A working animal or draft animal is an animal, usually domesticated, that is kept by humans and trained to perform tasks. They may be close members of the family, such as guide dogs or other assistance dogs, or they may be animals trained to provide tractive force, such as draft horses or logging elephants. The latter types of animals are called draft animals. Most working animals are either service animals or draft animals. They may also be used for milking or herding, jobs that require human training to encourage the animal to cooperate. Some, at the end of their working lives, may also be used for meat or other products such as leather.
The history of working animals may predate agriculture, with dogs used by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Around the world, millions of animals work in relationship with their owners. Domesticated species are often bred for different uses and conditions, especially horses and working dogs. Working animals are usually raised on farms, though some are still captured from the wild, such as dolphins and some Asian elephants.
People have found uses for a wide variety of abilities in animals, and even industrialized societies use many animals for work. People use the strength of horses, elephants, and oxen to pull carts and move logs. Law enforcement uses the keen sense of smell of dogs to search for drugs and explosives, and others use dogs to find game or search for missing or trapped people. People use various animals—camels, donkeys, horses, dogs, etc.—for transport, either for riding or to pull wagons and sleds. Other animals, including dogs and monkeys, help blind or disabled people.
On rare occasions, wild animals are not only tamed, but trained to perform work—though often solely for novelty or entertainment, as such animals tend to lack the trustworthiness and mild temper of true domesticated working animals. Conversely, not all domesticated animals are working animals. For example, while cats may catch mice, it is an instinctive behavior, not one that can be trained by human intervention. Other domesticated animals, such as sheep or rabbits, may have agricultural uses for meat, hides and wool, but are not suitable for work. Finally, small domestic pets, such as most small birds (other than certain types of pigeon) are generally incapable of performing work other than providing companionship.
Some animals are used due to sheer physical strength in tasks such as ploughing or logging. Such animals are grouped as a draught or draft animal. Others may be used as pack animals, for animal-powered transport, the movement of people and goods. Some animals are ridden by people on their backs and are known as “mounts”; Alternatively, one or more animals in harness may be used to pull vehicles.
They include equines such as horses, donkeys, and mules; bovines such as cattle, water buffalo, and yaks, and elephants and camels. Dromedary camels are in arid areas of Australia, North Africa and the Middle East; the less common Bactrian camel inhabits central and East Asia; both are used as working animals. On occasion, reindeer, though usually driven, may be ridden.
Main article: Pack animal
Pack animals may be of the same species as mounts or harness animals, though animals such as horses, mules, donkeys, reindeer and both types of camel may have individual bloodlines or breeds that have been selectively bred for packing. Additional species are only used to carry loads, including llamas in the Andes.
Assorted wild animals have, on occasion, been tamed and trained to harness, including zebras and even moose.
See also: Driving (horse)
As predatory species are naturally equipped to catch prey, this is a further use for animals and birds. This can be done either for sustenance, sport, or to reduce the population of undesired animals that are considered harmful to crops, livestock or the environment.
Main article: Service animal
Main article: Military animal
The defensive and offensive capabilities of animals (such as fangs and claws) can be used to protect or to attack humans.
In some jurisdictions, certain working animals are afforded greater legal rights than other animals. One such common example is police dogs, which are often afforded additional protections and the same memorial services as human officers.
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