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Horse Versus Machine
 By Winniefield Park   •   29th Mar 2019   •   278 views   •   0 comments


There is no question today of whether a horse can outrun a motor vehicle. Quite simply, they can’t. When the internal combustion engine and other modes of transportation power were being developed, it was a great novelty to pit animal against machine. Before these inventions, we had various types of engines to pull heavy loads and most of that sort of work was done by four-legged creatures—horses, donkeys, mules, oxen, goats, camels and even elephants depending on where you lived in the world. And of course even a few two-legged creatures were found in front of carts where humans or ostriches provided the pulling power. So, when mechanical engines started to take over these jobs, many people were skeptical. Could engines pull loads over long distances? Could they handle steep hills, varied terrain and winding roads? Just how fast and reliable were they? To prove that either machine or beast was superior, various races were and in some cases, still, are held.

Locomotives
The first steam engines were invented in the late 1600s, but these were stationary. It took about a hundred years before the first moving engines that traveled down a road or track were developed and a few decades beyond that before they were really practical. But even in the early 1800s, horses and oxen were still doing most of the heavy pulling in agriculture and industry. In the United States, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad used horses to pull loads along its system of rails. The earliest part of the B&O line was finished in 1830 and over its 26 mile length cars loaded with freight were pulled back and forth by horses. But about the same time as its earliest lines were completed, the company commissioned a steam engine, and the result was a small, but relatively powerful locomotive they dubbed “Tom Thumb”. On its inaugural trip, the Tom Thumb pulled a carriage of about a dozen passengers at the blazing speed of 18 miles per hour.

But of course, competing for business with this early railway was a freight hauling company called Stockton and Stokes. A challenge was thrown down, pitting the steam engine against stagecoach operator. The engine was raced against a horse, both pulling freight on sets of parallel tracks. Accounts relate that the horse out pulled the engine as they set out from the starting line. Just when it looked like the engine was going to win the race, a belt broke and it came to a steaming stop. Despite attempts to do a quick repair, the horse and freight wagon pulled ahead and were declared the winners. But, in the end the steam engine won. The railroad directors recognized the potential of the locomotives, and the B&O Railway entered the age of steam

Motorcycles
The name Rolls might not be recognizable without the name Royce alongside it, but Rolls was a competitive driver, as well as starting the still prestigious Rolls Royce Motor Cars company. In Rolls personal collection of racing photos, is a photo of a motorized tricycle racing a horse. The horse, named Gold Ring, is in harness, and alongside the trike, is racing down what appears to be a turf track. There is no mention of who won, or even where it took place. But clearly, the need to prove the superiority of wheels and engines over muscle and hoof was being tested as the age of the internal combustion engine dawned.

Cars
Of course there have been many races between horses and cars, and some are still held today. You don’t have to look too hard on YouTube to find impromptu and staged races between horses and race cars. We’ve been trying for along time to establish which is actually faster—horse or car. A 1927 British Pathe film captured a duel between a car and horse racing on a steeplechase course. It’s not clear just how the car gets over the hurdles, but it appears there are ramps that we can’t see. This particular race takes place in France and the result is a draw. Clearly, the car is harder to control on landing the jumps, which may have given an advantage to the horse.

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