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US Postal Service: Delivery by Animals

In this ultramodern world, we have come to the point when we don’t anymore need the service of postal workers to get our messages across. If you have email and/or Facebook or other social media accounts (and who doesn’t have at least one of these?) then you can pretty much express what you want to say without having to go to the post office and hand in your letter to a postal worker. Of course, the USPS is still very much integral to mail delivery as we have not yet come to a point where items that we buy on eBay or Amazon can be picked up right from our computer screens. Parcels, big or small, still need to be delivered through the US Postal Service.

But did you know that animals were once the star postal workers of the USPS? The history of mail delivery in the United States and around the world is associated with mail delivery by animals? For example, in the late 19th century, reindeers were used to deliver mail in Alaska by the US Postal Service. Carrying around 140 kilograms of mail in distances that range from 30 to 50 miles, reindeers had routes that ran from St. Michael to Kotzebue and Unalakleet to Nome.

In the first half of the twentieth century, dogsled mail or dog team mail became popular in Alaska. When Alaska was still an early settlement, no regular mail service was provided to the interior post offices from October to May. During these winter months dogs were used to deliver mail. Dogsled mail ended in 1963 when Chester Noongwook and his canine team of Savoonga in St. Lawrence Island retired.

Horses were also popular mail carriers in the United States. From April 1860 to November 1861, the Pony Express which was the forerunner of the postal service carried letters and other mail to the Pacific Coast from the Missouri River in the North American continent. It reduced time for messages to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts to about ten days. Telegraphic communication covered the first half in this distance and the couriers on horseback took care of the rest.

At present, mules are still used to carry mail in Peach Springs, Arizona. Each mule in this mule train is loaded with around 130 pounds of mail, food, supplies and furniture to deliver down the 8-mile trail to the Havasupai Indians living at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. On the average, the mule trains carry 41,000 pounds per week.