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What is a Horse and Buggy?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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The term “horse and buggy” is used to refer to a form of personal transport also known as a horse and carriage, including a simple carriage harnessed to one or two horses. Even for people who do not have a great deal of experience with horses, a horse and buggy tends to be relatively easy to manage, which is why this basic equipage was so popular for personal transport in many societies. Historically, some people kept buggies and horses for periodic use, or rented them from stables. The design was generally intended for short trips, rather than long distance travel.

Buggy configurations vary widely, with the carriage having two or four wheels, and a partially enclosed top which often folds down. The design is lightweight, and it can seat two to four, depending on the design. Classically, the harness and design are very simple to make maintenance easy, and to ensure that people with limited experience can still safely harness and unharness the horse.

Until the 20th century, the horse and buggy was one of the most common forms of transportation, and it could be seen everywhere from rural communities to the heart of the city. However, with the advent of the automobile, people began to transition away from horses and buggies, especially once cars became affordable for most people.

A few communities continue to use horses and buggies for transport. In the United States, the Amish, Old Order Mennonites, and certain other religious groups utilize horses for transport, as do some homesteaders. In rural communities in other regions of the world, the horse and buggy may be preferred because roads are not navigable for cars, or because cars are too expensive and difficult to maintain.

Many people associate the horse and buggy with an older era, and sometimes the term is used in a slangy way to reference days gone by. People may talk about “horse and buggy days,” meaning a more innocent and simple time, and the term is also sometimes used to suggest that someone's way of thinking is outmoded and antiquated, just like the horse as a method of transportation.

Several companies continue to manufacture buggies, because there is a small demand for them, and driving horses are bred and trained in many regions of the world. The Amish in particular are famous for the very high quality of their horses, and in regions where horses and buggies are used to provide novelty rides for tourists, tour operators often try to obtain Amish-bred horses for safety and aesthetic reasons.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By lluviaporos — On Apr 17, 2012

@irontoenail - I'm not sure I agree with you. A horse is not a person. They have the other horses around them to keep them company and they do get taken out for a ride more often than not. I mean, the person driving the carriage can always take them for a spin around the block and probably has to, now and then, if it's cold and they haven't been hired, since otherwise they might hurt their muscles.

Most cities are going to have an animal watch organization and you know they would hear all about it if any of those horses were the least bit mistreated. Horses are loved by a lot of people and a lot of people would be willing to stick up for them.

Their life isn't perfect, but no life is perfect. I don't think they have a bad lot as it goes.

By irontoenail — On Apr 16, 2012

@bythewell - I admit that I always found the horse and buggy to be quite romantic, but that was before I went to one of those cities and saw all the horses waiting in line for customers.

I don't really object to the fact that they are used for the job itself, as they are probably treated very well in terms of exercise and food.

But, horses are intelligent, social creatures and it just doesn't seem right to make them stand still for hours at a time, waiting for people to hop on the carriage.

This is probably not so much of a problem during the peak season, but I've been to those cities during the low season and the horses are still standing there, bored, cold and sometimes even in the rain.

If they only had some way of making sure the poor horses weren't bored to the point of distraction, I would have no problem with the practice but I'm not sure how they would do that.

By bythewell — On Apr 16, 2012

I have always liked using a horse and buggy to see a new city whenever I visit there.

Not all cities have them of course, but often if it is an old city and considered romantic, like New York, or Paris or Prague, then there will be a horse and buggy somewhere.

Usually the inner streets of this kind of city are kept in the original state of cobblestones rather than paved like the other parts of town and it's discouraged for people to drive over them since it can wreck the streets.

But, cobblestones and horse and buggies have been suited to each other for years.

It's usually not that expensive and it's a good way to get to know the inner parts of a city. Usually the person driving the carriage is more than happy to chat with you and help you to figure out where everything is as well.

And I feel like it puts some money into the pockets of an age old profession.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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