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HomeFeaturesHorses still on Mackinac Island as Winter settles in

Horses still on Mackinac Island as Winter settles in

MACKINAC ISLAND – One of the best-known things about Mackinac Island is that cars aren’t allowed. It’s been that way for over 100 years!

As a result, people get around Mackinac Island on foot, by bicycle or on a horse. Taking a break from our auto-driven society is part of the charm of visiting Mackinac Island.

But while lots of people know that there are no cars on Mackinac Island, there tend to be lots of questions about the authentic horsepower that keeps the island moving. For example, what happens to all the horse manure? If there are no motor vehicles, then how do packages get delivered on Mackinac Island? Where do all of the horses go in the winter?

All good questions, and each one has an interesting answer. Here are a few common questions about horses on Mackinac Island, with answers coming straight from the horse’s mouth:

How many horses live on Mackinac Island?
While about 500 people are year-round Mackinac Island residents, that population gets surpassed by the number of horses during the summer. As many as 600 horses live and work on Mackinac Island during peak season! All but a few depart for the mainland at the end of the travel season.

What kind of horses live on the island?
Big ones! Percheron and Belgian draft horses are used for carriage tours and dray services, for example. Hackney teams are used for weddings, while grade horses of a certain size are used for taxi service.

What happens to the horse poop?
It’s scooped up and collected in wheeled carts. The manure is then delivered to the City of Mackinac Island’s composting operation. Mackinac Island streets are cleaned continuously, with workers using water to flush the streets after hours.

Why are “Horseless carriages” banned on the island?
There’s an interesting history of horses on Mackinac Island, and basically the carriage men fought to protect their way of life when cars first were introduced in the late 1800s. As it has turned out, the lack of automobiles has been a big reason Mackinac Island is such an enjoyable place to visit.

Where do horses go in the Winter?
Horses from spend the winter at Carriage Tours Farms in Pickford, Michigan. near the eastern edge of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Some horses begin leaving Mackinac Island as early as mid-August, with others joining them gradually over the final two months of the travel season. The horses return to Mackinac Island shortly before the new season starts, usually in late March.

Copy courtesy of MightyMac.org and the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau



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