Mules- shavetails ,belled tails and bell sharps

EJ Zander

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Location
Gettysburg, PA
Interesting military tradition for mules:
New arrivals had their tails shaved hence shavetails
Then as they learned new skills and their tail grew a bell was cut into the tail to show the mastered skill.
First bell was added when the animal could pack
Second bell was added when the animal could pack and drive
Finally when it could pack, drive and ride it got the third bell
The system easily communicated their skill level to others or when the animal was transferred to different commands
A bell sharp was an experienced mule that knew where to line up and could pick out its own pack
Pic of the belled tails
3d6d3a145861241c9e4498e6ded6fd08--different-meaning-leveon-bell.jpg
 

EJ Zander

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Location
Gettysburg, PA
Folks around here still do that......civilians and civilian mules. :D

Do they do it where you are @EJ Zander ?

Interesting. Nope never seen it around here or over in Lancaster but most mules here a the large (mammoth) Belgian mules. Be great if people did use the system. It would make buying at the draft animal auctions alot easier. I'd like to see a fourth bell indicating the animal can drive single or double,lol.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Very cool information, thank you! Makes sense, doesn't it? Gee whiz, those miles-long trains called an army on the move held up because one mule can't ( or won't ) participate in his job? Little soft on mules.

The Amish around here use the big Belgian crosses you mention- why something so large and lop eared is cute I do not know, but they are.
 
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