From the 18th century, the hitched horse gradually spread across cities as a means to transport goods and people. At the height of the 19th century, in the streets of Paris horses used for transport numbered some 100,000, of which 15,000 were used exclusively for the Omnibus Company. In 1880, 78,906 horses, donkeys and mules walked the streets of the capital. When hitched, they could pull a variety of carriages: tram, phaeton, town coach, spider, open carriage, brougham, stagecoach, mail coach, hackney cab, etc. pulled by one, two or four horses for the most part. At peak hours, the sound of horseshoes against the cobblestones was by all accounts truly deafening. Congestion was common, sometimes causing accidents.
Nietzsche (...) was mad enough to cry for an animal, under the gaze of, or cheek to cheek with a horse. Sometimes I think I see him call that horse as a witness, and primarily, in order to call it as a witness to his compassion, I think I see him take its head in his hands.
Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2006
In cities or on the road, horses were outside every day to taken men and goods to their destination, rain or shine. A life of toil, where rest, comfort and well-being were not priorities. The repeated striking of the hoof against the ground caused, inter alia, serious, painful and debilitating diseases. The driver’s treatment of horses was not always tender. This is illustrated by the famous story involving the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. During a trip to Turin in 1889, upon seeing a horse being unjustly and violently whipped by its coachman, the philosopher ran to throw his arms around the animal’s neck to support it. Shortly thereafter he fell into madness…