The Reality of Horse Drawn Carriages by Amy Taylor

When visiting iconic cities such as London or New York City, many tourists are enchanted by the sight of horse-drawn carriages. To some, the use of horse-drawn carriages is a delightful activity. Others, however, perceive this as a cruel and unnecessary practice.

The horses involved often pull heavy loads whilst trying to navigate traffic. Walking and standing on concrete and asphalt can also lead to debilitating leg problems, whilst breathing in exhaust fumes can cause respiratory disorders.[1] Over the years, carriage horses have died from a range of causes, including heat exhaustion, ill-health and collisions with vehicles.[2]

The current legislation in the United Kingdom (UK) is lacking. The Code of Practice for Horse-Drawn Vehicles focuses on the competence of the driver and pays little regard to the welfare of horses.[3] The guide requires that the “health, safety and security of the horse, self and others is maintained throughout.”[4] However, it does not specify how the horses should be treated. It does not set out guidance or information about veterinary checks and it is only “recommended” that operators seek advice from a veterinary surgeon regarding the suitability of an animal for the purpose of drawing a carriage.[5]

In 2011, there were calls to reintroduce horse-drawn carriages to Oxford’s city centre.[6] However, such plans were rejected amid concerns about animal welfare and traffic congestion.

Cities such as Barcelona and Mumbai have introduced legislation banning horse-drawn carriages.[7] Albeit in Barcelona, during traditional celebrations, it will be permitted which raises the common question, can culture and tradition ever justify practices that are harmful to animals? In Mumbai, horse-drawn carriages were banned by the high court in 2015, but, as of May 2018, this ban has still not been fully implemented.[8]

Indeed, it appears that it has been rather difficult for cities to create and implement the ideal legislation to ban this practice. Although a complete ban would be preferable in the UK, perhaps legislation following the approach of Rome, whereby horse-drawn carriages are only permitted in parks and gardens, would receive the most traction?[9] If such legislation were introduced, it should place strict limits on the duration of each ride, the length of the working day and the weather conditions in which rides are permitted.

Hopefully in time this practice will be relegated to the history books, but until then, if you are a tourist, please opt for an eco-friendly way to explore cities.


[1] Animal Welfare Institute, ‘Urban Carriage Horses: Out of Step with Responsible Horse Welfare’, available at <https://awionline.org/content/urban-carriage-horses-out-step-responsible-horse-welfare> accessed 10 February 2019.

[2] Partnership to Ban Horse Carriages Worldwide, ‘Fatalities’ available at <http://www.partnershiptobanhorsecarriages.com/accidents-2/> accessed 6 January 2019.

[3] Department for Transport, ‘Guidance: Code of practice for horse drawn vehicles’, January 2000, available at <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/code-of-practice-for-horse-drawn-vehicles/code-of-practice-for-horse-drawn-vehicles> accessed 10 February 2019.

[4] Ibid, at 4-6.

[5] Ibid, at 12.

[6] BBC News, ‘Oxford horse-drawn carriages will not return’, 20 December 2011, available at <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-16262011> accessed 11 February 2019.

[7] Peta Latino, ‘Finally! Barcelona Bans the Horror of Horse-Drawn Carriages’, available at <https://www.petalatino.com/en/blog/finally-barcelona-bans-horror-horse-drawn-carriages/> accessed 11 February 2019; BBC News, ‘Mumbai court bans horse-drawn ‘Victoria carriages’, 9 June 2015, available at <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-33059920> accessed 11 February 2019.

[8] The Times of India, ‘Horses abused at Congress rally against fuel hike rescued by cops in Bandra’, 25 May 2018, available at <https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/ban-on-horse-drawn-buggies-in-mumbai-how-are-victoria-owners-pullers-being-rehabilitated-bombay-hc-asks-4527164/> accessed 11 February 2019.

[9] Italy Magazine, ‘Rome’s Horse-Drawn Carriages To Be Banned From City Streets’, 9 October 2018, available at <https://www.italymagazine.com/news/romes-horse-drawn-carriages-be-banned-city-streets> accessed 11 February 2019.

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