Life in the Old West

True stories, tall tales, memorabilia of the American West

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Did horsebox or horse trailer play role in West?


Did the horse trailer — often called a “horsebox” in Europe — play any role in the Old West? Were horses often transported rather than ridden, and if so, what was the most common way?

I suspect that transporting a herd of horses or any group of horses without riders was generally done by railroad, once the railroad had moved into the West to any extent.

Prior to the availability of the railroad, most horses were simply herded by riders on horseback as were cattle, I suspect.

But I was doing some research for other writing this morning about horse trailers or horseboxes, and I actually couldn’t find any definitive information about when the horse trailer (or horsebox as it often is called in Britain and other English-speaking European nations) was “invented” or first used widely.

One source suggested the horsebox or horse trailer was developed during the 1800s by town and village fire departments who would use horse drawn ambulance wagons to actually transport injured but “salvageable” horses back from fire scenes to veterinary care.

I also discovered that “mass transport” of horses in Europe via boat can be traced in artwork back to the Romans and in tapestries of scenes from the Norman Conquest.

But what about the horsebox or horse trailer? They range in our time from simple wagons to elaborate stables-in-wheels often built to accommodate more than one horse as well as having “living quarters” of a sort for people who care for the horses. Seems almost silly to call some of the more elaborate models “horseboxes” or even “horse trailers,” doesn’t it?

Whatever term you use for horse transportation, certainly today’s horse owners, whether they own horses as pets, for show, or for work, find a good horsebox or horse trailer indispensable.

But did such horse transport methods play a role in life in the Old West? If you have information about the invention and development of the horse trailer or horsebox, I invite you to leave a comment and share it with all of us!