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The History of the Horse and Buggy

A Timeline of the Horse and Carriage

At Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, we love being able to provide the experience of an era gone by, when life moved slower and horses were central to everything people did. We offer a step back in time while showing our guests the unique history right here in Victoria, BC.

From the homely, covered wagon to the ornate Coronation Coach, the horse-drawn carriage has a long and storied past. This mode of transportation is still used today in many Mennonite and Amish communities, has seen a resurgence in the farming community and of course, is always a fun and unique tourism experience.

The Very First Horse and Buggy

The domestication of horses began over 6,000 years ago, when man started to work alongside horses to accomplish farming activities; trusted in the horse’s courage and power to carry him through battle; and drew on the horse’s stamina to provide transportation. In return, the horse found himself no longer searching for food, shelter and care. 

The horse and buggy we know today has a fascinating history dating all the way back to ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest form of a buggy was the chariot which is thought to be the first wheeled transportation, and was designed for use in battle. It was rudimentary, with little more than a floor, short sides and a basic seat (basin) for two people to sit in. It was pulled by no more than two horses and rolled along on two wheels. Most commonly it required its passengers to stand through the bumps and was viewed as a way to get around quickly during Egyptian warfare.

Tally Ho Carriage Tours circa 1905

The Horse and Buggy Throughout the Ages

As the popularity of horses grew the breadth and depth of their service also grew, and with each new service, man created new equipment. An array of buggies were built to suit the intended purpose, including speed, stability, long-distance travels, transportation of goods, etc.; and finishes ranged from rough cut boards to ornate pieces of art. 

Owning a nice buggy was often for the upper-class as it went along with the need to upkeep one or more horses. The wealthy typically had a carriage with four wheels and double seats; farmers made do with wagons on which to transport their goods; and poorer travellers would often go with others by stagecoach. In cities such as London, two-wheeled carriages that resembled the early Mesopotamian buggies provided taxi services.

Types of Horse-Drawn Buggies

Stagecoach – The stagecoach was a main form of public transport dating back to the 13th century, and was still widely used until the 1900s when the automobile started to become more popular. Stages could cover long distances, often carrying 20 or more passengers; and were pulled by four to eight horses. Like today’s buses, the stagecoach ran on a schedule with specified stops. At each stop or “stage”, horses were switched out for a fresh team. 

Conestoga Wagon – Introduced to North America by German immigrants in the early 1700s, the Conestoga Wagon was used until the late 1800s to transport goods across rough terrain. It was built to haul major loads (up to 12,000 pounds) and was pulled by up to eight horses, or a dozen oxen, which would travel up to 24 kilometres per day. The seams of the wagon were tarred to enable it to travel through rivers, and it was covered by stretched canvas. The teamster would walk beside the wagon as it was an extremely rough ride and many men could not withstand it for long.

Part of the reason we drive on the right side of the road here in Canada is thanks to the Conestoga wagon.

Buckboard Wagon – Designed in America in the early 19th century, the Buckboard was a basic wagon often used by farmers. It differed from a carriage in that the body of the vehicle had no suspension; instead it included leaf springs under the driver’s seat to help provide some shock absorption. It was so named for the front boards that were used as a footrest by the driver to help stabilize the bumpy ride, and as an added layer of protection from bucking horses’ hooves.

Barouche (or Calèche) Carriage – Of German design, the Barouche was introduced to England in the 1760s. It is a lightweight, four-wheeled, open carriage, where the passengers sit vis-à-vis (face to face). As a fancier carriage, there was a hood over the back which could be closed during inclement weather. They were originally pulled by four or more horses and were largely used by the wealthy.

The Barouche carriage has a special place in history as it was the type of carriage that Abraham Lincoln rode in on the night he was assassinated. 

Hansom Cab – One of the most popular forms of carriage was the Hansom – named after the designer Joseph Hansom, who patented this type of carriage in 1834 in England. The Hansom Cab was the predecessor to today’s taxis. It was a two-wheeled, two-seater that was light and agile, and only required one horse to pull it; the driver sat behind the cab. In its heyday, there were over 7,500 cabs operating in London alone.

Coronation Coach – Of course, the most gilded and ornamental coaches were nicer to view than they were to actually ride in. The Coronation Coach in Britain was built in 1762, weighs four tons and is covered in gold leaf. It’s so heavy that it requires eight horses and can still only be pulled at a walking pace. According to King William IV (who was a former Naval officer), riding in the Coronation Coach was like being “tossed in a rough sea.”

When Did the Horse and Buggy Era Decline?

Most experts believe the horse and buggy days started to fade out around 1910 when the horse and buggy was replaced by the automobile. Once the railway and personal automobile became readily available to the middle class, the horse and buggy fell out of favour as a mode of transport. Because the automobile could travel further distances and iron steam engine trains could haul many more travellers and cargo, there was much more freedom of mobility. Rather than being dependent on the horse, families could travel at a moment’s notice, without needing to stop to switch out teams.

Despite the decline in travel via horse-drawn buggy, the social nature of horses has seen them remain a constant companion to man.

4 horse hitch circa 1951

Get to Know Our Team of Working Horses

At Tally-Ho, we rely on our team of gorgeous Percheron, Belgian, Clydesdale and Shire horses to carry our guests throughout old towne Victoria, quaint country roads, or along custom-created routes for weddings and other special occasions. These breeds are known as draft horses and they are naturally able to pull Tally-Ho’s vis-a-vis carriages with ease, using only 20 percent of their actual capacity. They live just 25 minutes from downtown Victoria at Hidden Acres Farm where they live happily with their caregivers and other four-legged family members, including Tally-Ho’s retired horses.

The horse and buggy provide a truly special and intimate experience for any occasion. Tally-Ho Carriage Tours is Victoria’s original public transportation company, with services starting in the Gold Rush era of the 1850s, making this iconic company the longest-running, historical attraction in the city. It is recognized for its commitment to the ethical treatment and care of the magnificent, world-renowned draft horses. Allow their professional, fun-loving guides to delight you with the surrounding history, local folklore, and exclusive insights into their horses and operation. 

Now you can book your historic tour through the streets of downtown Victoria; a relaxing ride through the country on the Sea Cider Picnic Experience; an up-close experience with the horses on a Farm Tour; or seasonal offering such as the Haunted Halloween Tour, Caroling in the Country, or the Valentine’s Day Ho & Throw. Reservations are recommended and can be made online or by phone at (250) 514- 9257, or email at tallyho@tallyhotours.com. Tally-Ho! Uniquely Charming. Famously Fun.

Victoria Heritage Tours for the History Buff

Step Back in Time and Enjoy Victoria’s Storied Past with a Horse-Drawn Heritage Tour

Victoria is the ideal setting for a heritage tour, as one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest. British settlement in the city we know and love today began in 1843 and Victoria was declared the capital city on July 21, 1871. On that same day, British Columbia became the sixth province of the Dominion of Canada.

Today, Victoria is an exciting city that plays host to an incredible treasure trove of historical monuments. Some of the artifacts you’ll see on a heritage tour with Tally Ho are cemeteries, turn of the century gardens and even castles, like the famed Craigdarroch Castle.

Built by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir during the peak of the coal mining era on Vancouver Island, Craigdarroch is a glimpse into the life of the Dunsmuir family in the 1890’s.

Victoria was the site of Canada’s first police force and Canada’s largest Chinatown. It was also a hotbed of activity during the gold rush and coal mining era and so much more. There are countless stories and legends to discover, all hidden among the streets and historic sites of this modern Canadian city.

Tally Ho Carriage Tours is Part of Victoria’s Heritage

At Tally-Ho Tours, we love being able to show our guests all sides of Victoria’s rich history. A large part of why we have such fun and informational tours is because we ARE a part of Victoria’s history. At Tally-Ho, we’ve been a fixture in downtown Victoria since the Gold Rush, and officially incorporated as Victoria’s original public transportation/tourism company in 1903.

Started by Anton Henderson, the original stagecoach tours started near where Mayfair Mall is located today (the old Tally-Ho bar was originally the Tally-Ho horse stable). Back then, a route from Mt. Tolmie to Victoria would have cost 15 cents and the stagecoaches were packed with people. By the 1940s there were 13 horse-drawn wagons operating, each requiring a set of 6 horses to transport the crowds of families and tourists.

Today’s private single-horse-drawn carriage tours are meant for 2-6 people for tourism and enjoyment only.

At Tally-Ho, we are dedicated to preserving Victoria’s heritage by providing a unique, educational and memorable experience. This is why every member of the Tally-Ho family works tirelessly to provide the best experience possible for all of our guests.

What Can You Expect to Learn About on a Heritage Tour of Victoria with Tally-Ho?

Our knowledgeable guides tend to be history lovers themselves and are highly trained in the history of Victoria. Each of our fully guided private tours are geared towards highlighting the fascinating history of downtown Victoria and the seaside of James Bay, Victoria’s oldest neighbourhood. Some featured landmarks throughout James Bay include the home of famed artist Emily Carr, Mile 0 and St. Ann’s Academy.

We don’t want to give too much away in advance! Just know that the alleys, squares and buildings built so long ago might contain modern businesses and restaurants now, but they hold countless sordid, fun and fascinating tales from times gone by.

Depending on the tour you choose, our professional and knowledgeable guides can tell you anything you wish to know about the area. From spooky ghost stories in October to tales of Victorian Christmases in December, legends from historic Chinatown and more, your wish is our command. Of course, each tour is predetermined with the major stories and popular highlights from Victoria’s past but our guests have often been surprised at the depth of knowledge that our friendly guides share.

What is The Most Popular Historic Tour?

By far our most popular tour for true history buffs is our Heritage Tour. During this 30-minute tour, your guide will regale you with tales from the lives of past and present Victorians as you travel through charming James Bay. As your horse’s hooves gently clip clop along the streets, you’ll learn all about the heritage district. Marvel at the stunning architecture and picturesque gardens before enjoying a short meander along the waterfront.

Settled comfortably in your carriage guided by one of our gentle giant draft horses, you can let your imagination take you back in time. Imagine a simpler time, a slower pace and take a deep breath as history comes to life all around you.

A Historic Horse and Carriage Tour Makes a Perfect Gift for Your Favourite History Enthusiast

For a truly unique birthday gift, anniversary gift, or just-because gift, a gift certificate for a Tally-Ho Carriage Tour is a wonderful choice. Choose from our many popular city tours, from the 15-minute Short and Sweet Tour, to our 75-minute Grand Tour. You can even create your own Premier a-la-carte tour with our helpful team.

“Our tour guide driver was very friendly and knowledgeable of the heritage and history of Victoria. The ride was very safe and relaxing, and we felt very special and were treated like royalty. Highly recommended and well worth the price.”

-Morna, Niagara Falls, ON.

Are There Any New Victoria Heritage Tours Being Offered Outside of the City?

Yes, there are! For a limited time, our Tally-Ho and Sea Cider Picnic Experience gives our guests the opportunity to learn about the past and present of nearby rural Saanichton. A charming farm community, Saanichton holds plenty of stories of its own which are shared during this extra special tour.

If you’re looking for things to do in Victoria, nothing beats a guided tour in the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage. What better way to slip back in time than by enjoying the transportation that was mainstream hundreds of years ago? Our Victoria heritage tours are a fun experience for all ages and are always a popular choice for tourists and residents alike. To book your tour, contact Tally-Ho Carriage Tours at 1-866-383-5067 or email us at tours@tallyhotours.com.