The pack saddle is a support designed to fit on the back of a pack animal, usually a horse or a mule, for easy transportation of goods. The saddle provides a place to attach pack sacks or boxes of freight. A well manufactured and placed pack saddle will distribute the weight of the attached baggage along the surface of the animals back easing the load for the animal.
During the winter of 1898, 30,000 men attempted to climb the trails leading to Dawson in the hopes of digging a fortune out of the gold rich soil. The Klondike Gold Rush was marked by an air of madness as the would-be miners attempted to reach the riverbeds. Reason, compassion and sympathy were all pushed from human conscience as the stampeders continued on their journey. The White Pass was one of the most difficult trails, with obstacles abounding at every curve. Names like Devil's Hill and Summit Hill allude to the steep grades and the danger involved in attempting The White Pass. Yet none were as fiercely named as Dead Horse Gulch.
The North West Mounted Police would not let anyone into Canada without several hundreds of pounds of supplies, nor would they let a wounded animal cross the border. Shortly before the Canadian Border the owners would remove the packs from the horse then smooth a blanket over the sores on the backs of the doomed animals to gain passage to Canada. The saddles would be refastened and repacked so the owners could continue on, with little regard for the animals in their care. Ill-fated horses broke their legs, fell from exhaustion and malnourishment while others simply dropped dead. A few men would shoot the fallen horses to put them out of their misery; others simply removed their packs and carried on to Dawson. That one particular gulch was so littered with horse carcasses, it easily earned its name.
Yukon Transportation Museum, Whitehorse