Logging With Horses In Late 1800s / Early 1900s America

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Is this picture of loggers pulling a 30-ton load of logs legit?

It’s often said to be an image of “Logging in Northern Michigan, 1908.”

1908 logging with horses michigan

Other sources say it’s not Michigan, but “This is out west, likely in Washington or Oregon. It’s been improperly labeled in many sources, but this was a posed picture out west.”

Most say that this set-up is staged for the photo because logging crews would compete against one another to see how large they could make their loads. It’s impressive either way because they did all this before the invention of the chainsaw.

logging with horses

Logs were transported on sleds in this manner, but the question is whether this many logs were usually transported by so few horses.

Surprisingly, there are A LOT of images of horses pulling great loads from this period. Sometimes, only two horses are hitched to the load, but more often, there are 4 or 6.

Either way, it appears that logs were routinely stacked this high on sleds to be moved by horses.

how many horses could pull logs

Draft horse breeds like Percherons, Clydesdales, Belgians, and Shires were commonly used for heavy-pulling tasks due to their size and strength.

These horses could weigh anywhere from 1,500 to over 2,000 pounds (680 to 900 kilograms).

Historical records suggest that a single strong draft horse could typically pull a load of 2 to 3 tons (4,000 to 6,000 pounds) on relatively flat ground.

However, teams of horses working together could pull much heavier loads. For example, a team of four horses might pull sleds carrying 8 to 10 tons of logs.

horses pulling logs

Pulling capacity varied based on the terrain. Horses could generally pull heavier loads on flat or gently sloping ground compared to steep or rough terrain.

While horses were powerful and capable of impressive feats of strength, there were practical limits to the weight they could pull efficiently without causing strain or injury.

Loggers would aim to balance load weight with the horses’ capacity to ensure effective and safe transportation.

Please share any further information in the comment section below. Then check out this picture of a man logging with a moose!


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