Horse Drawn Carriages: How it all began

When someone thinks of horse drawn carriages they think of Cinderella or Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom being drawn around in her golden carriage and high majesty. Horse drawn carriages came to their peak usage during the 14th century but where birthed to the world in around 3,500 BC. The word carriage is derived from the Old Northern French word carriage which means to carry in a vehicle.  The very first carriage where introduced to us during 3,000 BC by the Egyptians. They had a mere basin with two wheels on each side and had one or two horses drawing it. As horses became more and more domesticated the reign of the horse drawn carriage arose. The main reason for their rise to popularity was the speed and agility the rider or passenger attained. Horses can go at an average 70 kilometers per hour so it’s easy to guess why they were used for transport.

The horses being used to draw the carriages needed to be domesticated. You can’t just take some horses from the wild and expect them to suddenly start obeying to your command and desires. As with all wild animals for them to safely interact with humans they must be domesticated or only chaos and danger can be expected. Horses have been domesticated since 5000 BC. A known hypothesis is that horses were first herded as they were a source of milk and meat. Milk remains where often found in ancient artefacts. An idea as to how horses began to get used to draw carriages is that a horse may not have been fit for consumption and so someone experimented and decided to use it instead of a cow.

Roman style horse drawn carriage

Horses were chosen over cows because they are evidently stronger. You won’t ever see a 720-kilogram cow jumping over a fence a meter high or even a fence half a meter high. Cows, however strong, are dumpy, chunky and slower than horses. They can be trained but are not nearly as responsive as horses are. Horses whether domesticated or wild acknowledge leadership and so being lead is within the nature of a horse already. This makes them highly responsive and aware when being given direction. Cows on the other hand may need a threat or bribe to adhere to orders.

Horse drawn carriages where a global hit and every nation and its surrounding areas had different types of horse drawn carriages. The ancient Chinese Zhou Dynasty used oriental style carriages to transport royals to and for. The Romans liked to incorporate leather and chain straps to their carriages. The most extravagant horse drawn carriage was an all gold carriage used by the British Monarchy also known as the coronation coach. To match the grandeur of the gold carriage the horses are adorn with reigns and straps with gold ornaments and detailing.

The introduction of the horse drawn carriage surely brought a new spectrum to transport of the olden days.