Erie Canal Mules – The Perfect Animal For the Job

erie canal mules

This mule is being “tailed” down the “horse bridge” to enjoy some fresh grass with his companion before heading out (note the towrope attached to the whipple-tree on the towpath between the two animals). Teams on the Erie alternated in shifts of  six hours on and six off around the clock.  This picture and the one below are of different boats exchanging their teams at the same location.  This boat is empty and judging from the shadows is eastbound, and the one below is loaded and headed west.

 

erie canal mules

This loaded boat sits much lower in the water than the unloaded one in the first picture, making the horse bridge easier to negotiate for all involved. The mule here is nonetheless NOT willing to leave the green grass for another six-hour shift in his cramped quarters in the bow of the boat! Erie boatmen wasted little time with such nonsense: Note the rope around the animal’s girth running to an unseen pulley in the boat, and the fresh team just off-camera to the right being used to haul their partner into the stable with brute force. The fellow enjoying the scene from the doorway across the canal has no doubt seen contests of wills like this before. Both pictures courtesy of Town of Perinton Historian.

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