Horse drawn wagons

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For thousands of years the world has known the existence of horse drawn vehicles. Since around 3000 BC, originating in Mesopotamia, the chariot was used, among other things, to carry soldiers into battle. They were lightweight, two-wheeled carts which held one or two men and were usually pulled by either one horse or two.

Around the 14th century very fancy and ornately decorated vehicles called rocking carriages were used by royalty. The four-wheeled rocking carriages were cast in gold and often took as many as four driving horses to pull them because of their heavy weight. The 14th century was also when the pageant wagon came into use. They usually had from 4 to 6 wheels and the enclosure was similar to a small house. The six-wheeled pageant wagons were the first carriages to make use of multiple pivotal axles which allowed the wheels to actually turn. The pivotal axles made it much easier for the horses to move and guide the wagon along curving roads and around tight corners.

One of the biggest changes in the horse drawn wagon or carriage was the creation of the chariot branlant, or suspended carriage The compartment of the wagon was suspended by chains or leather instead of resting on the turning axials. This carriage originated in the 15th century as did the Hungarian light coach which, because of it's light weight, only needed one horse to pull it. The use of the Hungarian coach became widespread because it could carry up to eight men, had a smoother ride and only needed a one horse hitch. Late in the 16th century the structure of the Hungarian coach underwent a big change. Emperor Fredrick III didn't like that it was so big and clumsy and wanted it to look more streamlined, so the first carriage with a rounded top was built.

During the 18th century the steering mechanism of horse drawn vehicles was made vastly better. Up until then the smaller front wheels had been turned by a rectangular rotating front axle and afforded quite a rough trip at times for both passenger and horse. This was changed so that the two front wheels were made to turn around a centre that was placed on the lengthened line of the back axial, making the carriage easier to pull for the horse and helping greatly in keeping the carriage from overturning.

In the US the use of the horse drawn wagon came into being after the 13 colonies were founded. Horse drawn carts and wagons were used by the colonists to transport goods for trading between the north and south. Later coaches and carriages were used to carry goods and passengers and, as in Europe, these vehicles became a status symbol among Americans.

When steam power was initiated the use of the horse drawn wagons, carts, and carriages declined and it wasn't long until they began to disappear. Their use still exists today, but it is not nearly so popular as it once was with the exception being where collectors or competitions are involved.