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City Work Horses
 By Winniefield Park   •   28th Jul 2017   •   905 views   •   0 comments
When we think of working horses, we tend to picture horses used in agriculture and forestry work. Horses truly were the horsepower that helped us not just survive in our environment, but thrive. They were engines of many vehicles and machines. But, of course, horses had many uses in towns and cities too.



Horse Cars and Trams
Where streetcars or trams still exist, they are run by electricity from overhead wires. But, before those webs of wires were constructed, horses pulled many trams. These were also called horse cars and they were one of the earliest forms of public transit. One horse could pull a tram full of people on the smooth steel tracks laid in the city street. A horse would work about four to five hours shift before being changed with another. A large city would require dozens of horses to keep the trams running. Not all tram lines carried only passengers. Some trams were for the hauling of freight. Some of these would be found in areas of factories and harbors where goods had to be moved. The use of horse-drawn trams started in the mid-1800s and lasted until the mid-1920s.

Livery Horses
The word livery has several meanings. It can mean a type of uniform worn by those in service. It can mean a type of boarding stable, or it can mean a stable where horses are rented out. In cities, livery stables would rent out horses to those who didn’t own them. Livery horses might be rented out by the hour, day, or may be ridden from one place to the next. Livery horses were probably not the best quality or well trained, as they were only regarded as a way to get from one place to the next. Anyone who could pay the livery fee would have been able to ride them or use them to pull a vehicle. They were somewhat like today’s limousine services.

Dray Horses
Wood, coal, milk, beer and other commodities were once moved by horse-drawn vehicles. They moved goods between ports and the countryside to the people and industries in urban areas. Horses that did regular rounds with scheduled stops would know where each delivery would be made. Some could have done their deliveries without the driver. The heavier the load, the more horses would be used to pull it. Beer companies are famous for their multi-horse hitches and a smart appearance was thought to reflect the quality of the products the company sold.

The career of a draft horse in a city wasn’t overly long. They would begin work at about five years of age and would be in service for about five to seven years. The hard street surface would take a toll on their hooves and legs. When they could no longer work in town, they might be sold to a farmer, where they could work on softer soils and roadways.

The drivers of these wagons were called teamsters, and to this day truck drivers and others in transportation and service industries are still called teamsters. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters still has two horse heads atop a wagon wheel as their logo.



Horse Cabs
Horse cabs were the forerunners of our modern day taxies. Horses pulling various types of vehicles would be available to the public. One common vehicle was the one-horse Hansom cab. This was a lightweight, two-wheeled vehicle with a seat high above an enclosed box where the driver sat. it was designed for speed and safety on busy and winding city streets. The front was often enclosed to protect the passengers. There were also larger, four-wheeled vehicles, capable of pulling several people and their baggage. Because cabs were privately owned and were often subject to few regulations, they tended to work the horses hard. Horse cabs gave way to motorized cabs by the late 1920s.



Fire Horses
The outbreak of a fire must have been a terrifying event when houses were poorly built and services somewhat primitive. The chances of saving your house from a fire increased with the advent of horse-drawn fire engines. Before horse-drawn fire engines were developed, teams of men pulled the equipment.

The horses that pulled fire engines were well trained. They would leave their stalls at the sound of an alarm, which activated their stall doors, and stand beneath their quick-hitch harnesses, waiting for it to be fastened. Then, they would gallop up the streets, with the firemen running behind. With the invention of the steam pumper, firefighting became more efficient. Something called running boards was also added to fire engines so that the firefighters could ride to the fire, rather than run. Once at the scene of the fire, the horses had to stand patiently as the smoke, embers, and flames rose only a short distance away. The era of the firehorse only lasted about fifty years before trucks took over.
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