We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Beast of Burden?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
Our promise to you
All Things Nature is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All Things Nature, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A beast of burden is a domesticated animal which has been trained to carry people or goods. Beasts of burden tend to be on the large scale of domesticated animals, so that they can carry heavy loads, with the exception to this rule being the dog, an animal which has been widely used as a beast of burden in the arctic regions of the world. The use of domesticated animals to carry goods and people is ancient, with some researchers suggesting that it may actually pre-date agriculture, since dogs were domesticated by hunting and gathering societies.

Different animals are used around the world as beasts of burden. Some common examples are: elephants, donkeys, horses, yaks, oxen, mules, yaks, buffaloes, camels, llamas, reindeer, and water buffalo. Most modern beasts of burden are bred on farms, and some are the result of centuries of breeding for strength and temperament, although some, like Asian elephants, are trapped in the wild and trained. In some cases, years of breeding has resulted in a very refined animal which differs radically from its wild counterparts.

Handlers can use a beast of burden in a variety of ways. Some animals are trained to be ridden by humans, or to pull a conveyance such as a sled, cart, or sledge which may be loaded with cargo or people. Other beasts of burden are trained as pack animals, to carry loads which are strapped to their bodies. Some have special skills, like elephants, who assist at logging operations by using their trunks to manipulate timber.

Working animals have been displaced in some regions by mechanized transport, but in other areas, they are an important part of society. Much of the developing world relies heavily on beasts of burden for transport, and on working animals for tasks like plowing. Historically, working animals were critical to moving goods across land masses, and merchants traveled in huge caravans with hundreds of animals to bring materials for trade with other nations.

A beast of burden may come to be viewed as an important member of the family, but these animals are not pets. Like other working animals, beasts of burden should not be interfered with when they are working or in harness, unless their handlers specify that it is appropriate to approach or pat the animal. The heavy loads shouldered by many working animals require their full attention and concentration, and they could be frightened or injured by an approaching stranger, even one with innocent intentions.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By pastanaga — On Jul 03, 2011

I remember when I was little and I used to work with my father on DIY stuff over the weekend I was all about trying to make my dog into a "beast of burden". I think it annoyed me that I had to work and he could just lay around in the sun all day.

I rigged up a little harness for him and he was going to haul wood with me, like the huskies I'd seen on TV.

But, my father caught me and stopped me. To this day I think I should have gotten more credit for imagination and initiative, but dad just thought I was goofing around.

And it's true, I would have been finished already if I hadn't spent so much time on the harness!

By KoiwiGal — On Jul 02, 2011

This makes me think of the donkeys that were part of everyday life when I was living in Africa.

People sometimes used cows as their beasts of burden, but more often it was donkeys. And they were everywhere.

Often the roads were very damaged and unpaved, and so the only regular petrol fueled vehicle you would see was trucks, or motorcycles. Riding in a car was like being in a boat on the ocean, the road was so bumpy and slow.

So, it was just more efficient to have a donkey and cart.

During the market days there were even donkey parking lots where you could put them and guards to make sure no one took your donkey.

The sad thing was that they were often mistreated. It broke my heart to see the ones who had had a hard life. I wish I could rescue them all.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Jul 02, 2011

I loved the way the Flintstones made use of beasts of burden. It seems like just about everything they use was powered by some kind of animal doing work. The shower was a mastodon spitting water. Bulldozers were big brontosaurus. The record player used a bird with a beak. I'm sure you all remember. All of these were technically beasts of burden. The whole flintstones world was propped up on the backs of animals working for humans. Kind of a crazy Idea that a lot of people overlook

By Ivan83 — On Jul 01, 2011

Beast of Burden is one of my all time favorite Rolling Stones songs. From just the very first notes it puts me in a special kind of mood. There is just something about that song that gets in to your brain and does something great. Maybe if the real beasts of burden could hear it it would lighten their load a little bit!

By omgnotagain — On Jul 01, 2011

@MrMoody – I would like to say that in American slang, a “beast of burden” can be a human being. The slang definition is: someone who really messes things up.

Of course, that definition has a completely different meaning from the traditional one, or even the one you gave. Instead of the person bearing the burden, they create burdens for everyone else to bear.

By MrMoody — On Jul 01, 2011

I believe that the phrase beast of burden has become a metaphor for anything that carries the bulk of the workload in any situation.

It can be your old, reliable truck which you use to haul wood across town. It can be a heavy duty computer server which can perform lots of number crunching calculations many times per second (that’s the way I use the term). It can be anything, really, that works hard and works relentlessly; and it’s usually a thing and not a person.

Of course, it still applies to animals as well, but as I’m a city slicker, I’m more familiar with its use as a figure of speech more than anything else.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.