dragging weights. The majority of working animals are either service or draft animals. They can also be utilized for herding or milking. Some may be utilized for meat or other goods such as leather at the end of their working lives. There is considerable reliance on draught animals as an energy source in fifty developing nations, which include half of the world's total human population. These animals are utilized in agriculture activities in 52 percent of the world's cultivated regions, as well as pulling 25 million carts. This scenario is expected to last at least another fifty years.

Working animals may have existed before agriculture, with our hunter-gatherer forefathers using dogs.

Millions of animals labour in partnership with their owners all around the world. Domesticated species, particularly horses and working canines, are frequently produced for various applications and circumstances. Working animals are often bred on farms, however, some, like dolphins and Asian elephants, are still taken in the wild. People have found applications for a wide range of talents in animals, and many animals are used for labour in industrialised civilizations. To pull carts and transport logs, people rely on the strength of horses, elephants, and oxen. Law enforcement utilizes dogs' strong sense of smell to look for narcotics and explosives, while others use dogs to locate a game or missing or trapped humans. Camels, donkeys, horses, dogs, and other animals are used for transportation, either riding or pulling carts and sledges. Other animals, such as dogs and monkeys, assist the blind or handicapped.

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Examples of Draft Animals

An intermediate application is as draft animals, hitched individually or in groups to pull sledges, wheeled equipment, or ploughs.

  • Oxen are sluggish yet powerful, and have been employed in yokes from ancient times: the first surviving vehicle, Puabi's Sumerian sledge, was ox-drawn; an acre was formerly defined as the amount a span of oxen could plough in a day. In Southeast Asia and the Philippines, water buffalo and carabao, tamed water buffalo, pull carts and ploughs.

  • Draught horses, sometimes known as draft horses, are often employed in harnesses for heavy work. When a certain degree of speed or style is desired, many kinds of medium-weight horses are employed to pull lighter wheeled carts, carriages, and buggies.

  • Mules are robust and powerful animals, with harness capacity determined by the sort of horse mare used to create the mule foal. Separate breeding plans must also be maintained because they are a hybrid species and are frequently sterile.

  • Carts and small wagons are frequently pulled by ponies and donkeys. Ponies were formerly employed in mining to pull ore carts.

  • Dogs are used to pull light carts or, more specifically, sledges (e.g., huskies) for both recreational and working purposes.

  • Goats may also pull light harness labour in front of carts.

  • In Southeast Asia, elephants are still utilized for logging.

  • In the Arctic and sub-Arctic Nordic nations, as well as in Siberia, reindeer are employed. The Red Army used deer transportation battalions on the Eastern Front during WWII. Russian troops continue to train using reindeer sledges in the twenty-first century. Santa Claus' reindeer carry a sleigh across the night sky to enable Santa Claus to deliver gifts to children on Christmas Eve, according to traditional holiday mythology.

  • Camels and llamas have been trained to harness less frequently. According to Juan Ignacio Molina, the Dutch commander Joris van Spilbergen witnessed local Mapuches of Mocha Island using chiliquenes (a kind of llama) as plough animals in 1614.

Use of Draft Animals in the Southern Hills

Draught animals are the primary source of energy in many nations throughout the world for soil cultivation, product collecting and transportation for storage and to markets, labour with other animals, and human transportation. However, other experts believe that the existence of draught animals in the production system is a sign of slowed economic progress. This is not necessarily true, because their use in production processes is a phenomenon that is closely related to the characteristics of a region's environment and to cultural factors, to which animal power, as a concept, is frequently observed differently by those considering purely economic factors (Sitjar and Osorio 1985). These characteristics are especially relevant in the region of Xochimilco, located in the southern hills of Mexico City (INEGI 1992), due to the presence of traditional agriculture and terrain that includes minor valleys, hills, and hilly areas between 2300 and 2800 m above sea level. Draught animals have played a significant historical role in agriculture under this method of production, despite the fact that knowledge on the issue is limited.

Species, Quantity And All Technological Components of Draught Animal 

Table 1 shows the many types of draught animals used in the research area.

As can be observed, the most common species are those belonging to the Equus genus, such as horses, donkeys, and mules, with just a few oxen present. The average number of animals owned by a producer was one, however, a substantial minority of farmers had more. The animals used in all cases were local breeding "criollos." According to the statistics, the most common labour function was connected to agricultural power and transporting cargo from the fields to the house or vice versa (96 percent ). Only 4% of the time was spent on human transportation. The yoke was used to tether the animals, either alone or in pairs.

Table 1: Species Of Animals Used in The Region of Xochimilco











Some Economic Features of Draught Animals

The study's goal was to describe and comprehend the function that draught animals perform in the Xochimilco region as an essential resource for agricultural sustainability.

The number of reported families living in a single residence was between one and two in 79 percent of the cases. Drinking water (90 percent), electricity (89 percent), street pavement (63 percent), and drainage were among the services provided in the residence (43 percent ). Radio and television were the primary means of communication. The majority of producers (64 percent) claimed to be literate, while 28 percent reported being illiterate. The majority of people had just an elementary education (54 percent), while a considerable percentage had none (43 percent ). As predicted, none of the proprietors claimed to belong to a producer society.

A tiny percentage of farmers (7%) produce their own draught animals, whereas the remainder obtains them locally in the same region. The average working life is 10 years (82%) with only 18% reporting greater figures. Animals are sold directly at the owner's home, using a guessing approach to compute the live weight and hence the price based on local demand.

Animal Identification and Training

When draught animals are identified, they are done so in two ways: iron fittings (71 percent) and branding (28 percent ). In most cases, the animal was given a name by its owner. Animal management is performed by all members of the family, with everyone performing a particular duty. Breaking in begins at birth for farmers who raise their own animals in order to acclimatize the beast early. Although many farmers claimed that their animals were purchased already trained for work, an acceptable duration for training is regarded to be between 2-3 years. As predicted, the largest draught animal activity was connected with the agricultural cycles from April to October (57 percent), whereas 36 percent reported working them all year. Animals are used for a variety of purposes during periods of low activity.

Common Cultivation Practices

Draft animals and the plough require room to turn at the field's margins in order to correctly line the next furrow; hence, an area approximately 6m wide is allowed at both ends of the field or land. These are known as headlands. They must be tailored to the field and its borders, as well as the type of plough being utilized. On fields with slopes of less than 2%, adjacent fields can be used as headlands if they are fallow or unsuitable for cultivation. Headlands are not ploughed by farmers since they are not designed for farming. Waterways or road crests are utilized as headlands on contoured fields. Because ploughing up and downhill would create erosion, these headlands are never ploughed.

Draught Animal Power

The muscle strength of draught animals utilized for the following tasks is referred to as draught animal power:

a) pulling agricultural implements 

b) hauling carts 

c) providing motive power to devices such as water pumps, cane and seed crushers, and electricity generation equipment 

d) carrying loads as pack animals 

e) handling, dragging, and stacking timber logs in forests 

f) hauling sledges in snow-covered regions

Draft Animal Welfare

Throughout their working lives, dragged animals may suffer in a number of ways.

Animals are frequently beaten in order to force them to carry burdens beyond their ability or labour longer hours. Animals that are sick or wounded may be put to work. Draught animals have poor health since they are not fed enough to replenish the energy necessary for labour.

Ill-fitting harnesses can be used to connect implements, carts, and other equipment to animals, inflicting needless agony; neck injuries frequently result in callosity and/or cancer. The majority of this suffering may be alleviated by the use of technology and management. Unfortunately, sufficient law is missing, and the police are unable to intervene. The solution is to make the police force legally accountable for animal protection, which will necessitate changes to current legislation. Draught animal welfare is a major problem that needs great effort as well as enormous financial and human resources. As a result, in addition to feeling, economic concerns should be considered in order to improve the status of draught animals. In sophisticated nations, draught animals have been supplanted by mechanical power. Draught animal power is used by more than 60% of farmers in developing nations for small-scale agricultural activities and rural transportation. Although mechanisation will continue, the transition to mechanical power will take many years, and certain nations will continue to rely on draught animals. The majority of farmers in underdeveloped nations that use draught horses are impoverished and illiterate, eking out a subsistence livelihood. Survival is the most important issue for these farmers. Farmers see animal care as a low priority due to the hardships of living and unfavourable environmental variables, the instability of monsoons, and volatile agricultural markets. 

Poor Utilisation of Draught Animal Power

According to research performed in India, draught animals are only used for about 100 days per year in rural regions (N.S. Ramaswamy, unpublished data). In metropolitan regions, the usage rate may be closer to 300 days. Small and marginal farmers do not have enough revenue during the offseason to properly feed draft animals. As a result, idle animals are fed an extremely low-calorie diet. Another example of underutilization is the killing of 8 million male buffalo calves in India shortly after birth because farmers cannot afford to rear them for employment. The current male-to-female buffalo ratio is 8:36. Some of these 8 million buffalo calves might be put to work and, at the conclusion of their productive lives, utilized as meat animals.

Continued Need For Draught Animal Power

Tractors are impractical for paddy farming, especially in flooded regions. Such circumstances may be found in portions of Bangladesh and Thailand, as well as in rice-growing areas in India and the People's Republic of China. Draught animal power is required for steep terrain and narrow, terraced fields. Motorized transport is not possible on unpaved harsh terrains and limited paths. In India, half of the villages are inaccessible by motor vehicle. Trucks are uneconomical for small-scale transportation and activities where loading and unloading time is longer than journey time. The extra expense of utilizing these animals for transportation would be the cost of feed alone when animals are currently kept for ploughing. Draught animal power would become more viable as its use grew. Even in cities, animal-drawn carts are suitable for short-distance transportation. In other parts of Asia, the situation is similar.

Feed and Nutrition

Draught animal feed and nutrition are typically insufficient; the shortfall is estimated to be up to 50%. As a result, draught animals are often in poor condition, which reduces their efficiency. Animals are compelled to over-exert themselves in order to accomplish routine tasks, and as a result, they rapidly grow exhausted. Draught animals are fed crop leftovers and left-over stubble from agricultural land in the majority of developing countries. There is no organized production of fodder crops, and there is insufficient acreage for grazing. These neglected animals are frequently left to hunt food for themselves, where they may encroach on common grassland and woodlands, damaging the ecosystem. Farmers should give concentrates to their draught animals in order to supply them with energy for labour. However, straw from paddy fields, wheat or other grain, or millet are commonly fed. Because straw has a high oxalic acid content, it eliminates calcium from the body (N.S. Ramaswamy, unpublished studies), these diets frequently impact the nutritional condition of animals. This is the most often ascribed explanation for the malnourished condition of animals in rice-growing countries. Policies governing the availability of raw materials for concentrates may decrease the supply of commercial feed for draught animals. As a result, regulations governing the production of oil-seed and other raw materials used by the animal feed business should be integrated so that the animal feed sector is not adversely affected. Animals are generally the first victims of drought and hunger. Drought-prone areas should have fodder banks created.

Four Principles of Draught Animals

Steering, transmission, weight distribution, and braking are the four basic principles of animal draught.

As a result, there are four harness component sections intended to handle them. The bridle, collar, pad, and breeching are all examples. Each of these components, on its own, plays an important role in harnessing the forces of draught.

FAQs on Draft Animals

1. What Is The Purpose of Draft or Draught Animals?

Answer: Any domesticated animal used to pull large burdens is referred to as a draft animal. Before 3000 BC, draft horses were often used in Mesopotamia for agriculture labour and to draw wheeled vehicles.

2. Is the Elephant a Dreaded Animal?

Answer: Elephants are draught animals because they are employed for logging.

3. What Exactly is A Draft Animal List, And What Are Some Instances of Draft Animal Species?

Answer: Draft or draught animals are muscular, robust, and powerful species of cattle. They are creatures that were created to assist people with their tasks. Draft horses, mules, donkeys, and oxen are examples of draft animals.