Pack horses (which can also be mules, donkeys or ponies) have been around for as long as the horse has been domesticated, however this blog post will focus on their history in North America.
During times when there were no established roadways, goods were hauled to remote locations by way of the pack horse. Park horses were much more quick than wagon. Loads that would spoil, such as fruit, were sent via pack horses. Pack horses and pack strings were used by so many...
And even during times of war.
The US Forest Service even had their own packers with their strings, which, in the beginning, were mainly horses. Around the end of the 1920's, the mule started to replace the horse, as a generally superior animal for the job. The mules were more surefooted, ate less than horses, wouldn't run a pack into a tree like a horse would, and at night would stay with the "bell mare" and not wander off.
These days you can find pack strings still working in the mountains. A couple summer ago we saw a young man leading his string up through the Sierras on some pretty intense terrain and were extremely impressed, not just with him, but every animal in his care.