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Paul Kane's 1847 Sketch of Dog Travois


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Saw the below sketch as an illustration in Jack Nisbet's, "The Mapmaker's Eye" WSU Press (2005), and thought it was interesting. The book is about the explorations of David Thompson on the Columbia Plateau in early 1800's.


The picture is a sketch drawn by Paul Kane (1810-1871). He made several trips west, and sketched/painted approx. 800 pieces on-location and/or from first hand knowledge. This one is entitled "Cree Indians on the March". Cree Indian territory covered much of Canada into Montana of the US. Click on image to enlarge it.




The sketch, drawn circa 1847, depicts Cree families riding horses, and utilizing them to pull travois which are loaded with provisions and possessions. A travois is a kind of sled (although not necessarily pulled over ice/snow) formed by crossing two strong poles, tied together about three feet from the end and laid across the horse's saddle. A hide is stretched across the poles on which articles are placed for transport. It may not be clear in the scanned image, but the line of march in the original extends from foreground back through the hills/valleys to horizon.


Near the front are several small dogs pulling travois loaded with gear. The dogs look relaxed with their tails curving up over their backs. Wikipedia says that a dog can pull 20-30 kg for long distances via travois, depending on weather and terrain. Before Spanish introduced the horse to North America, dogs may have been even more extensively used as beasts of burden. -- TEC

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Before the Spanish introduced horses to North America, dogs may have been even more extensively used as beasts of burden. -- TEC


I have often read this. Travois were originally designed for dogs. Once horses -- the name of which translates as "big dog" in the Soiuan languages, because they had no other references for these animals -- arrived on the plains, travois were adapted to fit the larger animals.

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