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The urban horse: Equestrian Traffic and Horse Husbandry in Late Medieval Cities

By Fabienne Meiers

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Just like cattle, sheep and pigs, horses were part of the still agrarian influenced late medieval townscapes. Written and iconographic sources as well as archaeological evidence give proof of the extensive presence of horses inside and outside the city walls and their indispensability for urban and interurban communication and mobility.
Since the thriving of European cities in the High Middle Ages, there was an increasing demand for faster and more reliable exchange services comparable with those in the Roman Empire: after the decline of the well-developed and regularly maintained Roman road network, circulation of people, goods and services had become less effective, particularly given that carriage traffic was virtually impossible on deteriorated roads. Consequently, equestrian traffic gained more importance in the medieval period, as much in long-distance travels as in shorter day’s journeys. In order to facilitate urban mobility and communication between cities, traffic policies were developed, which consisted of road works, institutionally controlled mounted courier services and provision of courier horses, as well as travel allowances and travel horses for hire. In addition, the authorities adopted decrees which regulated animal waste disposal and corpse removal to guarantee a hygienic living environment for both humans and animals. At the same time specialized systems and structures for urban horse husbandry arose, e. g. stables for mounts of the city authorities and distinguished guests; on the other side, horse rental stations for the middle class emerged in the late 15th century.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2015
Pages 1
Conference Title Living with Animals II: Interconnections
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal husbandry
  2. Animal roles
  3. History
  4. Horses
  5. Mammals
  6. open access
  7. urban areas
  8. Working animals
  1. open access