From 1848 to 1871, boats traveling the Illinois and Michigan Canal were towed by either horses or mules. Steam powered boats were not used on the canal until 1871. Horses were mainly used on the passenger boats also known as packet boats. These moved at a rate of approximately 5 miles per hour. The boats had a short history on the canal (1848-1853) They eventually were replaced by the Rock Island Railroad. This was much faster and operated year round.
Cargo canal boats were towed by a team of 2 to 5 mules. They traveled at a slower pace–2 miles per hour. The mules were a much more hardy animal and could work in shifts of six hours. The team of mules was
attached to the canal boat by a 150 foot line.
Along the canal, at 12 to 15 mile intervals were mule barns. It was at this site that mule teams were switched so that there would be fresh animals for the next 12 to 15 miles.