Horses have been used for thousands of years as a mode of transportation. The horse-drawn carriage has its humble beginnings in Mesopotamia around 3000 BC. As time passed, carriages took on various formats and became the main mode of transportation for thousands of years. Though cars are our main source of transportation now, horse-drawn wagons still serve a purpose for leisure and competition.
A horse-drawn carriage can travel anywhere between 2 to 12 miles per hour and as far as 30 miles daily. Keep reading to learn more about this method of transportation, including factors that can influence speed and distance and the load capacity horses can handle.
How Fast Can a Horse-Drawn Carriage Travel?
Most horse-drawn carriages will fall between two to four miles per hour when walking, though they can reach speeds of up to 12 miles per hour if the horse trots.
This is not a very fast mode of transportation, with a writer from 1617 describing covered wagons as a “very tedious” journey meant only for “women and people of inferior condition.”1 Thankfully, improvements to the carriage design led to much greater speed and comfort for passengers. For example, in the mid-1700s, it would take two days for a horse carriage to travel from Cambridge to London, around 50 miles. By the 1820s, the journey could take as little as seven hours, thanks to coach improvements and road construction.
Is That Really as Fast as a Horse-Drawn Carriage Can Go?
Horses are exceptionally fast runners, with some faster breeders capable of reaching speeds of up to 45 mph. So, you might wonder if 10 miles per hour is the limit.
There are exceptions to the speed limit of a horse-drawn carriage. Chuckwagon racing is an equestrian sport where a team of horses leads drivers in a chuckwagon in a race around a track. The chuckwagon can reach speeds of up to 37 miles per hour.
This is a particularly popular sport on the Canadian prairies, but it can be dangerous. There have been five human deaths during the races, and over 70 horses have died due to the sport.
How Far Can a Horse-Drawn Carriage Travel?
Horse-drawn carriages can travel up to 30 miles daily, though the range is typically between 10 and 30 miles. A physically fit horse may be able to travel further than that. The distance it can travel will depend on several factors, including the terrain, horse, weather, and the carriage’s load.
How Much Weight Can a Horse Pull?
A horse can pull around one and a half times its body weight with a carriage over long distances. If traveling shorter distances, they can pull up to six times their body weight or, depending on the breed, even more.
The type of horse you’re working with can also determine how much weight it’ll ultimately be able to pull. There are two body type categories for horses: riding and draft horses.
Riding horses are lighter, leaner, faster, and more agile. But draft horses were bred for heavy tasks like pulling heavy loads, so they’re much more likely to excel at pulling heavier loads than their riding horse counterparts.
Of course, the adage “many hands make light work” does apply here. The more horses you have, the more their load capacity increases. Two horses working together can pull three times the weight they’d be able to if they worked alone.
How Does a Horse-Drawn Carriages’ Speed Compare to Other Animal-Powered Modes of Transportation?
Now that you know the average speed of a horse-drawn carriage, you might wonder how it stacks up against other animal-powered modes of transportation. Look at the comparison chart below to find out how the carriage speed compares to the average walking speed of other animals carrying loads.
|Horse-drawn carriage||2–12 mph|
|Dog sled||20 mph|
|Camel caravan||2.5–4 mph|
Although we have much more efficient modes of transportation now, horse-drawn carriages are still a fun leisure activity and a competitive sport. Of course, at top speeds of 12 miles per hour, you’re not going anywhere in a hurry while traveling via horse-drawn carriage, but it certainly makes for a fun afternoon and a unique story to tell.
Featured Image Credit: Holger Detje, Pixabay