Hiking Companions: 7 Unique Animals People Hike With

About 79.7 million households (65 percent) in the United States own a pet. With over half of the country cohabiting with a furry or feathery companion, it’s no secret that pets hold a very high importance in our society. They give us unconditional love, listen to our problems without interruption, are there for us when we need them, and are first to greet us after a hard day of work. They hold such an important spot in their owner’s heart it is hard to leave them behind even for a few hours to take a hike. Which is why some owners feel an innate responsibility to leave no animal left behind when they hit the trails.

While it is a normal occurrence to run into a dog while taking a hike, these seven hiking companions have also been spotted on the trails. It may seem strange, outlandish, and every other synonym for weird, pet owners have no qualms about bringing their pets along for the walk. We don’t’ advocate for these animals to come on your next hike, but we are here to share the 7 unique animals people bring hiking.

Cats

It can be difficult enough to get your cat to snuggle up with you in bed. Imagine trying to put your cat on a leash and take it on a hike. Despite the odds, individuals across the country have managed to get their felines to cooperate and even enjoy going on hikes with them. It takes an ample amount of patience, but more and more individuals have been able to get their cats on the trails. Take Tuxie for example. His owner, known as HikingDiva on Instagram, has taken her cat on hikes spanning from South Carolina to Tenneseee and trails upwards of eight miles in length. While not every cat will want to or be able to hike like Tuxie, it’s interesting to know some cats truly enjoy the great outdoors just as much as their owners.

Ferrets

They are illegal in several states (here’s looking at you California) but those of us that can lawfully own ferrets know they are curious creatures. Being highly intelligent, these animals love to explore new places which make them unique yet capable hiking companions. Given their love for the great outdoors, a few individuals have started taking their ferrets with them on hikes. One woman detailed herexperience encountering a pet ferret on a Washington trail. When they asked the owners if they were afraid of the other dogs on the trail their response was “all the dogs are scared of the ferret”.  Before you put your ferret on a leash, keep in mind they are most comfortable at temperatures between 65° and 68°F. Warmer temperatures can kill them, so summer time hikes are likely a no-go.

Horses

While probably the least peculiar animal on the list, hiking with horses still is far behind in popularity than dogs. Horses are used for hikes in two ways: to carry equipment or simply to ride. More often than not you’ll encounter the latter of the two on equestrian-friendly trails. Horses are useful hiking companions for a number of reasons. With their brute strength, they can help you lug heavy equipment on multi-day treks. Horses are also useful in covering more ground in a faster amount of time. They can also help elderly or disabled hikers get outdoors and still enjoy the beauty nature has to offer.

Donkeys

We aren’t in Greece but hiking with donkeys is equally as accepted in the United States. There are a number of reasons donkeys are the ideal hiking companion. They:

  • Can handle rugged terrain
  • Have an acute sense of self-preservation
  • Have impressive memories
  • Live for many years
  • Can help carry your gear
  • Keep a steady pace
  • Have a lot of endurance

Donkeys are primarily used in other countries for hiking, however this trend is quickly sweeping over the United States. Unlike horses, they typically aren’t used for riding but serve more as pack animals and companions.

Llamas

It may seem like an unlikely companion but llamas can be a hiker’s best friend. In fact, many trekking companies use their llamas’ assistance for carrying equipment and supplies on walking expeditions. What may come as a surprise to some, llamas padded feet and endurance make them suitable animals for hikes. Hiking with llamas isn’t anything new, such as the case with more domestic pets like cats and ferrets. They’ve been used as pack animals for hundreds of years. They are still used today by a number of different tour companies and in major National Parks, such as Yellowstone National Park.

Goats

One senior-aged woman set out on the Pacific Crest Trail with only a pack of supplies and hooved hiking companion. This furry companion wasn’t a horse or a llama. It was something much smaller yet strong enough to carry the weight: a goat. While it may seem completely outlandish, goats have been used by backpackers for years. In fact, the demand for hiking goat companions is common enough that some are even bred, raised, and trained solely for backpacking.  Their smaller size, responsiveness, social personalities, and ability to carry 25-30% of their body weight make them sought after hiking companions.

Pigs

It’s peculiar enough to see a pig on a leash. It’s even more eccentric to find a pet pig on a hiking trail. As unconventional as it may seem, more domestic pigs are hitting the trails than ever. Like dogs, pigs are sensitive and intelligent animals that thrive on physical stimulation. Exploring new environments that offer new sights and sounds are the perfect way to not only bond with your pig but ensure their happiness. Pigs can also carry small pack weights to help transport your goods on the trails.

Are there any other unique hiking companions you’ve come across on the trails? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!

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