Before diesel and electric engines made sailing convenient, boats and barges had to be either rowed or pulled. In many European countries such as the Netherlands and the UK, and to some extent in France, Germany, and Belgium, horse-drawn boats were common. Horses and sometimes mules and donkeys would walk along the canal on a towpath pulling behind a small tow-boat loaded with goods or passengers. Because the cargo moves on water, friction is minimal, allowing the horse to pull fifty times as much weight as it could pull in a traditional cart on road.
A vintage English narrow boat being pulled by a horse, on the Cromford Canal, near Matlock, UK. Photo credit: david muscroft / Shutterstock.com