Creatures Calling: Animal Used as Couriers Through History

Nowadays, a courier job can be completed in a matter of hours, and there are countless letters and parcels that are delivered every day all around the world. However, it hasn’t always been so easy. In the past, animals were often used to send goods from one place to another, but it didn’t always go quite as planned. Read on to discover which animals have been used for delivery work throughout history, and whether or not they are still deemed useful today.

Saddle Up

Perhaps some of the first recorded animals used for deliveries were horses. From as early as the thirteenth century, a mounted service was common in several countries. These animals were fast, efficient, and were the best solution at the time to make light work of a courier job. Riders could take a small amount of goods on a single horse, whereas carriages pulled along by the animal could carry considerably more.

Even today, using a horse to carry out a courier job is not unusual in parts of the world where other transport options are limited or dangerous. In Supai, a village located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, horses often deliver mail to the locals. In colder climates, reindeer have been a popular postal animal for hundreds of years – and still are to this day. Their hooves are specially adapted to suit the cold conditions, so in some places, they are the only viable option for transporting goods.

Barking Mad

Though relatively uncommon for the rest of the world, Alaska and Canada frequently used dogs to pull along sleds of mail up until the 1930s when small aircrafts were used instead. The strength and stamina of the hounds were sufficient to make a courier job seem relatively easy (particularly in the freezing winds), and the more dogs that were used, the greater the ability to carry heavier loads.

Cats on the other hand, were not so effective. In the 1870s a small town in Belgium decided to let the felines try their paw at postal service. Unsurprisingly, the cats simply roamed wherever they desired, and most of the mail never reached its destination.

Freight by Flight

Training homing pigeons to deliver mail is something that is said to have been developed by the ancient Persians. Since then, they were a popular choice for delivering written communication during several wars, both on land and at sea. Soon governments, news agencies and individuals were using their own pigeons for delivery work. However, having a courier job completed by a pigeon did not always end in success. Homing birds will always find their way back to their nests, so sending a message via a pigeon would only work if you were sending it to that one specific place.

The certainly puts things into perspective – delivery work hasn’t always been a simple case of automatic sorting and speedy deliveries. Let’s be thankful that we don’t have to rely on pigeons or cats anymore.

Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier jobs in the express freight exchange industry. Over 5,400 member companies are networked together through the Exchange to fill empty capacity, get new clients and form long-lasting business relationships. 

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Author: Desiree Michels