A look into the past: Tethered moose

Posted: Sunday, May 26, 2002

Here, a bridled moose is tethered to a barn near the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church in Kenai.

The photo was taken sometime between 1903 and 1906 that is part of the Cordelia Noble Collection in the University of Alaska Fairbanks photo archives.

Axel Whittbro of Kenai is known to have tamed moose during the early 20th century, and this is probably one of his. His method was to capture a calf and, when it was older, hitch it to a dog sled. In this way it learned to pull a sled and wagon. Although moose are said to have been trained to pull plows in Russia, Whittbro is not known to have used his for plowing. Note, however, there is a freshly plowed field between the barn and the church.

Today it is illegal to tame wild animals in Alaska, but that is not true everywhere. At the Kostroma Moose Farm in Siberia, moose have been tamed for milking (1 to 6 liters per day). Elsewhere they have been saddled and rode or used as draft animals. The economic picture for tamed moose is not favorable. Compared to northern-bred cattle, moose produce less meat and milk, and there are far better draft animals. And, as browsers, they don't do as well on hay as cattle, which are grazers. Moreover, moose do not reproduce well (if at all) in captivity.

In Russia, farmed moose are almost always caught wild and tamed.

This text was written by Marge Mullen and Alan Boraas. The photograph is part of the photograph archives of the Anthropology Lab at Kenai Peninsula College.

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