Waterloo Horses and Carts
One of the most basic forms of transportation known to man is the horse and cart, which was used through history from the fifth millennium BC on. Although the way this vehicle was made differently through the centuries, it maintained a role as an important form of transport.
The horse and cart has been used in tandem since around the time when the wheel was invented, close to the fifth century. These vehicles were basically constructed with wooden stakes or boxes made from wood, then were hooked up to the horses by leather straps or sturdy rope.
Artwork and historic writings from Assyrian and Greek culture from as early as 1800 BC show that horse drawn carts were used for transportation and were vital to transportation and agriculture at the time. They were also used for warfare through Europe and the Middle East, although the horses used were less powerful and smaller than their modern day counterparts.
The horse and cart were very important to medieval European culture. Individuals who weren’t walking often used these carts, pulled by horses, as their main method of transport, and merchants often used the carts to carry their wares from one place to another. Individuals who owned more than one horse usually paired two animals to use as a team as they hauled heavy loads. It wasn’t until around the 1500s that upper class citizens in Europe started using closed carriages, pulled by horses, for regular transportation.
During the 17th century, horse and carts developed better engineering and were safer, providing a smoother ride for passengers. Starting in the mid-1700s, the carts were frequently built with a lighter structure, so they were faster. Across Europe, professional painters, upholsterers, and carriage builders worked together to create carriages that were far more elegant and comfortable for carrying passengers. Also, horse breeders and owners worked to raise faster horses. As the railroad began to take hold in the late 19th century, wealthy Europeans began to use the carriages less. Use of the horse and cart sank even lower as the West began using automobiles after the 1890s.
Draft horses are still displayed for special events, like when the Queen of England is showcasing her horses and carriages. They’re also used for shows of competition, pulling various weights in horse Draft shows as a demonstration. One other way that horses and carts are commonly used in modern times is for getting around cities, either as paid tours or as taxis.
Horses and carts vary in style and tradition throughout the world over time. For example, the British and the French required a coachman to drive the carriage from the front. In Spain in the 19th and 20th century, though, the cart and horse were driven by riding the horse itself. In South Africa at the same time, teams of as many as six horses were used to plow tough soil for gardening.
Horse drawn carriages or carts have been around in various forms throughout history and around the entire world. By the 1800s, the choice one made in a horse drawn vehicle was viewed as a status symbol reflecting one’s income and personal preferences.