Does a Work Moose in a Harness Exist?

Is the Photo Fact or Fiction?

Patrick Endres/Design Pics/Getty Images

Netlore Archive: In this viral image circulating since February 2007, we see a full-grown, domesticated "work moose" supposedly being harnessed to haul wood in a logging operation. This image was determined to be fake.

Assessing the Work Moose Image

The image is a fake, as are the various captions and stories accompanying it on its email rounds since early February 2007. One version says the photo was taken in Wyoming. Another says it was taken on St. Joseph Island in Lake Huron, Canada. Yet another claims it was taken in Maine. In truth, the picture is a composite, different parts of which could have been taken anywhere in the world.

A peek at its EXIF data reveals that the original photograph (presumably of the woodsy background) was taken with a Kodak digital camera on September 10, 2006, and edited in Adobe Photoshop on December 12, 2006. Let's examine it more closely.

The Horses of Abitibi

The gentleman who appears to be harnessing the moose is wearing a blue jacket emblazoned with an illustration of a horse-drawn carriage and a logo that includes the words "Chevaux d'Abitibi" ("Horses of Abitibi"). From these, it seems reasonable to postulate that: 1) this element of the image was cut and pasted from a photo taken in the Abitibi region of Quebec, Canada, and 2) In that original photograph, the subject was harnessing (or perhaps shoeing) a horse, not a moose.

The Mystery Strap

Overall, the mystery Photoshopper did a pretty convincing job of creating the impression that the moose is actually wearing a harness, though the type of rig shown isn't too fancy for hauling logs. Note the telltale dark outline (or shadow) around the bit of strap curling down below the moose's midsection. Note, too, that when the contrast is softened on the portion of the image around the man's right hand (see detail #2), he appears to be holding a six-inch length of strap attached to... nothing!

Faked Woodpiles

Lastly, note the matching woodpiles -- they are mirror images, actually -- in the lower right and left-hand corners of the photo. Nice trick and barely noticeable on first glance, but it's a clear example of the kind of photo fakery that went into the construction of this image.

Does a Work Moose Exist?

Internet hoax aside, domesticated moose do exist and have served as work animals wherever their numbers were plentiful throughout history, as can be seen in these historical photographs:

Sample Email Depicting a Work Moose

Here's an email contributed by Bonnie D. on Feb. 8, 2007:

Subject: Fw: Logging
Here is something you don't see everyday.
Logging, St Joseph Island Style.

Sample email (with identical image) contributed by Carol B. on Feb. 11, 2007:

Subject: Work Moose
I received multiple emails looking for copies of, and sources for, the photo of the moose logging. The info below is forwarded from:
Lew R. McCreery
US Forest Service Northeastern Area
Morgantown, WV 26505
According to Lew, this letter is from Pete Lammert with the Maine Forest Service. Thanks for sending it along, Lew!
Moose logging story
The man in the picture is Jacques Leroux who lives up near Escourt Station and has always had work horses, first for actual work and then for show at Maine's' many summer fairs.
I think he had two matched pairs, one Clydesdales and the other Belgiums. He would turn them out to pasture each morning and then work them in the afternoon dragging the sled around the fields.
Three springs ago, he noticed a female moose coming to the pasture and helping herself of the hay and what grain the work horses didn't pick up off the ground. Jacques said he could get within 10 feet of the moose before it would turn and move off.
Two springs ago, the moose foaled (?)at the edge of the work horse pasture and upon getting to it's feet had not only the mother in attendance but the four horses. The young moose grew up around the horses and each afternoon when Mr. Leroux took the teams for their daily exercise, the yearling moose would trail along the entire route next to the near horse.
At some point, the yearling got so accustomed to Mr. Leroux that, after he had brushed each horse after a workout, he started brushing down the moose. The moose tolerated this quite well so Mr. Leroux started draping harness parts over the yearling to see how he would tolerate these objects. The yearling was soon harness broken and now came the question of what could you do with a harness broke moose.
As you may or may not know, a great deal of Maine is being bought up by folks "from away" and some of them understand principles of forest management. The folks buying small parcels of land up in the area of the Allagash have it in their mind that they don't want big skidders and processors and forwarders on their small wood lots. Enter Mr. Leroux with his teams of horses.
Every morning, when Mr.. Leroux loaded the teams into the horse trailer to go off to the days job, the yearling moose got quite riled up and one day loaded himself right into the trailer with the horses. At the job site, Jacques unloaded the horses and as the moose stayed right with them, he would take the Clydesdales and his brother Gaston would take the Belgians and off into the woods they would go with the moose trailing behind. They would put the harness on the moose in case they encountered someone who they could kid with the explanation that the moose was a spare in case something happened to one of the horses. The work required them to skid cut, limbed and topped stems to the landing where the stems could be loaded onto a truck for the pulp mill.
All morning long the two brothers brought out twitch after twitch of stems with the moose following the Belgian team for the most part. During the lunch break Jacques had the bright idea of putting trace chains and a whiffle tree on the moose's harness and all afternoon the moose went back and forth following the Belgians in and out of the woods dragging his whiffletree along the ground. As there were no stumps in the skid trail, the whiffle tree never hung up on anything and that first day in harness went great. So next day, they hitched on first a small stem and the moose brought it out just fine following the Belgians.
Mr. Leroux told me they were up to four small stems now and the moose was doing just great. He cautioned however that there were a few problems with using a bull moose. Come June, when the new antlers start, the new bone is "in velvet" and must itch like crazy as the moose stops every once in awhile and rubs his rack against just about anything to appease the itch. Once, before the brothers learned to tie him of by himself while they had lunch, the moose was rubbing his antlers against the hame on the Clydesdale called Jack and got it wedged there for a bit. Jacques said he wished he had a camera as it looked like moose was trying to push Jack over.
The other problem is the rutting season. The brothers learned quickly to leave moose in the barn as he was constantly on red alert in the woods during this time. The brothers are also considering trying this with two females to make a matched pair which would become an instant hit at the Maine Fairs. The trouble with the bulls is their racks. They would be constantly rubbing and hitting each other and yes they would have to be gelded as I just couldn't imagine getting the two bulls anywhere near each other, let alone in harness.
Thought you should know the rest of the story. If any of you doubt this, please contact Tom Whitworth in Ashland, Maine. I think he said was a second cousin to the Lerouxs and has seen this anomaly many times.

See also:

Moose on a Wire
The viral image appears to show an unfortunate moose accidentally strung up on power cables by a utility crew near Fairbanks, Alaska.

An Internet Bestiary
Photo gallery featuring all the craziest critters on the Internet.

Sources and further reading:

And Moose Are Even Graceful When They Trot
New Hampshire Union Leader, February 18, 2007